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Starbucks’s Baristas Challenged by 170,000-plus Choices

Starbucks first turned regular drip coffee into a $5 half-caff, extra whipped cream mocha latte. Now they’re producing dozens of bizarre concoctions dreamed up by social-media stars. These complex drinks include a Triple Caramel Threat––cold brew with caramel syrup, vanilla sweet cold foam blended with dark caramel and caramel drizzle––and a Matcha Pink Drink featuring the chain’s Strawberry Açaí Refreshers Beverage with green tea powder and sweet cold foam added. Their complexity is lengthening lines and driving baristas nuts.

“It is a bit exhausting,” said a Starbucks barista in Buffalo, N.Y. The drinks treat Starbucks’s menu less like a lineup of drinks and more like a buffet of ingredients to be mixed together in crazy ways to create off-menu drinks that may list 10 separate customizations on the side of the cup.

The customized beverages center on a Starbucks mainstay––customers’ ability to tailor any drink to their tastes––and take it to the extreme. Starbucks says in addition to the beverage options listed on its menu boards, there are 170,000-plus ways baristas can customize beverages.

American society suffers from a plague of things that are far too complicated


Heather Hadden, “TikTok Fans Brew Even More Complicated Orders at Starbucks,” The Wall Street Journal (11-4-21)

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