The coffeehouse tycoon of several continents, Starbucks has become the number one source of caffeinated beverages in the United States. They're even busy putting feeler branches out into other countries in the world, which makes us feel like, one day, the entire planet will get their coffee from Starbucks.
Looking at things this way, we realized that it was absolutely vital to do an evaluation of the Starbucks menu. Considering the responsibility they hold of providing the coffee-sipping masses with good beverages, someone has to keep tabs on what they're serving up!
Starbucks is famous for their secret menu and for their baristas being able to whip up just about any strange coffee or drink creation asked for by customers. We didn't venture too far into these beverages, as crazy customers demanding concoctions, as reported by baristas, of green tea with 47 Splendas aren't within anybody's control, although one could argue that Starbucks, or any coffee shop, should consider not serving anyone 47 Splendas at a time!
Instead, we analyzed the standard Starbucks drink menu items and took into account a few factors. Taste is king, obviously, as any foodie would agree. However, there are other considerations, such as calories, quality of drink, and sugar quantities.
Because, although we'd all like to live in a world where sugar and cream could be eaten without consequence, if you are going to be drinking something on the daily, it needs to meet certain requirements. It has to be something enjoyable and well made but also a drink that you can consume without having a panic attack at the thought of what's inside it.
24 We Love: Caramel Brulée Latte
Starbucks releases their festive range of drinks each year, one of which is the Caramel Brulee Latte. We love this latte simply for the unique and innovative idea of a brulee-flavored coffee. Once you have the words "coffee" and "brulee" together, it sounds like an obvious match. But it took Starbucks, as far as we know, to come up with this delectable combo.
The caramel brulee flavor is also available in a Starbucks Frappuccino; however, we're going to go with the latte on this one, as it promises more coffee notes and fewer calories than the frappuccino option. However, even with the latte, beware if you're cutting back on sugar because a grande of this baby contains more sugar than a can of soda.
23 Just Stop: Strawberry Acai Starbucks Lemonade Refreshers
The Starbucks refreshers are a pretty innovative line of drinks in that there's caffeine present thanks to an injection of green coffee extract. This is great for caffeine seekers, who don't like the taste of coffee.
What we don’t dig about the lemonade versions of these drinks is that they're (intentionally or not) marketed or perceived as health drinks. The reality is that the Starbucks refreshers don't contain some natural, good quality ingredients in the flavorings, but the lemonade versions are loaded up with almost as much sugar as a regular soda. Which isn't surprising, as the lemonade refresher IS a soda because its base is made up of lemonade.
22 We Love: Nitro Cold Brew
One of Starbucks’s most awesome creations has to be their Nitro Cold Brew. The concept is genius, and one gets energized just thinking of it. If you've never had a Nitro Cold Brew, here's what it consists of.
The Nitro Cold Brew is—you guessed it—cold-brewed in a keg. When dispensed, nitrogen bubbles are forced into the liquid. This results in an almost beer-like texture in the coffee, with lots of tiny bubbles and foam. Cold brew nitro coffee even has a bit of head, like a beer, and a very Guinness-like texture.
Nitro brew coffee is designed to heighten and enhance the flavors of coffee while lightening and fizzing up the drink with nitrogen. It might not be everybody’s cup of joe, but it's definitely worth a try.
21 Just Stop: Peppermint Mocha
Peppermint chocolate is an all-time classic, and nothing is going to change that. But peppermint and coffee? Perhaps not so much. Upon consideration, that's actually a bizarre flavor combination.
When one thinks of the word "mocha," chocolate flavors immediately come to mind. But mochas aren't hot chocolates; they're cocoa-flavored lattes. Which are coffee-based!
If you're someone who likes mint in coffee, by all means, live it up. But just on a general rule of flavor combinations that work, we'd say that a peppermint mocha could be replaced by something slightly better thought out.
