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Can you Trust your Latte?

Posted Oct 17 2008 9:14pm

by Brett Blumenthal

I am a loyal fan of Starbucks, and as a result, I go quite regularly. That said, every time I order a drink there, I strongly doubt that my drink will be made the way I ordered. My distrust has gotten so bad, that I hover over the ‘pick-up’ station to watch how my drink is made to ensure it’s prepared correctly. I pretend to not be watching, but I am. I have become, in essence, a Latte Spy.

You may be thinking, and reasonably so, that I’m paranoid…I’m Type A…I’m a control freak…and that I REALLY need to let go. However, I’ve been a waitress and even with the best intentions, it is easy to zone out and forget minor requests. So, to be fair, I went on an undercover mission and put this to the test. Over the last month, I went to 20 different Starbucks across the country (I travel a lot). Each time I received my Latte, I double checked with the Barista to see if it was made the way I requested. Guess what? 50% of the time (yep…that is 10 times!) my drink was wrong and they had to remake it.

Admittedly, a good portion of the problem is me. I’m a high maintenance Latte lover who always customizes my drink order. Basically, if I can tweak an ingredient, I do. For instance, I can’t order a normal Iced Green Tea Latte. I have to order an Iced, Non-fat, Green Tea Latte without any melon syrup and with very little to no ice. That amounts to three customizations for one drink: 1) Non-fat, 2) No melon and 3) Very little to no ice. Not every drink I order is this specific, but I easily have at least one customization for any drink I order. I don’t do this to be difficult, I do it because I’m careful of how much extra sugar and fat I consume. I do it for nutritional reasons.

Although I’m fully willing to take some of the responsibility, let’s face it, Starbucks prides itself in delivering customized drinks to its consumers. So, in my mind, if they set the expectation that you will get what you ask for, they should deliver on their promise.

You might be thinking, “So what if your drink isn’t perfect?” Well, if you have a Starbucks “specialty drink” once every week or two, you are right. It probably isn’t much of a big deal. But if you are a regular, it does matter. Let’s look at the math:

  • Every time you have a drink that has more syrup than you want and/or low-fat milk instead of skim milk, you consume an extra 100 – 200 calories.
  • If over a month this happens 10 times, you would consume an extra 1,000 – 2,000 calories a month.
  • If you did this for a year, you would consume an extra 12,000 - 24,000 calories, resulting in a weight gain of 3.5 to 7 pounds.

Yikes! Now, to clarify, I’m not a huge advocate of calorie counting, but that is partially because I believe if you eat and drink the right things, you shouldn’t have to count calories. However, many of these extra calories come in the form of processed sugars and saturated fats …both of which aren’t good for any healthy diet. Further, processed sugar can play with your metabolism and give you sugar crashes you weren’t necessarily looking for.

Do you ever check in with your Barista to make sure you got what you asked for?


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