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16 Things You Didn't Know About Starbucks

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Starbucks Paper Coffee Cups

Latte Lowdown

No matter how often you frequent Starbucks, there are some things you may not know about the legendary coffee chain. Sit back and sip a little trivia, including recent revelations about the massive amount the company takes in from unused gift cards.

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Starbucks Gift Cards, Multipack of 4

$1 Billion Is Sitting on Unused Starbucks Cards

People love giving Starbucks gift cards so much that the chain sold $12.6 billion worth in 2020 and $11 billion in 2021, according to the company on its latest earnings call. What's more, many people lose or don't use their gift cards, making them a massive financial gift for the company instead of free coffee for your bestie. In 2020, $164.5 million in gift cards was never redeemed and recorded by Starbucks as revenue. All told, there's $1 billion sitting on gift cards unused. You may want to rifle through your wallet and make sure you haven't forgotten about one.

Related: Gift Card Mistakes to Avoid

reusable starbucks cup

It's Eliminating Single-Use Cups

Worldwide, Starbucks goes through a staggering 7 billion disposable cups every year. While there's been a 10-cent incentive to bring your own cup for decades, customers haven't taken up the habit as much as the chain would like — and you can't bring your own cup in the drive-thru. Now the chain has announced that American and Canadian customers will be able to use their own cups for every single order by the end of 2023. Cup-washing stations, borrow-a-cup programs, financial incentives and deterrents, and new drive-thru systems are being tested to make single-use cups a thing of the past for good.

Related: How to Satisfy Your $5 Starbucks Habit at Home

It All Began with Roasted Whole Coffee Beans
Starbucks Old Logo
Starbucks Old Logo by Craig Nagy (CC BY-SA)

Starbucks' First Logo Was a Topless Woman

The coffee giant's original logo features a twin-tailed topless mermaid known as a siren. Obviously, the logo has evolved over the years and her hair has become more strategically placed, making the familiar image much more PG-rated.

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Kenny G. Created the Frappuccino

Kenny G Helped Launch the Frappuccino

Well, kind of. As an early investor in Starbucks, Kenny G strongly recommended the creation of a sweet, milkshake-type drink to founder Howard Schultz. The company admits that he played a large role in shaping what is now known as the Frappuccino.

The development of the sweet and icy blended beverage, however, can actually be traced to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where in 1992 a local coffee shop known as the Coffee Connection used a frozen yogurt machine to create a unique blend of coffee, sugar, milk, and ice. The name is a portmanteau of the words "cappuccino" and "frappe," the New England name for a milkshake with ice cream. The creation was a huge success and helped the Coffee Connection expand to 23 locations. In 1994, Starbucks bought the chain — along with the rights to the Frappuccino name — for a cool $23 million.

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Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew
A Stanford Basketball Player Created the Pumpkin Spice Latte

A Stanford Basketball Player Created the PSL

Peter Dukes, a former Stanford basketball player who studied economics and received his MBA, was tasked with developing a new fall drink as a product manager for Starbucks. In 2003, the Pumpkin Spice Latte was born, and Dukes is credited with inventing it. The recipe has remained unchanged ever since.

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Pumpkin Spice is Available Earlier Every Year

The PSL Is Available Earlier Every Year

Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte used to be available only once September rolled around, but in the past few years, the launch has crept into August. The PSL has been available as early as Aug. 24. Despite that, Dunkin' still beat Starbucks in 2021 with an even earlier debut of its own pumpkin latte, which launched Aug. 18. There’s a lucrative reason the PSL is available earlier each year: Starbucks has sold more than 500 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes since the drink's 2003 launch.

HEAR MUSIC by F Delventhal (CC BY)
There's a 'Most Expensive Drink' Challenge

A Starbucks Can Cost Almost $150

The Most Expensive Starbucks Drink Challenge has been around for years thanks to social media. While Starbucks itself frowns upon it and has rules about how big a drink can be made, the challenge persists. The current title holder is a 240-ounce Super Venti Flat White that rang in at $148.99.

There is a Secret Drink Size

There's a Secret Drink Size ...

It’s called the Short, and it's an 8-ounce size that isn’t advertised on the menu — although it was one of only two sizes available in the early days of Starbucks (along with a 12-ounce pour). It’s mostly used for kid-size hot chocolates, but adults can order it when they don't want a full dose of caffeine — or if they’re looking for a better cappuccino.

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There is a Secret Drink Menu
There is a Secret Drink Menu by Michelle oshen (CC BY-SA)

... and a Secret Drink Menu

In addition to a secret drink size, there is a secret drink menu. There is even a website dedicated solely to sharing dozens upon dozens of these fancy concoctions. The secret is knowing exactly how to order these exotic drinks — you’ve got to know the exact ingredients. Hot Butterbeer latte, anyone?

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The Drink Lingo Has No Meaning
You Can Get Free Grounds for Your Garden

You Can Get Free Grounds for Your Garden

In an effort to recycle more and reduce waste, Starbucks started a program in 1995 called Grounds for Your Garden. Baristas scoop used coffee grounds into empty bags from their espresso beans. Bags of grounds are available for free at many Starbucks locations, ready for you to use for your compost bin or garden.

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There are Thousands of Stores Worldwide

Only Half the Stores Are in the U.S.

As of the end of the 2020 fiscal year, there were 32,660 stores around the globe. About half of those stores are located in the United States. China has the next-largest number, with a rapidly expanding footprint of more than 4,700 locations — and counting. 

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