I've been a Starbucks barista for over 10 years, and I love sharing my coffee knowledge with anyone who will listen.
A Barista's Guide to Tea Lattes
Ordering drinks at Starbucks can be confusing. There are a ridiculous amount of options for every type of beverage on the menu and learning the unique Starbucks lingo can be a bit of a task. As an enthusiastic barista at the 'Bux, I've developed a bunch of helpful articles for customers who are looking for more information. Check out my first article to learn Starbucks terms.
A neat twist that can be done with any of the new Teavana teas is called a tea latte. Basically, a tea latte is equal parts hot tea and steamed milk. Since many of the teas are already caffeinated and many don't pair well with the taste of coffee, there is no espresso added to any of the tea lattes.
The recipe for a tea latte broken down to the standard for the non-menu items is as follows:
- Place 1 tea bag in a tall cup, or 2 in a grande or venti cup.
- Add hot water to half-full.
- Add steamed milk (2% unless you request something else) to the top.
- Just a bit of milk foam tops the drink.
- If there is a syrup included in the recipe, the quantity is shown in the table below.
If you're wondering what goes into five of Starbucks' most popular tea lattes, read on.
|Size||Pumps of Syrup||Tea Bags|
Tall (12 ounces)
Grande (16 ounces)
Venti (20 ounces)
- English Breakfast Tea bags
- Classic syrup, which is just like a liquid sugar
- Hot water
- Steamed 2% milk
- One scoop of milk foam
Earl Grey Creme/London Fog
Sometimes referred to as London Fog, the Earl Grey creme tea latte varies just a little bit from the regular equation. Instead of the classic syrup that's in a black tea latte, this one features vanilla. The rest of the recipe is the same: half hot water, half 2% steamed milk and the usual amount of pumps.
The combination of Earl Grey and vanilla is the perfect drink for a cold winter day and I've never actually served this latte with any other flavor than vanilla. That's not to say I'd discourage anyone from trying something new, but this drink seems to be a classic no one wants to mess with. For a skinny version, sugar-free vanilla and nonfat/skim milk can be substituted.
Although black and Earl Grey creme are the only Teavana teas that formally have latte versions on the Starbucks menu, any of the hot teas can be similarly made into lattes.
The chai tea latte differs from the average tea latte. It does come with the standard amount of pumps and is really half hot tea and half 2% steamed milk. This drink is one of the most popular items on the menu. If you walk in and order a chai, this is what the barista will serve you.
- The main component is Tazo chai concentrate. This is a mixture of the same ingredients found in the full-leaf chai tea bag, but the liquid version is sweetened with a fair amount of sugar. It is super strong.
- Add hot water to fill the cup about halfway.
- Add steamed milk.
Tazo Chai concentrate is a mixture of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and star anise. The black pepper gives this version of chai a real kick. It is a spicy but even blend of spices.
For a stronger, sweeter drink, try adding more pumps of chai or extra water. It may seem counter-intuitive, but think of it this way: The more milk versus hot water in the drink, the creamier it's going to taste. Light water or no water chais are a bit less spicy than regular chais.
If you're a really adventurous chai drinker (like myself,) try experimenting with adding other flavors to the mix. Although chai has a really strong flavor by itself, it mixes surprisingly well with other syrups. I've even enjoyed some chai and peppermint.
- My favorite spin on a chai latte is the affectionately nicknamed chegnogg—chai and eggnog, which is unfortunately seasonal (or fortunately, depending on whether you're asking me or my waistline.) It also pairs really well with gingerbread syrup, when it's in season.
Teavana Oprah Chai
This mouthful was introduced in 2014 as part of a promotion to increase awareness of Starbucks' new Teavana tea brand. Oprah herself teamed up with Starbucks' new tea company to create this unique take on chai. The latte is made the same way as the Tazo chai tea latte, but of course with Oprah's special blend in place of the Tazo concentrate.
Oprah's chai varies incredibly in flavor from the Tazo chai.
- Tazo chai gets a kick from black pepper that is not used in Oprah's blend.
- Oprah's Teavana chai has much stronger notes of cinnamon and cardamom.
- Oprah chai concentrate features a blend of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. It is made with both black and rooibos teas, as opposed to the Tazo chai, which only features black tea.
- Oprah Chai has a less spicy but bolder and more complex flavor than the Tazo chai.
For serious chai drinkers, I highly recommend asking for a sample because the flavors are so different.
- Matcha powder
- Classic syrup
- Steamed milk
The powder in this drink is actually mixed into the milk and the two are steamed together. This ensures that all of the powder gets mixed in. Classic syrup is added to the bottom of the cup, then the matcha/milk mixture is poured in.
Matcha powder is a mixture of crushed green tea leaves and sugar. The addition of classic syrup to the mix makes this a very sweet drink. Omitting the syrup can cut down on the sugar and sweetness, but there is no truly sugar-free version since Starbucks matcha powder contains sugar.
Ordering no-foam green tea lattes is a surefire way to make a barista sweat (especially when you order it with soy milk instead of the traditional 2%). It's not that we won't try our best to make the drink just the way you want it (and any seasoned barista is sure to have a method for making this drink with no trace of foam,) but the mixture just has a great tendency to foam up. Don't take offense if your drink has more foam on it than you wanted. Any barista will be happy to try again, but I know from experience that it makes a huge difference if a drink is returned with a smile.
Even fans of this drink or of matcha, in general, will agree that this is an acquired taste. Matcha has a very earthy flavor. I've heard plenty of people say they think it tastes like grass. I'm personally a big fan and would recommend trying this drink with raspberry or peppermint syrup if you have a bit of a sweet tooth.
© 2012 Amanda W