Is Starbucks Exploiting Your Sweet Tooth?

Yes. Yes it’s delicious and yes they are.

By Sofia Rivera, Simmons College


“Give me a grande chai tea latte with soy milk, extra foamy, no sugar and hold the chai.”

This is a sentence, or something like it, that my friend swears she overheard someone order while waiting in line at Starbucks the other day.

How is this not some parody of an order, but an actual order?

The thing is that for those of us who have ever gone to Starbucks, we’re probably just as culpable for this type of ridiculous behavior as this apocryphal customer. That’s because there’s just something about Starbucks and their unconventional drink-size names, red ‘holiday’ cups, tables littered with Mac-owning hipsters and inch-thick foam—it’s a combination to which we’ve all fallen victim.

As soon as you see that Starbucks logo you’re instantly transformed from an average Joe just looking for a cup of joe, to a chic member of the bourgeoisie who doesn’t bat an eyelash at dropping $5 on a drink that you’ll consume in fifteen minutes. Also, you seem to acquire a pretty firm grasp of conversational Italian (provided the conversation is about cup size).

But it’s so easy to get caught up in the smug feeling of superiority, the memorizing of orders and the quixotic attempts to get your name spelled right that you might be forgetting to care about what’s actually in the drinks that you’re dropping your paychecks on.

On their website Starbucks says, “To say Starbucks purchases and roasts high-quality whole bean coffees is very true. That’s the essence of what we do – but it hardly tells the whole story.” In their mission statement they command us to “expect more than coffee.”

Well, you can’t say they didn’t warn us. There is quite a bit more to their coveted beverages than a couple of coffee beans, as evidenced by the extremely high calorie count on some of their signature drinks.

Recently, I’ve been inundated by posters for the new Rose and Pistachio Mocha. Unfortunately it’s only available in Europe, so diehard Bucks fans will have to book a flight for a sip— if you’re a true fan you’ll do it.

Starbucks is a Very Delicious Snake in the Grass

And although I haven’t yet tried it, I am thoroughly intrigued. None of the ingredients are tastes that I’d ever imagined paired together, but the picture shows a mug topped with pink whipped cream and a sprinkle of pistachios, so now I’m questioning how I’ve lived this long without having had one.

Out of curiosity I googled the nutrition facts. This is not something you should do if you know something isn’t good for you but you still want to enjoy it. But I googled, and like a bad stand-up comedy show or road kill, I wanted to look away but couldn’t.

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Starbucks reports that with whip and skim milk, the smallest possible size—the short, which is just eight fluid ounces—of the Rose and Pistachio Mocha contains 250 calories, 30.9 grams of sugar and 37.1 grams of carbs.

But let’s be honest, you’re not getting the short. I didn’t even know shorts existed until I googled the calorie count, probably because they hide them behind the counter? If you spring for a venti and treat yourself to whole milk, be prepared to consume a whopping 694 calories, 75.1 grams of sugar and 89.9 carbs.

For comparison, let’s look at the poster child for junk food—the McDonald’s Big Mac. McDonald’s reports that the menu staple contains 540 calories, nine grams of sugar and 47 grams of carbs. For added perspective, remember that 2,000 calories/day is generally the suggested intake.

I’m not suggesting that you spit out your Starbucks drink. Actually definitely don’t, that thing was expensive. But maybe we can stand to be more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.

Because we associate the golden arches with grease and lower income, we accept without question that it’s bad for us. I’m willing to bet that though, that if Morgan Spurlock went in for a Starbucks Super Size Me sequel, the results would be similarly unflattering.

Sure, “Make it a Venti” sounds way fancier, but that’s the genius of Starbucks.

Growing up, adults always told us to stay away from soda and those amazing neon sugar water drinks. Now that we’re “adults,” we need to realize for ourselves that just because it’s non-carbonated and served by baristas doesn’t mean it’s any better.

I definitely don’t hate Starbucks and my intention isn’t to villify them. I love the free wifi and long wooden tables that are perfect for setting up my—yes— Mac, and getting some homework done while sipping a chai tea latte.

But we’re stronger than the siren calling from the Starbucks logo, so why not hold off on the PSL Instagrams for a while and save the super sugary drinks for a treat? Midterms are around the corner and lord knows we’ll all need a celebratory sugar splurge when that’s over.