- Insider asked baristas for their thoughts on the best and worst drinks to order at Starbucks.
- The coffee chain’s caramel macchiato and chai latte are barista favorites.
- But they said that iced drinks were usually a waste of money and that the hot teas weren’t worth it.
Starbucks is one of the most popular coffee chains in the world, but that doesn’t mean every drink on the menu is worth it.
We asked baristas to share their favorite drink orders from the chain, as well as the ones they tend to avoid.
The blonde Doubleshot on ice is a refreshing, caffeine-packed drink
Juanma Garcia, a barista certified by the Specialty Coffee Association and the owner of Buenos Beans, told Insider that the blonde Doubleshot on ice is ideal for summer.
It consists of two shots of espresso mixed with syrup and a splash of milk.
“This drink is perfect as a light summer drink,” Garcia told Insider. “I also think the blonde espresso is more enjoyable as it’s not as bitter as the darker regular roasts.”
Starbucks’ caramel macchiato is a classic and tasty treat
Alexa Blay, a former Starbucks barista, told Insider that the caramel macchiato is one of the best drinks on the menu.
“I’d highly recommend the caramel macchiato,” Blay said. “The bitter notes of the espresso pair perfectly with the sweet notes of the vanilla syrup and the caramel sauce.”
She also said this drink is best served hot so the caramel drizzles can melt into the drink — the caramel in the iced version often turns into cold, hard strings.
The coffee Frappuccino is a great alternative to a regular iced coffee
Starbucks’ Frappuccinos are like upgraded versions of iced coffee.
Blay told Insider that the original coffee Frappuccino struck a good balance between sweetness and coffee flavor.
“The coffee Frappuccino at Starbucks tastes similar to a standard coffee with cream and sugar but is perfect for summer because of the ice,” she said.
You can control the sweetness of this drink by adding a flavored syrup to make it sweeter or a shot of espresso to make it more bitter.
Order a caffè mocha for a chocolaty pick-me-up
Starbucks’ caffè mocha is made with espresso, bittersweet mocha sauce, and steamed milk. The concoction is topped with sweetened whipped cream.
“This drink is like a grown-up hot chocolate because of the addition of espresso,” Blay told Insider. “The espresso has just enough bitterness to tone down the sweetness of the chocolate syrup.”
You can tone down the caffeine content in this drink by asking for only one shot of espresso, or opt for an extra shot for a bigger buzz.
The chai latte is a spicy and sweet drink that can be made vegan
The Starbucks chai latte is made by combining steamed milk and black tea infused with cinnamon, cloves, and other spices.
“This is my go-to drink order at Starbucks. It’s flavorful, delicious, has just the right amount of spice, and it’s not overly sweet,” Blay said. “If you like a sweeter drink, vanilla syrup is a great addition.”
The chai latte can be made vegan by swapping dairy milk for a plant-based option like almond or soy.
Starbucks’ salted-caramel cream nitro cold brew is a smooth and salty twist on regular iced coffee
The salted-caramel cream nitro cold brew features Starbucks’ regular nitro cold brew mixed with caramel syrup and topped with salted foam.
“This is a very smooth drink and not overly sweet,” Garcia told Insider. “The sweet-and-salty combination makes for an interesting addition to the cold brew.”
Most iced drinks are a worse value than the hot varieties
Blay told Insider that ordering an iced drink rather than a hot beverage usually means you get less drink for your money.
“With the exception of the venti size, the iced drinks aren’t as good of a value as the hot drinks because the ice takes up so much space,” she said.
At 24 ounces, the venti iced drinks are larger than the 20-ounce venti hot drinks, making them a better deal.
But you can also ask your barista for “light ice” to increase the amount of actual beverage in your iced drink.
Hot tea is a poor value for your money unless you’re staying for a while
Starbucks serves a selection of hot teas, but Blay told Insider that it’s usually not worth it to order a cup.
“Hot tea is one of the drinks I wouldn’t recommend,” she said. “It doesn’t require any special skills or machinery, and it’s something you can easily make at home.”
But if you buy a tea with a Starbucks card or the mobile app, it’s eligible for free refills, which ups its value if you’re planning on lingering in the shop.
The hot chocolate is made with syrup and not worth the money
The hot chocolate at Starbucks isn’t made with real melted chocolate or even cocoa powder.
“For what it is, the hot chocolate at Starbucks is overpriced,” Blay told Insider. “It’s just milk and chocolate syrup.”
If you’re looking for a chocolaty treat with more of a kick, try ordering a mocha: It’s the same combination of milk and syrup, plus a shot of espresso.
Buying a bottled drink at Starbucks isn’t worth the money
It may be convenient and quick, but opting for a bottled drink at Starbucks is usually more expensive than ordering a beverage at the counter.
“The bottled drinks in the cold case are all a bad value relative to the drinks you can have made fresh for you,” Blay said. “I always opt for a freshly made drink at Starbucks.”