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!


  1. I don’t understand why Starbucks can’t just make the drink you want as you want it without hassling you or making fun of you with snarky remarks. What difference does it make to them if you request a special make order?

    1. Exactly. I had a woman that used to order 173 degree lattes with three pumps of peppermint syrup and I never questioned it, even to ask why that specific number and not a more “friendly” round number like 170 or 175. “Special orders don’t upset us” was what Burger King said but at Starbucks, depending on whom you get, they do upset them!

      1. Right! If you give the customer a ton of options for ordering — you have to expect them to want to exercise that freedom of choice! I would never want the taste of burnt plastic in my drink — such a silly new rule to save a few seconds of processing time.

  2. With all the stress this world and parenthood can offer, WHY walk into an establishment and PAY for it? Maybe Elizabeth would appreciate something that doesn’t deserve a book of complaints?

      1. Ever since I posted this I thought I should have given you a suggestion. What good is a comment such as this without a viable option? 🙂 And try as I might, I haven’t come up with one.
        I’m still thinking. It’s a worthy tradition.

    1. We have a Starbucks card and it can get very tempting to keep automatically charging it from your credit card.

      Sometimes cash is best to tamp down the temptation to spend. SMILE!

          1. The NYC Starbucks we frequent is tiny and crowded and they rush you through paying after yelling at you to hurry up and order — the place is always packed and loud and noisy. It’s a pretty awful and icy experience, so I’m probably subliminally NOT looking for a tip jar on purpose because, after all that, I just want to hurry up and move down the line so I can prepare to yell back at them to remake my iced green tea for the third time.

            I’ll have to force myself to look for the jar next time!

          2. David,

            Maybe go to a different store! The good thing about starbucks in New York is that if you don’t like one you can go to a few hundred others — some only a block away!

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