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Open Thread: What's Your Cafe Drink of Choice?

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latteIf you’re a digital bedouin who works out of WiFi cafés, you get to drink yummy drinks while you aim for inbox zero. But make grande mochas a habit and you might start looking pretty grande yourself. Starbucks wants to help with a new set of low-fat, low-calorie drinks. Are you buying? Or do you already have a favorite drink?

So far, Starbucks’ new offering doesn’t sound too promising. Baristas are none too thrilled with the so-called “skinny” platform that means a drink with sugar-free syrup, nonfat milk, and no whipped cream. And customers may not like it either, if early reviews are any indication.

Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune’s The Stew blog tried the new skinny mocha-flavored latte and was not impressed:

Although the drink sported a nice fluffy head of skim foam, the drink underneath was thin, weak and infused with a weird chemical flavor. The whole thing was reminiscent of something you would have gotten out of a 1980s-style coffee machine and then complained about.

Ostensibly, somewhere in the drink there is a shot of Starbucks “Signature espresso” and perhaps some real cocoa powder but you wouldn’t know it in this whisper of a drink that makes you feel like you are depriving and poisoning yourself at the same time. The big selling point is that the drink will only cost you 90 calories in a small–saving you about 100 calories a whack, Starbucks says. No thanks. Not worth the suffering to our palate.

I’m tired of lattes and mochas, so when I’m at my favorite work-away-from-home joint I go for a mug of Silver Doodle cinnamon, caramel, and chocolate-flavored coffee with a shot of half and half. I make up for the extra fat and calories in the half and half by typing really fast.

What’s your standard drink order when you’re working in a café? Or do you like to mix it up and try different things?


32 Responses to “Open Thread: What's Your Cafe Drink of Choice?”

  1. PaulaZT

    For me, a Grande Latte (with 2% milk) is heaven. When the milk is steamed it caramelizes just a little to make it slightly sweet. My first is full caf, then I go to decaf. Later in the day I’ll have black tea-a huge mug with lots of milk, no sugar.

    I work at Starbucks, so I get the drinks for free when I’m working. If I’m not working and feeling cheap, I’ll go with a Coffee Misto with the bold coffee.

    BTW the difference between a Grande and a Venti Latte is just milk, they have the same number of shots.

    I do have to laugh at all of the fancy drinks and the sugar free Mocha is awful. I respect the customers who go for a solo or doppio espresso, macchiato or con panna.

    My latest treat is a Hot Chocolate with half the pumps of Mocha and the same number of pumps Gingerbread (and no whipped cream). It tastes more like Mexican hot chocolate.

    You’re right about the wi-fi. Maybe they will come to their senses and offer free wi-fi some day.

  2. I’m currently addicted to Diva’s latte, a local shop’s coffee drink and SanMig original, a locally produced instant coffee.

    But since I’m planning to get healthier this year, I’m planning to gradually decrease my coffee drink consumption and be a tea convert, if I can. :-)

  3. I have a Starbucks gift Card in my pocket but I travel across town and further to go to Affogato here in Pittsburgh to get a Vietnamese thing.
    They suggested it when I asked and have had it as a regular ever since.
    As soon as I walk in the door they start making it for me.
    they’re great! (

  4. Rubinowicz

    If I’m at a Starbucks in the morning, it’s a triple low-fat, flat latte. If I’m at Coffee Cat, it’s a double. If I’m at home, it’s a fresh ground large cup of something smokey like Ethiopian or Sumatra with a dash of half and half. Afternoons and evenings it’s generally Twinings Earl Grey. Change-ups include Mexican or Italian Hot Chocolate or hot, milky Chai.

  5. At home, I drink straight-up black coffee (I like Kenya AA & Papua New Guinea in particular, although the later is getting harder to find since they had a bad year in 2006) or cocoa. When out, I like a very large iced vanilla double-shot latte with foam on the top or a mocha depending on the weather.

  6. Plain black, add cream or 1/2 + 1/2, and Equal or similar. Cheaper, but more importantly, faster, than any of the other coffee drinks. At the coffee shop inside IBM (RTP B500), I always go for a cup (usually big) of the Starbucks Verona.

  7. Agree with Bill – NO flavours!

    Having worked in Italy for two years as a barista, it is funny seeing what US / UK people think of as “proper” coffee. Starbucks et al serve buckets, not cups of coffee! You should never have a cappucino after midday and you should NEVER serve it scalding hot!

  8. Coffee has to be coffee. None of this flavoured stuff! Yech! Gimme a short macchiato, topped uop with hot milk, no foam. Delish! You get the coffee hit, a small amount of milk (no bloating) and you’re away!

