First things first: I’m not trying to sell you any Starbucks beverages. Those of you here in Portland, I know you probably aren’t willing to admit you ever go to Starbucks, and that’s fine – I’m not telling. But the rest of the country is pretty keen on that place, and a lot of us who have sugary coffee beverage addictions are feeding them at the altar of the green siren. So skip this challenge if the ‘Bucks ain’t your thang.
As for the rest of us, well, let’s talk about your coffee habit, shall we? I have no beef with coffee in particular, but man, the stuff we put in there can get a bit silly, as you well know, and the calorie count goes through the frickin roof. I used to have one customer who would order a Venti Caramel Frappuccino with five add shots and extra caramel 3 TIMES A DAY. Which is literally at least 1500 calories worth of coffee beverage. Which is a bit out of control, kids.
Today’s FWF is all about how to still enjoy your coffee beverage of choice, but to do so in a way that lessens its overall impact on your health. I’ll use the knowledge I gleaned in my two years of mixing together random combos wearing my green apron to help you figure out how to get what you want, have your cake, etc. etc.
Some things to know before we get going:
1) It is a common belief that espresso has way more caffeine than drip coffee. Not so. An 8oz cup of brewed coffee has about the same amount of caffeine as 1-3 shots of espresso. So a short cup of coffee carries at least the same caffeine punch as a Grande Latte, and a Grande Coffee is as powerful, if not more so, that a Quad espresso, or an Iced Venti Latte. If you want caffeine, straight coffee is the cheapest, most calorie efficient way to get it fo sho. There are so many sources for this info that I’m not inclined to list them – if you don’t believe me, a quick “espresso vs. coffee caffeine” Google adventure will set you straight.
2) You need to know what is going into a drink before you can figure out how to tweak it. I’m not going to divulge any “recipes” here, but you should know:
Espresso shots are distributed as follows:
Hot Venti: Still 2
Iced Venti: 3
and syrup (Vanilla, Caramel, whatever) is distributed, in pumps:
Hot Venti: 5
Iced Venti: 6
When you order a drink with two flavors, like a peppermint mocha or a cinnamon white mocha, you get double the syrup. So an Iced Venti Peppermint Mocha has 3 shots of espresso and 12 pumps of syrup. Are you with me? Cool.
3) I’m not a fan of fake sugar, so I would rather you find a way to adjust your order using the real stuff than journey into the land of artificial sweetener. That’s just me. Do what you will.
4) We’re going to look at adjusting your order three ways: Shrinking the size, changing the base, and swapping sweeteners. Let’s do this.
If you drink: Regular Coffee, but with a ton of cream and sugar, try –
-Using soy milk instead. The soy at Starbucks is sweetened, so you might find you’re able to use it to replace half & half AND sugar in your drink. Ask for it steamed for fun foam. My standard order is iced coffee, unsweetened, with a dash of soy.
-Asking for one pump of classic or hazelnut syrup instead of adding your own sugar. Syrup is just liquid sugar, and will distribute itself through your drink better than the stuff that has to dissolve, so you may get away with using less. Most stores won’t charge you for one pump of syrup, although they are supposed to, so expect an extra .30 or so.
If you drink: Flavored Lattes/Mochas, try –
-Ordering your drink with one fewer pumps of syrup. A Grande 3-Pump Vanilla Latte, or a Tall 2-pump Mocha, etc. See if you can taste the difference. Try it that way for awhile and see if you get used to it. Deduct another pump. I find that a Grande 1-Pump Mocha tastes plenty sweet to me now, and I used to be an “extra white mocha” kinda girl.
-Using sweeter syrups wisely. As far as I know, most of the syrups (excluding mocha, white mocha, pumpkin spice, and caramel sauce) have a similar calorie punch, but some of them taste sweeter than others. Experiment. You may find that one pump of hazelnut tastes as sweet as four pumps of vanilla (this is true for me).
-Swap your base. If you like the creamy syrups, try ordering brewed coffee with your syrup of choice – this works especially well with white mocha and pumpkin spice. A little goes a long way – don’t hesitate to ask for fewer pumps. I call my Grande Coffee with 2 Pumps Pumpkin Spice the “Poor Girl’s Autumn.” Because, oh, did I mention it’s way cheaper? It is.
-Order with nonfat milk, and skip the whipped cream. Or, if it makes you happy, order the full fat, full sugar version in the magical secret size: short. 8 oz of splurge won’t kill you, but 20 oz everyday just might. 😉
-Try iced! The presence of ice actually removes volume from your drink, so you’re getting more water and less other stuff. This isn’t true of ventis, as a venti iced cup is actually 4 oz larger than a hot cup, and they add more syrup to compensate.
-If you like a drink with more than one syrup, try cutting the syrup in half. Try one of these: Grande 2 pump Peppermint 2 pump Mocha, Grande 2 pump Cinnamon Dolce 1 pump White Mocha, Tall 1 pump caramel 1 pump Mocha, on and on etc. etc. If you need help with the math, see my offer below, or just say “I’d like a Venti Cinnamon White Mocha with half the syrup, please” and let the people do their jobs. 😉
-If you get into eggnog at the holidays, ask for your eggnog latte “light” – they’ll cut the eggnog with nonfat milk, which helps a ton, cause man is eggnog ever terrible. But a tall chai with half eggnog and half soy is heaven on earth. Splurge on. It’s Christmas, after all.
If you drink: Iced Tea/Tea Lemonade/Hot Tea/Chai try –
-Fewer pumps of chai. Chai is a syrup too. Or try it with “extra water”. They’ll know what you mean.
-Order your tea lemonade unsweetened (the lemonade is already pretty sweet) or ask for a lower number of pumps in your iced tea. Try 2 pumps of vanilla in your iced grande black tea instead of the usual 4 pumps of classic.
-Hot tea drinkers – you just carry right on.
If you drink: Frappuccino (dun dun duhhhnnnnn) try –
-Ordering a smaller one. Not rocket science.
-Skipping the whipped cream, or asking for light caramel sauce, or no caramel sauce at all, for that matter.
-Not drinking frappuccino every day. Seriously. See if you can find an iced latte that’ll do ya, and save the blendeds for special treat time. If you like Caramel Frappuccino, see what happens when you ask them to melt a little caramel into an iced nonfat latte. Maybe throw in one pump of white mocha.
And remember, folks:
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, ORDER A SHORT. A little goes a long way. Did you know this used to be the standard size for coffee, before we all lost our ever loving minds? Truth.
For a limited time only, I’m offering you a custom beverage makeover! Comment what you normally order on this post (at Starbucks or otherwise), and I will hit you with a customized alternative that you can save to your phone and hand right over to the barista to try out. No guarantees that you’ll immediately see things my way, but I’m pretty good at these adjustments – can’t hurt to try!