Monday, May 24, 2010

I am your Starbucks Overlord.

photo from msnbc

I have been working for Starbucks for over four years. But no, this post is not about me and my job or whether or not I like it. This post has everything to do with your writing environment.

I know that writers thrive at Starbucks. I've heard it. Seen it. Listened to people chat online about the hours they spend in their favorite coffee shop.

As a barista, I'm pretty much the overlord of everything that makes you comfortable as a writer. I have the power to make your ears bleed with loud music or make your drink taste better than it already does. I know the science behind your espresso and how the heck your supposed to get wifi in this gosh darned confusing place.

I also have some tips.

Tip One: Food
I'm kind of into food. Calorie intake, fat intake, you name it. Sometimes, I nearly have a heart attack with the orders of my customers. No, people, A Venti Extra-Caramel Caramel Frappuccino and a maple scone isn't breakfast. Or an afternoon writing snack. It's your suggested calorie count for the DAY.

In fact, it may be good to avoid the pastry case altogether unless you plan on getting a pastry and an unsweetened tea, or a water. If Starbucks is your constant safe haven, the sugar can add up over time (and also make you fatigued during your prime writing hours, which is something all of us want to avoid!). Pastries that are the exception are Marshmallow Dream Bars and Organic Blueberry Oat Bars.

Snacks that also are the exception, if you're hungry, are the all natural snacks they have outside of the case, such as the Two Moms in the Raw bars, the all natural dried fruit, and the organic nuts.

Tip Two: Drinks that kill your wallet and kill your soul

Seriously. Milk based espresso drinks and frappuccinos will probably destroy you if you have them every day. If not your figure, than definitely your bank account. If you're into a lot of caffeine but not into spending five dollars, try iced coffee. It packs a bigger punch than espresso and is about half the price of a white mocha. If you're not into having tons of caffeine, iced teas, even sweetened, are less than 100 calories and are around $2.

Avoid the whip
Embrace the Organic soy!
Remember, Matcha Green Tea Powder has a good amount of caffeine and lots of antioxidants. And it's also yummy!

Tip Three: Be comfortable
The music too loud? We can adjust it. Can't figure out wifi? We can help. Need me to watch your laptop as you use the restroom or grab a sandwich from next door? I can do that too. I always hear people whining about the atmosphere and my response always is: "Well, did you ask?" As for me, I'm definitely biased towards writers. I always want to make them as comfortable as possible because I know how it is!

And finally, my favorite writing food/drink pairings:

tall coffee/caramel macchiato biscotti
iced soy green tea latte/ dried apricots
iced venti no water unsweetened passion tea (0 calories!) and a double chocolate brownie (to make up for it :-) )

Also, I never forget my headphones (sometimes we play pretty obnoxious music.)
And, it's a good idea to bring a throw blanket, because corporate controls temperature at a lot of stores, and it can get pretty cold sometimes for no reason!

Questions? Comments? I pretty much know everything there is to this coffee paradise. Just ask. :)


Tami said...

I sometimes feel guilty if I show up at a coffee shop and buy something relatively cheap, then stay for an hour or even longer while I write.

As a barista, do you find that sort of behavior to be leech-y? (Or do you know other, less-writer-tolerant baristas who do?) I really love my local coffee shop, but if I stopped in very often and got my favorite drinks, my wallet would have a gushing cash wound.

Also, the marshmallow dream bars are (relatively) healthy?! Oman. I'm gonna have to try one. The iced coffee trick is a great one - thanks in particular for pointing that out!

OH! One more! What's the recommended sweetener for a cold drink? Honey turns globby and sugar seems to take a while to dissolve (if it ever does). Any suggestions?

Sarah said...


That's definitely not leechy! We have kids who come in and just get water an then sit on the patio. Now that annoys me. But if you buy a $1.50 coffee or even just a pastry and have a two/three hour session of writing in our lobby, I don't know any barista that would get annoyed with that.

Marshmallow Dream Bars are our least calorie-filled pastry, resting at 210. It's still not SUPER great, but definitely better than a scone or coffee cake, even the reduced fat ones.

As for sweeteners, I love raw sugar. No, it doesn't really dissolve, although you can ask your barista to mix it with about two ounces of hot water so it melts and creates a syrup for your drink. (Or if your getting an iced espresso drink, ask them to pour the shots on top of the sugar directly to melt them) If you don't feel comfortable asking or if the store's really busy, vanilla soy can add a decent amount of sweetener to the drink. If you want it more sweet, our classic syrup doesn't have any high fructose corn syrup in it. It's pretty much a sugar water that dissolves right away in your drink.

Hope that helps!

salarsenッ said...

You're killing me. I am now officially guilt-strickened. Ugh. I fell in love with that new Dark Cherry Mocha....Good gosh, wallet-breaker. Yup.

Tami said...


Thank you, that helps quite a lot! I'll remember to ask about the sugar water sweetener and I'll rein in my concerns about being too long for having purchased so little. (Unless it's very busy, of course. I wouldn't keep a seat from a newly-paying customer if I've already been there for a long time).

Much appreciated! <3

Angela Ackerman said...

I would think it would be horrifying to know the calorie and fat content behind the liquid joy that is starbucks! It's definitely as you say a once in a while treat, not an everyday stop.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Awesome advice! I'll definitely keep it all in mind.

Lani Woodland said...

I had no idea we could ask for those things! Thanks for tips. :)

Leah said...

Haha, love this post, mostly because, you know, I'm always in your store.
Do I bother people when I spend like 6 hours in Starbucks writing? Or is it because I get so many tea lattes that everyone loves me? :P

JEM said...

What an awesome post! I too used to work in a coffee shop, and while I know it wouldn't be good for me to write there now (far too many distractions), I do dream of cozy cafes with delicious coffee drinks I've never even dreamed of. And they're probably on the seaside somewhere. Durn this is making it hard to work :)

Kay said...

How funny, I stumbled across your blog and saw your post on Starbucks. I am a writer and avid lover of Frappuccinos. I wrote a little post about it (and my love of the fluffy whip) on my blog:

Love the your site!


Carolin Seidenkranz said...

God, how I love the Frappucinos, even though they're so bad for me and my wallet (at least I get them as a treat and not every single day :-P).

What I find a little confusing about Starbucks sometimes, that you can order so many more things/variations than are actually on the menu!

So the passionfruit/mango frappucino is a good alternative?

And what about the light frappucinos? I assume they just have skimmed milk?

Debra Driza said...

I write in Starbucks all the time, and OMG, I second the blanket/jacket idea. I swear, Sarah, you all keep the temps low just so people will buy more hot dirnks---BRRRRR!

I esp. love the writing environment at night, when tons of high schoolers drop in to chat. It gets me in the YA mood. :D

Sarah said...

Carolin - They also have a different syrup base in them that have less calories. They're definitely a better choice vs. the regular frappuccinos, but I don't drink them because I don't drink milk.