All About Starbucks Coffee – History, Top Flavors, and Comparisons

Ever since coffee hit the mainstream in the late 1700s, multiple entrepreneurs have sought to profit from it, from small, day-to-day coffee shops to luxuries V.I.P cafes. One such establishment is Starbucks, founded in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl.

The name of one mining town, Starbos, stood out to Bowker. He immediately thought of the first mate on the Pequod (a ship in a fictional novel), Starbuck, in which an S was added to make it more conversational. Thus the name Starbucks was born. Being the biggest coffeehouse chain in the world, with its headquarters in Seattle, Washington, Starbucks has a countless variety of drinks and food items. All of these have made the coffeehouse the greatest in the world.

A starbucks coffee house

Starbucks Coffee

Who hasn’t heard of Starbucks? Be it through social media, films, or novels, even the people in countries where Starbucks isn’t present, know of the coffeehouse. The secret to Starbucks’ fame is the fact that it introduced coffeehouses challenging the long-held culture of home/work coffee, creating a third step in the house-office cycle, a third-place where people can chat, drink coffee and relax. Starbucks says it offers more than 80,000 drink combinations, with that variety there is little doubt that there’s something for everyone.

However Starbucks is expensive, yet that doesn’t stop people from buying the coffee.  It isn’t just about quality, as the same quality can be bought at another coffeehouse at the same time. Why does Starbucks charge so much, and why do people still buy from the coffeehouse?

The reason is simple; the brand. Starbucks is a brand that has cultivated its name with the utmost care, and over a course of time has become a symbol of luxury. Starbucks associates itself with money, and the showcasing of wealth. With celebrities/politicians having set their standards at Starbucks, it is no wonder the company’s popular.

The menu contains a plethora of Hot Coffee, types of Hot Tea, Hot Drinks, Frappuccino, Blended Beverages, Cold Coffees, Iced Teas, and Cold Drinks in its drinks section. These 7 types are further broken down into many types, due to a difference in toppings and different ingredient quantities.

Starbucks doesn’t serve coffee in small, medium, and large sizes.  Instead, it has Short (8 ounces), Tall (12 ounces), Grande (16 ounces), Venti (24 ounces), andTtrenta (31 ounces). Short and Trenta are not on the menu but can be asked for specially. These different sizes just add to Starbucks’ charm, making it stand out and look unique.

Starbucks offers flexibility to its customers too, and this is another reason it is the go-to coffeehouse for coffee lovers. People that are lactose intolerant or have particular tastes stay away from the average coffee, yet Starbucks has a solution to this problem with options like whole milk, 2% milk, non-fat milk, or dairy-free alternatives like soy, coconut, and almond milk. It’s only a matter of time before they add oat milk to their menu, too.

Customers can decrease the number of syrup that’s pumped into their drinks, and Starbucks also has substitutes to the average sugar for its customers. Certain Starbucks drinks like Frappuccino contain whipped cream, however, even days can be modified by the customer’s wishes.

Starbucks keeps bringing new cards to the table, and one such innovation is the cold foam, which can be added to any iced or cold beverage. Syrup can be added to coffee to make them flavored if the customer asks, a “healthy” drink can also be made, a skinny drink that has nonfat milk, no whipped cream, and sugar-free syrup.

One of the most annoying things about adding sugar in iced drinks is that it sinks and doesn’t mix well, thus at Starbucks customers can ask for liquid sugar to prevent this issue.

Starbucks is not the greatest coffeehouse despite being the biggest. Many underrated coffee houses are overshadowed by Starbucks, but in terms of convenience, accessibility, and fame, Starbucks surpasses the smaller firms, with 8000+ branches in the U.S.A alone. Many surveys denote Starbuck as decent but certainly not greatest.

History of Starbucks

Starbucks was founded in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl, who took loans to open the shop. Although it was a risky step yet, the founders motivated by their confidence in public taste took the leap.

Two starbucks cups sitting together on the table

Alfred Peet, a coffee-roasting entrepreneur had set up a small shop in California and had begun importing fine Arabica coffee. This encouraged the Starbucks founders into selling high-quality coffee beans, and coffee equipment. Peet was the early green-coffee supplier for Starbucks for the first 9 months.

Alfred Peet advised the founders that they should start roasting their beans. With Peet’s help and the use of an old machine, Baldwin learned how to make the distinct dark roast Starbucks was famous for. They rented a warehouse to serve as a roasting plant for the company. In only a decade, Starbucks had opened 5 stores.

As the business started to expand, so did the need for more workforce arise, with 2 people, Jean Mach and Jim Reynolds being hired, with Jean being promoted to manager. However, disaster struck the company in 1975 as a freeze ruined the Brazilian coffee crop, and with spiking coffee prices, sales declined. The company resorted to roasting barley as a coffee bean substitute.

