Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: Starbucks-They've Finally Done It!

I have friends who are Starbucks junkies. Any time we are out and about, one of them will inevitably shout "Hey! Let's stop at Starbucks!" Before I found low carb, I also used to indulge in those Starbucks expeditions, and, on occasion, I would be the one doing the shouting. But over the last year, I had to scratch Starbucks off my list of indulgences. No matter what words I used, what combo I tried, or which store I was in, I just could not get a descent cup of low carb coffee. 

At first I thought it was their sugar-free syrups. The vanilla concoctions I had gotten in the past were particularly vile. But now that I think about it, I am betting since I was trying to order sugar-free drinks, the baristas assumed I also wanted low fat and were giving me skim milk as well (gag!). All I know for sure is that while my friends would get their drinks and be happily sipping away,  I was at flavor bar trying to turn my coffee in to something drinkable.

 At nearly $5 a pop, nasty disgusting coffee wasn't my idea of a good bargain, so I totally gave up on Starbucks for a while. When my friends insisted on Starbucks, I would just order a green tea, or bring a diet Mt. Dew in my purse so I could still get a caffeine fix. Then Starbucks had a nationwide retrain, even going so far as to close down  stores to allow managers to go over every aspect of drink making. Apparently that effort paid off...at least in my case.

I went with my Starbucks junkie friends down to Santa Fe, NM over the weekend, and naturally, among all the stores, museums, diners, Indian jewelry vendors, poorly dressed tourist and homeless people, somehow my friends managed to pick out the Starbucks quicker than you could say "Vente!". It was still nippy out and I was tired from sleeping on the strange bed in our rented condo, so some kind of hot caffeine was in order. Even though I was reluctant to plunk down another $5 only to end up with swill that would put Army coffee to shame, I figured I would give it another shot.

When I got to the register, I noticed that I had gotten a trainee. While this gave me second thoughts, the supervisor was nearby and was constantly providing gentle instruction, so I relaxed and gave it a shot.

"Do you have heavy cream?" I asked.

"Why yes we do" came the reply.

"Do you know how to make an Atkins Carmel Latte?" I ventured. Some of my online forum buddies have said this is the term the use to order their low carb drinks so I thought it might be worth a try.

The trainee helplessly looked to the supervisor who quickly said "No, but I am sure we can get you whatever you need."

"I need a latte made with heavy cream and caramel sugar-free syrup" I stated.

This did not even phase the supervisor, though the trainee looked a little confused. She quickly started writing on the side of the cup as she showed her newbie how to ring everything up. I felt kind of bad for giving the poor girl writer's cramp and apologized for being so much trouble, but she assured me that my order was simple compared to many she gets in a typical day.

I went over to the area where you wait for your finished product and used my vantage point as a way to keep an eye on the barista. She didn't flinch either. Maybe the people in Santa Fe were as creative with their coffee drinks as they are with their art and clothing choices (black socks, sandals, rainbow rayon, and raccoon skin being just one colorful combo we spotted). Regardless, I had my "Atkins Caramel Latte" ready in short order. Then it was time to taste test. 

I was pretty shocked when my drink was good. Not just good...excellent! I was so happy I finally got a quality coffee drink...thick, hot and rich with delicious real heavy cream. Yummm! Maybe it was the retrain from a few months ago. Maybe it was invoking the name of the Patron Saint of low carb dieters, Dr. Atkins. Either way, I finally got my $5 worth. 

It will be interesting to see if I can repeat the excellent results I got from the crew at the Santa Fe Starbucks here in Colorado Springs. Now that I know what a good low carb coffee drink from Starbucks is SUPPOSED to taste like, I wont settle for anything less. Too bad I will never be able to recoup all the money I spent getting crappy drinks in the past. I guess I will just have to think of more complicated versions of the Atkins Latte to get even.

Vente, sugar-free, half caramel, half vanilla, 6 pumps, decaf, extra hot, breve with heavy creme instead of half and half, and whipped cream on top anyone?


Anonymous said...

omg i really, really, really, love you!

Scott Kustes said...

"No matter what words I used, what combo I tried, or which store I was in, I just could not get a descent cup of low carb coffee."

Couldn't you just, uhhh, order a cup of coffee black? :-) That seems pretty low-carb to me.

Scott Kustes
Modern Forager

Wifezilla said...

Well, so is plain water, but I can't get excited about that either.

I am one of those people who can't drink black coffee. It smells great, but tastes horrible to me. So I have to add cream and flavored syrup and rainbows and fairy sprinkles, etc...

Hopefully you wont ever get stuck behind me in line :D

DarleenMB said...

I don't think the retraining was necessary. All you really need do is tell them what you want. But I'm happy you finally got it. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Wife!

My bff and I just got back from a fun road trip, and we wanted LC iced yummy coffee. well you will never guess where we found the best deal! Mac Donalds!!!

just order iced regular coffee, with a squirt of no sugar vanilla. the large is LARGE, like maybe 2 venti's put together and only cost $1.99


Karen said...

In the SB's near me they don't have cream (except whipped) in any of them. I just get an Americano and add half & half. I make a mean cuppa at home, though, with English Toffee DaVinci SF syrup and heavy cream.
If you like Stevia, it also comes in flavors and the bottles are tiny. Just a couple of drops in a cuppa and you're all set.
I thought it was funny when I ordered an iced coffee about 6 months ago. I was told that they don't have iced coffee. I rolled my eyes, "Ok, then, what do YOU call it?"
"We do have an iced Americano." was the reply.
Okee dokee.

Anonymous said...


"Breve" is the word you're looking for - it's a latte with half & half - so a "SF carmel latte breve" is what you're looking to ask for (if you want half & half)....if you ask for a "breve fat" you'll get a latte made with heavy cream.

Nancy Ellyn said...

That sounds so good! I am jealous you love in Colorado Springs and get to treck to my beloved Santa Fe for the weekend! AHHHHH I miss Northern New Mexico.......

Wifezilla said...

Ordering from Starbucks can be like learning a second language! I think my earlier failures had a lot to due with me "not getting" the lingo.

Viv said...

I get a "Venti, SF Hazelnut Americano with 2 inches of steamed Breve" (1/2 & 1/2) You can get any of the SF syrups but I enjoy the Hazelnut best! My daughter figured out that when making coffees at home using SF syrup, you must balance the SF "twang" by using cream. I couldn't get the SF to taste right until I added the cream!
The above SB's drink gives you the flavor of a cup of coffee made with cream but does cut calories. I found the whole fat cream ones stalled me at a certain point in my weight loss and I had to switch to this lower fat version. They taste exactly the same! A friend who works there suggested it!

Anonymous said...

This is an older post, but I am just coming across it by luck! OMG, #1... why I didn't think of this kinda kills me, I'm kicking myself. #2 , the person that posted a little sarcastic comment about black coffee... really. punch to the face. My husband is a Starbucks junky.. and for the longest time now, every time he wants one I just have to fight the urge to indulge in something tasty because the light or low carb concoctions I came up with were gross.. I'm always disappointed and normally left feeling guilty about consuming the carbs (and sugar if I didn't opt for the sf) Now I feel empowered to order again! Your entry really means a lot to me, and I'm enjoying your blog. Cheers!