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What's a Latte? Your Guide to Common Starbucks Drinks

Dusty is an expert on all things Starbucks and is here to offer her beverage-related wisdom.

Not sure what to order? Here's a list of what goes in to the most common drinks at your local Starbucks.

Not sure what to order? Here's a list of what goes in to the most common drinks at your local Starbucks.

What's in a Latte?

It happens every day. A customer walks into Starbucks, gazes at the menu, and with a slight shrug walks up and orders a . . . um, Latte? The short description on the menu boards doesn't really give a good summary of what you're ordering unless you're a seasoned coffee drinker. What about those new to the coffee, or Starbucks world? Here's a quick rundown of the basics:

Espresso Shots

They come in singles, doubles, triples, quads, etc. A single shot is small, pretty much the same size as a shot of alcohol at a bar. It can be ordered as a macchiato (with a dollop of creamy foam) as a con-panna (with a dollop of whipped cream) or alone. Most people who order espresso choose a solo espresso or a double espresso. Some people chug it just for the caffeine jolt, and some people sip it like coffee because they love the rich dark espresso flavor. A good shot of espresso is very dark in flavor with a hint of caramel. Add a dribble of cream and some sugar and you've got winning combination of caffeine power and eye-popping flavor!


Lots of steamed milk with espresso shots to liven it up, usually topped with about 1/2 inch or so of foam. Extra foamy lattes would get more foam, depending on how much you specify, or you can order it without foam. But remember, the milk is steamed so unless you've got a veteran barista, you might still get a tiny bit of foam in your milk. If you can't get enough creamy foam, order a cappuccino. Lattes aren't sweet on their own, most people drink them plain or add sugar. A lot of people order them with a flavored syrup, like vanilla. For something different, try caramel, toffee nut peppermint, raspberry, or hazelnut!


Espresso shots with a little steamed milk and lots of creamy foam. Usually, half your cup will be milk and espresso, and the other half will be all foam. A good cappuccino will feel light but solid. If you order a "dry" or "bone dry" cappuccino, it will be just espresso and foam, with little or no milk. This is my favorite! I grab a spoon and savor every spoonful of that creamy delicious foam! Like lattes, cappuccinos aren't sweet either, other than a slight sweetness in the milky foam. Try ordering them with flavored syrups, or add your own sugar at the condiment bar.

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Mocha or White Mocha

Espresso and lots of milk, sweetened with mocha sauce, or white chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream. Always a favorite!

Caramel Macchiato

The word Macchiato is Italian for "marked" and the caramel macchiato is named this because the espresso is added to the drink last, leaving an espresso mark on the top of the foamy milk. Macchiatos at Starbucks are made with vanilla syrup, milk, espresso shots and topped with caramel sauce. The espresso added to the top gives it a stronger flavor when you first sip it, but combined with the caramel syrup, it tastes wonderful! The vanilla at the bottom ends this beverage on a yummy note. One of the most popular Starbucks drinks at my store!


These cover all of the cold drinks blended with ice. Coffee, Caramel, and Mocha are the most common flavors. Java Chip has chocolate chips and chocolate sauce in a coffee base and comes topped with whip and chocolate drizzle. You can also order frappuccinos without coffee, such as strawberry & creme, double chocolately chip, and chai creme.

Brewed Coffee

Your regular, everyday cup o' joe! But did you know the bolder coffees have less caffeine than milder coffees? During the roasting process, the bolder coffees are roasted longer for a richer flavor, but that longer roasting time also takes some of the caffeine away! If you need all the caffeine you can get, opt for a milder coffee, like Breakfast Blend.
Iced Coffee: Double strength brewed coffee, so lot's of caffeine in there! It comes sweetened, but you can ask for the sweetener to be left out if you prefer. Add your own milk or cream, or ask for it 'Con Leche' and they'll make it for you with cream added.

Iced Teas

They come in black, green or passion, which is a fruity red tea. Comes sweetened unless you ask for the sweetener to be left out. Try it with lemonade or apple juice! The teas are concentrated so when you order them, water or juice is added to mellow the flavor from the concentrated level, in case you wonder why you see them adding that water to your tea and think they're watering it down.

Have a question about a Starbucks drink? I can probably answer it!

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