Time passed, and in 1976 the company was barely afloat. With bad news after bad news, the future looked grim, and the company even had to resort to loans to survive. This continued till 1978 when the prices of coffee beans began to drop.

In 1980 after the adjunct business didn’t work out, Siegl left the trio to pursue other interests, selling his shares in the process. The company later bought back all his 2,541 shares with Baldwin taking the position of President.

The year 1982 was the turning point in Starbucks’ history. In 1982 Starbucks opened its fifth store and started selling brewed coffee. With business expanding, Starbucks hired a director of marketing; a New Yorker named Howard Shlutz.

Howard Shlutz urged the Starbucks founders into opening their sixth store in 1984, with the first Espresso bar in it. The decision was regarded as extremely successful and the sales skyrocketed.

In the year 1976, Schultz resigned from Starbucks to found, IL Giornali Coffee Company. Starbucks invested in the company with $150,000 in cash in addition to services. However Bowkers Tine was spreading thin, he had done a lot with his time and had founded/ co-founded a lot of things, thus to focus on his other sources, he decided to sell his stake in Starbucks.

This decision piled additional pressure on Baldwin, who thought it best to sell his shares too.  As Starbucks was for sale, Howard and a group of investors quickly raised $3.8 million to buy the company.

The starbucks logo

Under Howard’s leadership, Starbucks grew rapidly, spreading throughout the U.S and even across the globe! Starbucks opened 30 stores in 1990, 32 in 1991, and 53 in 1992. However, this didn’t stop the company as it progressed further and further.

Under Shlutz’s chairmanship, there were minor ups and downs but when he announced his “step-down” in 2016 to focus on the company’s high-end Roastery business, Starbucks had 25,085 stores across 75 countries, with 300,000+ employees and active expansion to this day.

Top Flavors

Starbucks menu is so extensive one could get puzzled about what to order. For the most part, it depends on the customer’s taste, but some drinks are loved more than others. Here are some famous Starbucks drinks.

Caffè Mocha

Nutritional Info: 360 calories, 35 grams sugar.

Whereas latte is considered to be a light-hearted, mild coffee-based drink, mocha is a much stronger beverage. It has 1-2 shots of espresso and is served in a glass rather than a cup.

Peppermint Mocha

Nutritional Info: 440 calories, 54 grams sugar.

The first sip is creamy chocolate, and the finish is a minty delight. Yet, it does not leave an overly sweet taste in your mouth. Peppermint Mocha is one of the most holiday-appropriate drinks. It’s a seasonal classic, it’s delicious, and we bet you’ll crave another after the first.

Starbucks’s peppermint mocha is also generally richer and is more of a chocolate-oriented drink rather than a coffee one based one when it comes to taste. Iced Caffe Mocha and Iced Peppermint Mocha; both of these drinks contain the most caffeine.

For a

Tall – 95 mg.

Grande – 175 mg

Venti Iced – 265 mg.

These drinks generally have more sugar, yet not everyone notices this.

Caffè Latte

Nutritional Info: 190 calories, 18 grams sugar.

Made with steamed milk, and 1-2 shots of espresso, café latte is very famous with Starbucks drinkers. The top is layered with foam, which presses and parts as you take a sip, to give way to warm, strong coffee.  It maybe is simple but this drink delivers quite a treat of taste.

Compared with its similar products cappuccino and macchiato, Caffe lattes have a milder, slightly sweet flavor, as they possess the greatest ratio of milk (steamed) compared to the others.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Nutritional Info: 380 calories, 50 grams sugar.

It is such a popular choice that there are entire articles and news stories dedicated to it. The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a coffee drink made with a mix of traditional autumn-themed spice flavors (cinnamon, clove, etc…), steamed milk, espresso, and topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.

The biggest downside of a pumpkin spice latte is its high sugar content, but by telling the barista to add fewer pumps of sugar, you can slightly decrease the sugar content. A medium-sized Pumpkin spice latter contains a whopping 50 grams of sugar.

But is pumpkin spice latte worth the hype? It’s a seasonal wonder and the mood is already set for its success. What is fall without a pumpkin spice latte?

A cup of starbucks coffee
Irish Cream Cold Brew

Nutritional Info: 200 calories, 19 grams sugar.

This holiday drink is liked by many. But using nitro cold brew could make it a thousand times better, even if the price spikes up a bit. The combination of the Irish cream syrup, vanilla sweet cream, and cold foam can be said to taste a tad similar to an alcoholic beverage. However, this drink is 100% alcohol-free! The cocoa powder layered perfectly on top is the deal sealer.

Starbucks’ Irish Cream Cold Brew is made using “Cold brew coffee” with the addition of Irish cream syrup, sweet vanilla cold cream, and a topping of cocoa powder. While the taste of coffee is vibrant, the flavor is light enough for the customers who don’t like the taste of caffeine.

