Espresso Love

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Starbucks

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Espresso Love

Latte Lowdown

Starbucks' most well-known drink, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, is returning for its 18th season today, so there's no better time to sip a little trivia about this fall-favorite beverage and Starbucks as a whole. Here are a few things you might not know about the nation's most ubiquitous coffee chain, including which drink outsold the beloved PSL last year. 

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Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew

The Pumpkin Spice Latte Has a Better-Selling Rival

While the Pumpkin Spice Latte may get all the press (both good and bad), last year it was officially outsold by another pumpkin-flavored beverage. Starbucks' Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, introduced just three years ago, had that distinction, according to Restaurant Business. Both of those beverages return today, plus two seasonal bakery treats: a pumpkin cream cheese muffin and a pumpkin scone. 

Related: Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Products You'll Want to Try — and Some to Skip

Pumpkin Spice is Available Earlier Every Year

The PSL Is Available Earlier Every Year

Aug. 24 is the earliest the Pumpkin Spice Latte has ever been available, but despite that, Dunkin' still beat Starbucks this year with an even earlier debut of its own pumpkin latte, which launched Aug. 18. Starbucks' PSL used to be available only once September rolled around, but during the past few years, its launch has crept into August. 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. 

Related: Dunkin' Unveils Pumpkin-Heavy Fall Menu

A Stanford Basketball Player Created the Pumpkin Spice Latte
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 back 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 beverage was christened the "Frappuccino" — 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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HEAR MUSIC by F Delventhal (CC BY)
There's a 'Most Expensive Drink' Challenge

There’s a ‘Most Expensive Drink’ Challenge

There is a Most Expensive Starbucks Drink Challenge, and it 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.

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There is a Secret Drink Size

There's Also a Secret Drink Size ...

It’s called the Short, and it's an 8-ounce size that isn’t advertised on the menu — though 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-sized 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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Starbucks Paper Coffee Cups

You Can Use Your Own Cups Again

Starbucks long allowed customers to use their own cup to get their lattes, Frappuccinos, and tea, but during the pandemic, the chain decided to stop making that an option. That officially changed in June. Personal cups have to be clean, and baristas won't make any contact with your cup no matter how cool it might look — customers will drop them into a ceramic vessel and customers will pick them up at the counter. Also, don't hold up the drive-thru line trying to use your own cup. Reusable cups are not accepted there, though Starbucks is trying to figure out a safe solution for that, too.

There are Thousands of Stores Worldwide

There Are Thousands of Stores Worldwide

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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