Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Starbucks: Decoded, Pt. 1

All around blogland people are drumming in the season with Starbucks' iconic Pumpkin Spiced Latte.  Trust me, I know how delicious this baby is.  I used to make 34039486 of them every day.  I used to be a barista.

Because of my former job description, pretty much every person I know is always asking me random Starbucks-related questions, like I'm the Grand Poo-bah of the Siren or something.  Well, I'm just gonna go ahead and break down the Starbucks drink ordering system for you lovers.  That way, when my manager asks me (for the thousandth time) what "affogato" means, I can hand him a business card with a link to this post (easy blog promotion?).

Before my green apron days, I always used to just stand in the line at Starbucks, totally miffed as to what all those semi-Italian words actually meant, and always just ended up with a Grande Mocha or a Grande Mocha Frappuccino.  Mostly because I knew that "mocha" vaguely resembled "chocolate" and I can get down with the cocoa bean.

Well, now that I've been brainwashed educated in the ways of SBUX, I can teach you some tricks too!

First Thing's First: Ya gotta know what you want to drink. (For the record, Starbucks gives a list of all of their drinks, with pretty pictures and caloric information, for all you OCD coffee drinkers out there)

There are basically three types of beverage at Starbucks: Espresso/Coffee Beverages, Frappuccinos, and Other.

Today we're going to deal with Espresso and Coffee Beverages, because who doesn't like caffeine?

A lot of people ask me the difference between coffee and espresso.  Well, coffee is brewed either in a coffee machine or via a French Press (more on that later).  Espresso is brewed by taking coffee beans (you can use any bean, but Starbucks uses their Espresso Roast, which anyone can buy) and grinding them super-fine, then using pressure to force hot water quickly through the grinds.  Basically espresso is coffee concentrate.

So you've got your regular cup of coffee, and you can always get a shot of espresso (for those mornings when you just need to feel like you've smoked some crack).  Those are your basics.

Now, to expand upon the hot beverages:

  • Americano: Espresso and hot water.  Most baristas will tell you "It's how Europeans drink coffee," but they're totally full of shit.  It is very similar to coffee, but a little smoother (I prefer it to a regular cup of coffee).
  • Latte: Espresso and steamed milk, with about a quarter inch of foam on top.
  • Cappuccino: Espresso and foamed milk.  While the latte only has a little bit of foam, the cappuccino is pretty much all foam.
  • Macchiato: Espresso with a small dollop of foam on top. Not to be confused with the Caramel Macchiato (more on that later).
  • Espresso Con Panna: A shot of espresso with whipped cream on top.  For mornings when you need to feel like you've smoked crack but also want something that tastes good.  Freaking delicious.
  •  Caramel Macchiato: Vanilla Syrup, steamed milk, about an inch of foam, a shot of espresso (poured on top of the foam) and caramel drizzle.

And now, for the Iced Beverages (NOT to be confused with the Frappuccino!) It is the most annoying thing in the world when some asshole comes through a Starbucks drive-thru and orders a Venti Mocha, pulls up to the window, and says "Oh, I wanted it iced." So you then make an Iced Venti Mocha and the same asshole says "No, I wanted it like a milkshake!" So then you go and make a Venti Mocha Frappuccino, listen to the asshole bitch about the fact the Frappuccino is more expensive than a regular Mocha, charge them anyway, and resist the urge to throw the 160-degree Mocha you made the first time in their face, and explain (with a smile) that no, it's no big deal that you've just wasted two other beverages and held up the Drive-Thru lane a good ten minutes because some asshole didn't know what the hell they wanted.  Okay, rant over. (Hey, that's why we're having this series, because no one wants to be an asshole. Right? Right.)  Now, where were we? Oh yes, Iced Beverages:

  • Iced Americano: Ice, espresso, cold water.
  • Iced Latte: Ice, espresso, cold milk.
  • Iced Caramel Macchiato: Vanilla Syrup, ice, cold milk, espresso, caramel drizzle.  All ingredients are listed in the order in which they are put into the cup, so we're building from the bottom up. Rhyme not intended. 
So there's your basic Starbucks terminology.  Next time we'll tackle Frappuccinos (a beast of their own), as well as tea beverages.

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