20 We Love: Chestnut Praline Latte
While peppermint and coffee are just weird, chestnut, milk, and coffee sound like a match made in heaven. Especially during the colder months. It sounds so good, in fact, that some have said that the chestnut praline latte is here to dethrone the pumpkin spice latte. We'll see about that, as the world is still losing its stuff over pumpkin spice everything, especially coffee.
One thing which not everybody is going to love about the Chestnut Praline Latte is that is can be overwhelmingly sweet.
Tip: if you don't like your lattes so sweet, ask for one pump of syrup instead of two.
19 Just Stop: Unicorn Frappuccino
Yes, unicorn everything as a trend is on steroids right now. But, this doesn't mean that our drinks need to be unicorn color coded. Besides a spirit of moderation, the second reason why Starbucks can just never sell unicorn-colored drinks ever again can be summarized in the question "Where's the coffee?"
I mean, there are some limits, right, even when it comes to the unicorn craze? It doesn't need to edge in on coffee and actually push coffee right out of the cup!
The bad news is, Starbucks doesn’t seem to agree. And the good news is, this drink was only available for a few days and has most fortunately been discontinued.
18 We Love: Organic Super Fruit Greens
Yes, okay... this isn't coffee, and even worse perhaps, it's shockingly healthy. But there's a reason why we had to take our hats off to this green juice—or rather, smoothie, that Starbucks is now selling along with their other Evolution Fresh products.
This green juice has been voted as surprisingly tasty and pleasant. Which says a lot for a green juice, which is typically either quite bitter and horrible or not a serious green juice. This edition from Evolution Fresh, however, is a serious green juice, having all the detox ingredients you could want in it and, at the same time, managing to be mild and pleasant tasting.
17 Just Stop: Java Chip Frappuccino
The Java Chip Frappuccino, along with most of their frappuccinos, is a pretty popular choice at Starbucks. And we get it—Starbucks came up with the idea of an over-the-top ice, coffee, syrup, and cream drink and patented it.
But the Java Chip Frappuccino just takes things over the top. Containing about double the weight of sugar that an adult should consume in a day, the Java Chip Frappuccino is practically a dessert in a cup. No, two desserts in a cup. Now, we're not at all against dessert in cups, but having one hiding in one’s coffee is a different story. It would be nice to be able to have your coffee and a meal during the day and not go up a pant size.
16 We Love: Teavana Pumpkin Spice Chai latte
If you're looking for a more adult, less sugary, but still dreamy Starbucks bev, the Teavana pumpkin spice chai latte might be your answer. It's milder than the plain pumpkin spice latte but has the chai notes kicking in, so it's definitely not lacking in flavor. It's also not as sweet as the pumpkin spice latte, which may be a relief for some.
Both chai and pumpkin spice are popular, trendy, and well-loved flavors. Putting the two together could've been risky, but it seems as if Starbucks’s bold move was an inspired one.
15 Just Stop: Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino
If the pumpkin spice latte is sugary, the frap version of this popular flavor is off the charts with its sugar content. With a grande containing a whopping 82 grams, you might as well just throw in the towel on moderation.
It might seem like we have a beef with frappuccinos. It’s not like that, promise. Frappuccinos are Starbucks’s brainchild, and they're loved for them. But enough with the sugar! An excessive amount of sugar can actually dampen and take away from other flavors, and if one's having a pumpkin spice coffee drink, surely, those are the flavors that need to shine.
14 We Love: The Espresso
You have to hand it to them—Starbucks can make good coffee. Their results are pretty consistent, which is important when it comes to espresso. They hire proper baristas, use reasonably good coffees, and generally know what they're doing when it comes to pulling a shot. These are the reasons why Starbucks espressos are one of their menu items that are definitely worth an order.
Ordering an espresso may sound boring when surrounded by all the other interesting menu options, but here's the thing: espresso is (literally) coffee, unadulterated. Which is why espresso is a mecca for most coffee connoisseurs.
