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Starbucks Drink Guide: Lattes

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Infographic: How to customize a Starbucks latte.

Infographic: How to customize a Starbucks latte.

What Is a Latte?

I am a full-time barista and I love what I do. I am going to address some questions that I hear every day about how Starbucks makes lattes.

By definition, a latte is composed of shots of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. What makes a latte different from other espresso-based beverages is not only its ingredients but the way it is assembled. Starbucks has its own recipe and steps.

The Basic Starbucks Latte Recipe

The components of a hot latte are espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Starbucks baristas use 2% low-fat milk unless the customer requests something else.

When milk is steamed, it is aerated to create the rich, creamy texture that all latte drinkers know and love. The aerating process actually makes the milk a bit sweeter. Foam is a by-product of this process and it has a unique texture that people tend to either love or hate. The best way I can describe it is to say it's aptly named. It's, well, foamy.

A Starbucks barista makes a latte by pouring shots of espresso directly into the cup. Then they pour in the steamed milk and finally top it off with a spoonful of foam. The espresso and the steamed milk completely mix together and the foam adorns the top.

An iced latte isn't terribly different. Simply put, cold milk substitutes for steamed milk and ice for foam. Shots of espresso are poured directly into the cup, cold milk is added, and the beverage is finished off with a scoop of ice. A plain iced latte might not be quite as creamy or sweet as a hot one, since the milk is not steamed. Baristas use 2% low-fat milk unless another type is requested.

The lines on Starbucks iced drink cups help ensure consistent iced lattes. After the shots are poured, your barista adds milk to the top line and then fills the rest of the cup with ice. If you ask for light ice, they will halve the amount of ice and add more milk.

How Many Espresso Shots in a Starbucks Latte?

SizeShots of Espresso

Short - hot only (8 ounces)


Tall (12 ounces)


Grande (16 ounces)


Venti - hot (20 ounces)


Venti - iced (24 ounces)


A creamy and delicious plain latte

A creamy and delicious plain latte

How Much Syrup is in a Flavored Starbucks Latte?

SizePumps of Syrup

Short (hot only, 8 ounces)


Tall (12 ounces)


Grande (16 ounces)


Venti (hot, 20 ounces)


Venti (iced, 24 ounces)


A pump of flavoring syrup is 1/4 ounce. A pump of flavoring sauce is 1/2 ounce.

The Flavors

While the table above shows the standard amount of syrup for each drink size, baristas can adjust the amount upon request. Flavors can also be mixed. For instance, Starbucks doesn't actually offer a French vanilla flavor, but baristas can make it by mixing vanilla and hazelnut syrups.

Here are the syrup flavors that Starbucks offers:

  • Vanilla (available sugar-free)
  • Caramel (available sugar-free)
  • Cinnamon dolce (available sugar-free)
  • Hazelnut (available sugar-free)
  • Toffee nut
  • Peppermint (available sugar-free seasonally)
  • Raspberry
  • Classic (a mixture of sugar and water also called simple syrup)

Starbucks' Latte Menu

Name of DrinkWhat Makes it Special

Caffe Latte

This is a basic latte. Whether you order a latte or a caffe latte, your barista will prepare you the same delicious drink.

Flavored Latte

This is the same as a caffe latte but with any of the flavored syrups listed above.

Skinny Flavored Latte

This is made with nonfat milk and sugar-free syrup.

Vanilla Latte

This is the most popular flavored latte.

Cinnamon Dolce Latte

This is a basic latte with Cinnamon Dolce syrup, whipped cream, and Dolce sprinkles.

Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte

This is the same drink as above but with skim milk and sugar-free syrup. Let your barista know whether you want the Dolce sprinkles or plain cinnamon.

Customize Your Starbucks Latte

In addition to asking for as many espresso shots as you like, you can request any of the above types of milk, specify how much foam, and even ask your barista to mix your sweetener in for you.



No foam at all




Light foam




Heavy foam (or consider a cappuccino!)

Sweet 'n Low




As many shots as you like!

Breve (1/2 & 1/2)

Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado)

Heavy Cream


Vanilla Soy

Eggnog (seasonal)

Mmm, dolce sprinkles ...

Mmm, dolce sprinkles ...

Adding Flavored Toppings

There are so many ways to make a Starbucks latte extra fancy and delicious. Here are some toppings to choose from.

