My Weekly Friday "Flowers" Struggle At Starbucks

A number of months ago, it came to light at my office that I do not bring flowers home to my wife Elizabeth every Friday afternoon as many Jewish men do, in honor of the Sabbath. One of my coworkers gave me a hard time about this, saying that it was important that I honor the Sabbath this way, as well as doing something nice for the person who was spending so much time getting ready for this holy twenty-five hour period.

I told her that this was well and true but that Elizabeth did not care for flowers. We therefore came up with the notion that I would buy Elizabeth her preferred drink at Starbucks every week — an iced Grande decaf vanilla soy latte.

For awhile it went quite well, and at one point I got a few reusable ice cups from Starbucks so that we wouldn’t be throwing out a cup every week. The problem started a couple of months ago when a change was made that was implemented across all Starbucks stores, changing the order in which iced espresso drinks are made.

Up until this change took place, the order for making an iced espresso drink was as follows — the syrup was first pumped into the empty cup, if it was a flavored drink. Second, milk was poured into the cup up to the line that was indicated on the cup. The shots would be pulled and poured into the cup, followed by the ice and the lid. When syrup was used, the milk and syrup were stirred with a metal spoon.

One Friday I did not bring the reusable cup and therefore I relied on a disposable cup. I watched as the barista poured a shot of espresso directly into one of their disposable cups and before he could do anything else, I stopped him. “Excuse me,” I said, “I need you to start that drink over again. I can’t have hot espresso going straight into a disposable cup like that.”

That’s the order we are making the drinks now,” he said.

I asked why this was the case and he said that shots went in first because when there was a line of drinks, it somehow made the drink production that much faster. I told him that as much as I wanted my wife’s drink to taste like melted plastic, I would rather it taste like the drink for which I was paying and so I went over the right order with him — syrup, milk, shots, and then ice.

Week after week since then I have to make this request. One week the cashier pointed to me and said, “He’s the one who doesn’t want to taste melted plastic in his drink” as if it were a big joke. At Starbucks, there is something called a Beverage Resource Manual that tells the baristas how to make every single drink on the menu. I have seen the manual, having worked at Starbucks — I know that the section for iced lattes backed my explanation.

Our friend Chad told us that this was an actual change made in the manual. Every week, I feel like I am coming up with a new way to explain how i want her drink made so that it is made properly. For a couple of weeks, I asked that the shots be poured over ice — everything else was put into the cup first. Then I tried saying that the shots should be put at any point in the making process other than first — that got the shots poured on top of the syrup, which was not much better than an empty cup.

One Friday, I went into the store and saw that the person at the bar was wearing a Coffee Master black apron. I had a feeling I would not need to tell them anything and the drink would still be made correctly. I watched as he made the drink and it was right on the money. I told him about my gripe with the new order and he told me that as long as he would be with Starbucks, he would never do it in any other order other than the one that would make the best drinks and that was the one that was in the Beverage Resource Manual for so many years — the same one that now gets me teased by the newer baristas.

I will not give up on Starbucks because it is the only place that makes drinks that my wife likes every Friday for Shabbos — even though sometimes I have to nudge the barista in the right direction to get it made right!