13 Just Stop: Chocolaty Chip Créme Frappuccino
Chocolate and coffee are an all-time winner flavor combo. Which is why the mocha was born. Of course, practically everybody loves chocolate, and the Chocolaty Chip Créme Frappuccino could qualify as an indulgent, creamy, chocolate and coffee-based treat. But. The Chocolaty Chip Créme Frappuccino only has 2% chocolate mass in it. What a letdown!
So essentially, one is consuming up to 69 grams of sugar and 540 calories, all in order to get in a measly 2% of chocolate mass and 20 mg of caffeine. A regular americano at Starbucks contains 225 mg of caffeine. Oh, and not to mention that you'll be paying, on average, more than double the price. For one twentieth of the caffeine, a pinch of chocolate, and a whole lot of calories and sugar, this sounds like a bad deal.
12 We Love: Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato
The idea of making a coconut milk macchiato is brilliant. The only thing more brilliant has to be adding a mocha element. For a luxurious coffee-based drink, this Starbucks invention definitely ticks a bunch of boxes.
Thanks to the mocha sauce on the bottom and the caramel sauce drizzle on top, this beverage is actually sweeter than one would expect it to be. However, at 25 grams of sugar in a grande, it definitely isn't as scary as many of the frappuccinos. If you're still not keen on the extra sugar and are happy with the espresso and coconut milk, just ask the barista to leave out the syrups.
11 Just Stop: Strawberry Smoothie
In recent times, Starbucks started adding in-store-made smoothies to their menu. This was done to provide something for the healthy living crowd and to be in line with the smoothie and juicing craze hitting the nation.
The problem with the smoothies and, in particular, the strawberry one, is they contain a massively inappropriate amount of sugar for a ‘health’ drink. At 41 grams of sugar, the strawberry smoothie is more sucrose laden than a can of soda.
We're all for people consuming sugar if they want to, but hiding bucketloads of it in innocuous smoothies seems a little gross.
10 We Love: Teavana Shaken Peach Citrus White Tea Infusion
If you want something light and tea-based but still interesting, the Teavana Shaken Peach Citrus White Tea Infusion might be your baby. Teavana makes great tea, so that side of things is sorted. Then, onto the flavoring, Starbucks has a new method where the fruit flavors are infused into the tea using real fruit and botanical mixtures shaken in.
The old method called for a sticky synthetic syrup to be added to the tea base, which not only tasted artificial but also once again brought with it a ton of sugar that you couldn't get away from.
With the new infused teas, you can drink them with no added sugar or choose to add however many pumps you want of liquid cane sugar.
9 Just Stop: Matcha Green Tea Crème Frappuccino
There are a number of reasons why Starbucks can just stop selling this drink right now. Firstly, the whole concept is just confusing. Matcha green tea brings to mind health, wellness, clean eating, and so on. Coffee isn't the worst thing for you, so that mix isn't the inherent problem. It's the fact that in frap form, the matcha green tea is mixed with milk (a very not classic combination) and then is topped with a massive swirl of cream.
Many people have also found that the taste is weird. And not in a good way.
It's just not working guys. And what's more, word on the street is that the matcha green tea frap has a horrible texture, with lots of funny foam.
8 We Love: Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee has become more and more popular for the solid reason that it tastes (insert expletive) good. Thank goodness, Starbucks is on point and jumped on the wagon because they now serve some really good cold brewed coffee.
Starbucks also offers a number of options around their cold brew. You can add cream, milk, or even sweetened vanilla cream to it. While these are all nice options to try, our favorite has to be the cold brew straight up. Why? Because coffee that's cold brewed is much less bitter and acrid-tasting than coffee made with heat. The flavor is gentle and mild, and the best way to experience it is by drinking it straight.
7 Just Stop: Cinnamon Dolce Crème
Once again, we're prejudiced against this drink because firstly, it doesn't contain any coffee. It's a cup of steamed milk and dolce-flavored syrup, topped with a blob of sweetened cream. This actually just sounds a little gross. And you'll be paying close to what a full-on frappuccino costs while not getting any coffee at all.