  • Whipped Cream: Starbucks baristas make whipped cream in-store with heavy cream and vanilla syrup. It's not whipped by hand, but it is fresh and delicious. Generally, adding whipped cream to a latte means the foam will be left off.
  • Caramel Drizzle: This sweet, thick caramel sauce is standard on a caramel macchiato but can be requested for any drink.
  • Mocha Drizzle: The same sauce used to flavor a mocha, this is a nice addition if you're looking for just a little bit of chocolate.
  • Chocolate Powder
  • Vanilla Powder
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Dolce Sprinkles: A delicious combination of cinnamon and sugar.
  • Caramel Brûlée Topping: Crushed hard candy with a smoky, caramel flavor.
  • Chocolate Curls: A seasonal holiday topping made from dark chocolate.
  • Sea Salt: I've never had someone ask for this without the Caramel Drizzle it's usually paired with. The combination is amazing and definitely my favorite topping.
  • Pumpkin Spice: I'm told that this powder is made of traditional pumpkin pie ingredients.
  • Molasses Drizzle: A very strong flavor!
  • Italian Roast Drizzle: A sweet yet super coffee-flavored drizzle that seasonally tops the Cafe Espresso Frappuccino.
  • Cookie Crumbles: Little pieces of chocolate cookies, this topping usually accompanies the seasonal Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino.
  • Caramel Crunchies: I'm not sure what else to call these, but they top the Caramel Ribbon Crunch and give it the crunch!
  • Flavored Whipped Cream: Starbucks offers flavored whipped creams seasonally. Chocolate is usually available in the summer, spiced with gingerbread during the holiday season. Caramel and espresso flavors were introduced in 2014.
Infographic: Starbucks' seasonal lattes

Infographic: Starbucks' seasonal lattes

Seasonal Lattes at Starbucks

  • Caramel Brûlée: Brulee means burnt, but I prefer to describe the flavor of this drink as smoky or toasty. Cream, sweet, and decadent, this drink is super popular. Topped with whipped cream and bits of candy, Caramel brulee lattes are available starting in November.
  • Gingerbread: Some say this drink tastes like a gingerbread cookie. Simply gingerbread syrup blended with espresso and milk, Gingerbread lattes appear around October or November. It comes with spiced whipped cream and a molasses drizzle although some customers ask for no drizzle.
  • Eggnog: Made with espresso, eggnog, and 2% milk, this is the only seasonal latte that is topped with foam instead of whipped cream—along with a dash of nutmeg.
  • Pumpkin Spice: The syrup for this flavored latte is more like a thick sauce, so this drink is creamier than a standard latte. Frequently requested when it is not in season, pumpkin spice lattes come with whipped cream and a special powder on top.

Happy Drinking!

And that's all about Starbucks lattes! I'm a little amazed I could limit myself to only one terrible pun. Enjoy your next latte!

Questions & Answers

Question: My friend substitutes sweet cream for milk in her lattes. I tried it and loved it. What is sweet cream, and more importantly how many extra calories are we talking if I add it to a grande compared to 2% milk?

Answer: I’m not sure what sweet cream is, but my guess is it is heavy cream. To give you an idea of the calorie count, one cup of heavy cream has 821 calories, and one cup of 2% has 103 calories.

Question: How much soy milk in a tall latte at Starbucks?

Answer: The best estimate I can give is between 8 - 10 oz. The measuring equipment baristas use doesn't give an exact amount, but I know an espresso shot is 1 oz, and a tall latte gets one shot. The total size of a tall drink is 12 oz, minus the 1 oz for espresso, minus the foam and room left at the top. If you add syrups, it would mean a bit less milk, as well.

Question: How much espresso is used in a grande iced latte at Starbucks?

Answer: The espresso shots are measured automatically by the espresso machines. Two one ounce shots of espresso go into a grande drink.

Question: Which Starbucks syrups are certified Kosher and from which agency?

Answer: I wasn't sure how to find out this information, but I did find an article that seems to outline what is Kosher at Starbucks. I hope this helps!

Question: How many grams of sugar is in a Trenta green tea lemonade with three pumps of syrup?

Answer: My best estimate is around 30g of sugar. This might not be right on the nose, but I can tell you that a lemonade of that size has between 20-22g of sugar. I did some math to try to figure out how much sugar is in a pump of syrup, so I think 30g is close.