Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Starbucks

We've all been there, you walk into Starbucks and look up at the "menu" behind the counter, quickly try to find something to drink, yet what everyone else is ordering doesn't seem to be on the board. As someone who has spent way too much time in Starbucks, I'd like to give you a few hints on ordering, as well as some fun facts about my favorite coffee shop.

Before you even walk into one of the 15,000 Starbucks locations, you might notice the logo. The company logo, modeled after a 15th century Norse woodcut, is a mixoparthenos, or twin-tailed mermaid, or siren as she’s known in Greek mythology. When it comes to ordering, there are over 87,000 different possible combination's of drink orders. So if you think the baristas have an easy job, think again. If you didn't know, the barista is the person taking your order. They typically average about three minutes per customer, which seems pretty fast considering all the possible combination's. Here’s how picky the drink standards are – each drink has a specified weight range. Falling above or below this range will cost a barista points on their drink making. Despite the baristas knowing all these different drinks, they don't get paid very much, so don't forget to tip.

You may have noticed that when you order a drink, they often read the order back differently than the way you ordered it. That's because they have a special calling and drink naming system. This is probably by far the most confusing aspect. There is a default method for making all drinks, and the calling system is the most consistent way to let the barista know what the customer wants. There is a default recipe for every drink, so the cashier will only call the changes that are made to the drink. The system works really well because the barista will always know what order the changes come in, and they can adjust accordingly. So, it goes like this; (1) decaf, (2) number of shots, (3) cup size, (4) syrup, (5) milk, (6) custom, and finally (7) drink type. For example, a grande latte normally has two shots of espresso, and whole milk. If the customer asks for a grande latte, that’s how the cashier will call it to the barista. However, if a person wants a non-fat, triple, decaf, hazelnut, extra-hot mocha, the cashier will call it in this order: decaf, triple, grande, sugar-free hazelnut, non-fat, extra-hot mocha.

Starbucks uses the word "pumps" to refer to the syrups, and "shot" to refer to the espresso. So, if you said that you want a “shot” of vanilla, you should probably go to a different coffee shop and get some more practice.

As you may have experienced, there is no "small", "medium", or "large" when it comes to drink sizes. The options are "short", "tall", "grande", and "venti" (which means 20 in Italian). There aren't too many people that know about the "short" size, so you won't see that very often, and if you ask for a "small", you'll get a "tall". In order from "short" to "venti", the sizes are 8 ounces, 12 ounces, 16 ounces, and 20 ounces for a venti, unless you're getting an iced drink. The iced venti's are 24 ounces. The reason behind the iced venti drinks having an extra 4 ounces is this, the espresso drinks have an extra shot of espresso in them, and cost a few cents more than their hot equivalents. Lastly, any coffee shop with the cup size, “supremo” should not be taken seriously.

You may hear people say "skinny" when they order. Most people think that means that they use non-fat milk. That's partially true, however "skinny" means they're using non-fat milk AND sugar-free syrup. If you want your drinks syrup to have sugar in it, then you should ask for "non-fat", not "skinny".

So there you have it, ordering made simple. Clear as mud...right? Once you figure out what you like, when you order it, it should be consistent at every Starbucks you go to. Unless you go to a Starbucks inside of a grocery store or bookstore? You'll probably notice that the selections are usually quite limited, and there are stupid things like soda being sold there. That’s because these stores aren’t real Starbucks. Instead, these companies pay Starbucks so that they can use their products and machines, but they run the store according to their own company’s rules. This creates the opportunity for a very varied experience. You have to go to a real Starbucks to get the real Starbucks experience.

Okay, so now for some fun facts about Starbucks, everything you didn't need to know.

10 Fun Facts About Starbucks

1. Espresso has no "x" in it, it has an "s", consequently, it should be pronounced ES-presso, not EX-presso.

2. Last week 20 million people bought a cup of coffee at a Starbucks.

3. The pastry at Starbucks with the lowest amount of calories is the low-fat blueberry muffin, clocking in at 290. The pasty with the highest calorie content to date is the cinnamon roll at 640 calories. I'm pretty sure both of those shouldn't be part of my diet.

4. A typical customer stops by 18 times a month, I average about 23.

5. Coffee is harvested during November and December.

6. The most expensive coffee Starbucks sells is Kona Coffee, which retails at 22 bucks a pound.

7. Cappuccino gets its name from the Italian order of Catholic Capuchin monks, whose hooded robes resemble the drink’s cap of foam in shape and color. The frothed milk from the top of the steaming pitcher is spooned on top to “cap” the cappuccino and retain heat. The proportion of espresso to steamed and frothed milk for cappuccino is usually 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 frothed milk on top.

8. Starbucks was in part named after Starbuck, the Chief Mate character in the book Moby-Dick, as well as a turn-of-the-century mining camp (Starbo or Storbo) on Mount Rainier.

9. Starbucks has never, and will not, sell fountain drinks. If you ask the barista for soda, you will probably hear a snort of derision. After all, it is Starbucks COFFEE and TEA company.

10. There is a super rare drink that is not available at most stores, and not really well known, it's called a Caffè Medici — A doppio poured over chocolate syrup and orange peel, with whipped cream on top. Good luck getting one of those.