For what's essentially a cup of milk, we just feel that his drink isn't worth the price. For this money, you could probably go out and buy a carton of some caramel-flavored milk.
6 We Love: Oprah Chai Latte
The Starbucks Chai Latte is a popular menu item. Besides the regular Starbucks Chai Latte, you can also get an Oprah Chai Latte. The Oprah Chai Latte is awesome for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it's spicier than the regular chai latte, which is ideal when it comes to chai because chai tea is all about the spice. Anybody had a weak chai tea before? It just tastes like sweet milk that someone messed some cinnamon into.
Secondly, Oprah’s chai has fewer calories and less sugar, naturally. Thirdly, every time you buy one of these babies, a portion of the money you pay goes to Oprah’s endorsed charity.
And fourthly, its Oprah’s chai...
5 Just Stop: Eggnog Latte
Funnily, Starbucks actually did stop selling this item, but fans of the drink convinced them to relist it on their menus. So obviously, this drink isn't universally hated. However, we wouldn’t cry if it were removed again, and here's why.
To start, eggnog is good. Why would one want to dilute it with coffee? And same goes for coffee—why dilute it with... eggnog? This combination is pretty strange when you take a close look at it.
Fortunately, the eggnog flavor has been reported to be pretty faint. Maybe this is what saves the drink? All in all, one gets the impression that the eggnog latte is merely one of Starbucks’s novelty drinks, which makes up for lack of flavor with the 52 grams of sugar it contains.
4 We Love: Espresso Con Panna
We fully approve of the Starbucks espressos. It's not easy to maintain consistency and quality in something as finicky as good espresso across thousands of outlets, but Starbucks has, by and large, achieved that.
Considering that a straight-up espresso is a little harsh and bitter on its own, another option that we love is the Espresso Con Panna menu item. This is a really simple drink that consists of espresso with a shot of whipped cream on top. The whipped cream takes the edge off of the bitterness of the espresso, but because it has no strong flavor of its own, the espresso notes can still come through strong.
3 Just Stop: Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème
Our first gripe here is that the Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème is devoid of coffee. We realize that for many, this is a win. If you're looking for a caffeine-free beverage, this is one. But we love caffeine; in fact, we need it! So, in that sense, this frappuccino that isn't a frappuccino doesn't really serve a purpose to us.
Besides that, it costs almost as much as the frappuccinos that do contain coffee. So, one is essentially paying upwards of three dollars for some ice, milk, vanilla bits, flavored syrup, and a large blob of cream.
2 We Love (Hidden Menu): Vanilla Latte Hack
This is a secret menu item that we think is super clever from a hack standpoint and just downright delectable on the flavor side of things. We didn't venture into the treacherous grounds of the secret menu yet; however, this item just can’t go without a mention.
The Vanilla Latte Hack is a barista-invented take, designed to bring the flavor of the more expensive menu option at half the price. And what it consists of is a tall iced coffee with one pump of vanilla syrup and a shot of cream.
According to the insiders, the outcome is an affordable and refreshing coffee that tastes similar to one of the expensive 5-buck varieties of menu items.
1 Just Stop: Venti-Sized Hot Anything
Now we probably sound deranged. Why would you not want any venti-sized hot coffee drinks on the Starbucks menu? One is usually there for the caffeine, so what's wrong with upsizing?
Well, here’s the rub—according to a barista who worked at Starbucks, venti-sized hot drinks invariably have exactly the same amount of coffee in them as the grande sizes. Grande sizes contain two espresso shots of coffee. The larger venti size also contains two shots. So, with most of the hot venti drinks, while you think you're getting more coffee, you're actually just getting more milk, cream etc, while paying the price for getting a larger sized ‘coffee.’
For some reason, cold venti-sized drinks do contain the extra third shot of coffee, so these should definitely stay on the menu!