It does not taste sweet, but rather just nice and frothy with some good cream and foam on top. There’s a slight bit of cocoa sprinkled over it but you cannot even tell it’s there. It doesn’t taste like chocolate at all.

Iced Green Tea Lemonade

Nutritional Info: 90 calories, 22g sugar.

This drink shares the spotlight with notes of green tea. Starbucks’s preference for overly sweet lemonade tramples the different flavors mixed in the drinks, yet this one is different and more on the healthier side.

Iced Green tea lemonade is made by blending mint, lemongrass, lemon verbena, and lemonade. The drink is then sweetened and then given a good shake. Not much can be said about this simple yet wonderfully refreshing drink. Lemonade is a really old invention, but Starbucks takes it a step ahead.

Star Drink

Nutritional Info: 130 calories, 22 grams sugar.

The star drink has rich coconut milk for more tropical flavors, and it greatly benefits from the addition of the milk. The kiwi and the coconut milk blend beautifully, and this Starbucks drink goes all-in towards the fruity side.

Starbucks’s Star Drink is; Star fruit and kiwi pieces and flavored juice added to coconut milk, and finally shook with ice. While not being caffeine focused drink, it does contain around 50mg of caffeine.

Star Fruit drink is similar to Pink Drink, yet compared to Pink drink, this drink can be considered to tilt more on the lighter side. After the first sip, you can tell that Star drink tastes like milky tea, it can be easily be ruled off as one of the most subtle drinks when it comes to flavor.

Chai Tea Latte

Nutritional Info: 240 calories, 42 grams sugar.

This chai gives the energy to navigate through the day. It’s made up of Black tea infused with cinnamon, clove, and other warming spices. All this is combined with steamed milk and topped with foam perfectly balancing the sweetness and spiciness. Chai tea latte has obvious large amounts of calories at 240. You can also choose a dirty chai latte for a little spin. The dirty Chai latte is concentrated black tea, milk, and espresso shots.

Vanilla syrup, brown sugar syrup, cinnamon dolce, and pumpkin spice sauce, all of these can be added to Starbucks’s Chai Tea Latte drinks. You can also ask for plant-based milk instead of dairy if you’re lactose intolerant or add toppings like creams or foams.

You can drink both iced, and warm chai tea.

 

Starbucks Secret Menu

Did you know Starbucks had a secret menu that is not displayed in the stores? You have to order the drinks custom made. If you’re curious as to how you can get your hands on one of the the drinks, here are some of Starbucks’s top drinks from the Secret Menu, along with how to order them. 

Your DrinkHow to Order It
Pink DrinkOrder a Strawberry  Lime Acai Refresher
Tell your barista to add in coconut milk
Fresh strawberries are optional
Purple DrinkOrder a passion iced tea
Tell your barista to add in soy milk, vanilla syrup, and a scoop of blackberries
Butter Beer Frappuccino( Inspired by Harry Potter)Order a Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino
Tell your barista to add in 3 pumps of toffee-nut syrups and 3 pumps of hazel syrup
Have your drink drizzled with caramel syrup if you feel like it
Cotton Candy FrappuccinoOrder a vanilla Bean Crème Frappucino
Tell your barista to add in 1-3 pumps of raspberry syrup on top
Cookies and Cream FrappuccinoOrder a double chocolate chip frappuccino
Tell your barista to add white mocha syrup instead of regular mocha
Top with whipped cream
Nutella DrinkOrder a Caffe Misto
Ask your barista to add chocolate syrup and hazelnut syrup
Top with whipped cream and caramel drizzle
Ferrero Rocher FrappuccinoOrder a double chocolate chip Frappuccino
Add mocha syrup
Add hazelnut syrup
Top with whipped cream and drizzle hazelnut syrup
Red Velvet FrappuccinoOrder half white mocha or half regular mocha Frappuccino
Tell your barista to add in raspberry syrup
Top with whipped cream
Smores FrappuccinoOrder Java Chip Frappuccino or double chocolate chip Frappuccino
Tell your barista to add-in
1 pump of cinnamon dolce syrup
1 pump of toffee nut syrup
Blend and top with toffee nut sprinkles and syrup.
Table Source: Starbucks Secret Menu

Conclusion and Recommendations

Starbucks has come a long way since its foundation, from a small inspiration and effort of three men, Starbucks has become a multi-national brand with a loyal fan following. Many times the company came close to being shut down yet by luck or fate it survived and eventually thrived.

However, the variety Starbucks provides, as well the options for customization it provides its customers, is what has truly made Starbucks dear for the people. If you’re looking to try a Starbucks drink, we recommend a Frappuccino. After all, the flavor is extremely popular.

Bilal Ahmad

Bilal Ahmad

A coffee enthusiast on his way to exploring more about coffee while helping others solve all their Coffee Queries!

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