    @ Marina: if the coffee is so hot it burns your tongue they are making it wrong! :)

  9. I have until recently did a coffee
    Protein Beverage.

    I have since switched to a Grande (venti sometimes)Decaf (I know, I know)Sugar-free vanilla Misto made with Half-n-half. Some are saying why, to much caffeine can race my heart to fast. I need to have a beverage with as little sugar as possible. The half-n-half has less sugar than non-fat, low fat, 2% milk.

    I was doing a Latte until I realized it was made with mostly milk. The misto is more coffee and less milk. Coffee is starting to be my one vice and by that vice can add up just as much as smoking or chewing but hopefully 10 years from now they don’t say coffee causes heart disease or something.


  10. I go a doppio first thing (double shot espresso), then black earl grey tea for the rest of the day.

    My local cafe stocks gluten-free soy milk (I’m a lactose-intolerant coeliac) as well, so I occasionally splurge on soy latte.

  11. Live and die by soy lattes (nothing more, nothing less), hot or cold. The soy is a healthy and tasty bonus to the espresso. Starbucks, however, uses a really sweet vanilla soy (made solely for them by Silk) that I try to avoid as much as possible.

  12. I second the Aeropress for those who like pretty mild/American style coffee.

    It always baffles me the list of drinks that Starbucks get away with calling coffee. If you’re concerned about the calories, try ordering an espresso – It’s what we’ve been drinking for 200 years, and it hasn’t gone out of fashion.

  13. I typically don’t buy retail drinks (even though my corporate campus has 2 Caribou Coffee’s inside!) ever since I bought two inexpensive products: an Aeropress for espresso, and the Toddy for cold-press concentrate. Both have a great tasting cup of coffee in as long as it takes to get hot water (90s in my microwave for 1 cup, and an additional 90s for milk for a latte).

    If I have to have coffee and I didn’t bring any / ran out, I love the cold-press from Caribou. If I’m feeling really gluttonous in the summer, the Vanilla Cooler with their dark chocolate-covered beans mixed in!

  14. At my cage of choice (Espresso Vivace) I always have a cappuccino (one size only, and there is no other way).

    At *$ I tend to have a grande vanilla non-fat extra hot latte. That way I can savor it for a while, but given a choice 100 times out of 100 I’ll go for Vivace.

    I can’t drink drip

  15. I have skim milk lattes. (I refuse to call them “skinny”, even on the rare locations I’m in a Starbucks, because that’s just stupid.) That fake syrup sounds grotesque, but then I find the real syrup pretty gross, too. If you need that much sugar/chemical sugar substitute to drink coffee, maybe you should switch to tea.

  16. I’ll echo the Americano votes. It’s always good, pretty much world- and store-wide. It’s just espresso with hot water on top. So, it has two advantages: (a.) it’s always fresh due to it being espresso – this is in comparison to brewed coffee which could have been sitting there forever, and, (b.) it’s espresso, so it’s a bit of a “punch” as folks have noted. Also, it’s usually cheap.

    The only problem is that if you don’t drink it in an hour or so, it gets vile tasting.

  17. Should have read this earlier, Anne. I tried the skinny mocha today, and have no intention of repeating the experience. The review you quoted was spot-on. Blech.

    I tend to lean towards just plain ‘ole coffee with Splenda and skim milk and maybe a couple of sprinkles of cinnamon. Easier on the wallet as well as the waistline.

  18. When at Starbucks, I prefer the Caramel Frappachino sans the whipped cream.

    I really like Dunkin Donuts, so I drop by several times a week to get an iced coffee for a couple of bucks. At one point, they were running a promo where you got a free donut with a large iced coffee. Breakfast for less than $2. Works for me! :)

    YUM. Doesn’t matter if it is winter or summer, I love cold coffee drinks.

  19. No matter what the time or the weather, I always get a venti iced Americano. No room, no cream, no sugar, just pure unadulterated caffeinated goodness.

    I prefer iced coffee to hot coffee when working because the iced coffee lasts for hours, while I have a limited window of time to drink hot coffee where it’s not so hot that it burns my tongue and not cold. I can sip a venti iced coffee for hours and keep a focused buzz going.

    I realize it’s strange to drink iced coffee but dislike cold coffee, but it’s just not the same.

  20. I’m convinced that the best drink for getting work done is a double Americano (or triple, or quad). They are not only cheaper, but pack quite a punch and can bring you from 0 to 100 in about 5 minutes. These things have saved my ass on many occasions :). Also, I prefer to work in the local coffee shops since Starbucks doesn’t provide free wi-fi. I bet more people would work out of Starbucks if they did.