Not Martha

public service announcement

Did you know that Starbucks sickeningly lightly sweetens their iced coffee and iced tea? And that if you don’t want it sweet you have to specifically order it as unsweetened? I didn’t know this until we were blocks away from the drive through window. We went through the line at the next Starbucks with a drive through, not too far away, and they replaced it no questions asked, which makes me think it wasn’t the first time they got this request. Still, though, yuck.

· comments [59] · 08-7-2008 · categories:drink · links ·

59 responses so far ↓

  • 1 aarwenn // Aug 7, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Did you get the iced coffee or the iced tea? I actually like the sweetened iced coffee; put some half and half in there and you have a treat like a frappuccino only at one half the cost. But I imagine it would be a pretty big surprise if you weren’t expecting it. I always ask for sweetened, specifically, and sometimes I get unsweetened anyway and that is a real shock!

  • 2 megan // Aug 7, 2008 at 6:53 am

    I got the iced coffee, black. I like my coffee unsweetened so it was very unpleasant to find first thing in the morning.

  • 3 Bari // Aug 7, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Oh weird. Here in NYC they always say “sweetened or unsweetened” when you order iced coffee/tea so I guess that’s how I knew. I can see how getting the wrong drink would be super frustrating! But 2 starbucks drive throughs minutes away from each other? Thats just bragging!

  • 4 megan // Aug 7, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Bari – I do live in Seattle, the Starbucks net is dense here.

  • 5 michele // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Originally from the midwest, now in RI (where the Dunkin Donuts mimics the Starbucks concentration of Seattle), I was flabbergasted when I found out “regular” means 2-creams and 2-sugars in a small cup of coffee. As a PSA to those visiting the northeast, make sure to specify whatever you want or don’t want in your coffee when you’re in my neck of the woods

  • 6 Kate // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:08 am

    I was asked that very thing last week (in Seattle)…I was so caught off guard because why the heck would I want sweetening in my iced coffee that I didn’t answer right away. Didn’t realize it was standard procedure.

    Growing up in New England, bleh, Dunkin Donuts is awful about their coffee orders. When I go back, I usually repeat “one cream, no sugar. NO SUGAR. NOOO SUUUUGAAARRRR.” and I still end up with a “light n’ sweet.” Do not recommend you ever order one of those at DD. The layer of sugar on the bottom is about an inch thick.

  • 7 greta // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:11 am

    @michele — Your comment made me laugh, I grew up with “regular” coffee and miss it terribly now that I’m in southern CA. Somehow it’s not the same when I try to do it myself. :) But yes, for those of you who prefer unsweetened, you would definitely want to specify a “black” coffee at a place like Dunkin Donuts in the New England area.

  • 8 Dianne // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:15 am

    I found that out the hard way a few years ago when I ordered an iced green tea. So now I always say “unsweetened” which I never thought I’d have to do again when I left the south! :) Their hot teas come unsweetened, which suits me just fine.

  • 9 Mark Larson // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Sugar in coffee? I can go either way… But this southerner thinks that iced tea should *always* be sweetened :)

  • 10 kathy // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:25 am

    I had the “regular” treatment a lot in Boston when I lived there. Often, it helped really bad coffee (including Dunkin Donuts and institutional cafeteria sludge) turn into something sort of drinkable.

  • 11 Jill // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I’m with Mark at #9. Unsweetened tea? That’s disgusting. Simple syrup (from the beginning, not added per glass) is an absolute requirement for decent iced tea.

  • 12 Jill // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:30 am

    I noticed that they don’t do it at all of their locations. When I first started ordering iced coffee there, it was never automatically sweetened. Then I was in a different store than usual and noticed it was sweetened (without my asking for it). It’s not so great like that. I prefer to control the sugar aspect of my coffee myself.

    Anyway, now I always ask because I’m not sure what I’ll end up getting.

  • 13 Maura // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:31 am

    I’ve always been asked, but I think sweetened is the “default” because it’s harder to dissolve sweeteners in a cold drink.

  • 14 KimberlyMichelle // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:35 am

    I’m right there with you on the “ick” factor. I blame it on the fact that Sweet Tea is now a national trend.
    If I make iced coffee or tea… I brew it straight up and add ice. :)

  • 15 Melissa A. // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Iced tea with sugar is the only way I know it, but I’m from Canada. As a child on a trip to New England I made the mistake of ordering iced tea once.

  • 16 Ashley // Aug 7, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Here in Alabama I just take for granted I am going to have to say I don’t want it sweetened. They do love their sweet tea. Of course, around here I have to order it “unsweet”.

  • 17 sir jorge // Aug 7, 2008 at 8:06 am

    they are suppose to ask, that’s weird that they didn’t.

    I get iced coffee at least 4 times a week and they always ask, and they also ask if i want room at the top in case i want to add something.

    I get no room, no sweetener. It’s nice.

  • 18 amyc // Aug 7, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Why the change from sickeningly to lightly?

    It was dis-gusting when I learned my lesson the hard way.

  • 19 Rachel // Aug 7, 2008 at 8:13 am

    That’s like at Dunkin Donuts, where unless you say unsweetened your coffee has a ton of sugar in it. Personally I think they should never serve it sweet and let people put in their own sweeteners… Too bad you
    didn’t notice til after you’d left.
    Personally I prefer Peet’s… Unsweetened and good and strong!

  • 20 Sarah // Aug 7, 2008 at 8:45 am

    I remember when this happened to you. The horrified look on your face made me so sad!

  • 21 steffy // Aug 7, 2008 at 8:59 am

    yet another reason that i don’t go to starbucks. i mean, when you ask for a coffee… it means a coffee, yes? so when you ask for an iced coffee… it means a damn plain iced coffee. or so it should.

  • 22 fert // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:09 am

    one thing i’ve always liked about starbucks is their unfailing niceness about taking drinks back. you can just hand them the cup back and say that it was 3.1degrees fahrenheit too warm and the barista smiles and just makes it again for you. and at dunkin, it’s not their regular that has cream and sugar, it’s a “regulah.”

  • 23 Miss Grace // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

    That’s something I found out the hard way too. It doesn’t seem like a good default, to me.

  • 24 phillygirl64 // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

    My SBs always ask…I prefer to add the Splenda myself

  • 25 Rebekah // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I work for Starbucks and get really frustrated about the whole sweetened/unsweetened thing. The recipe calls for us to add Classic Syrup (simple syrup) to iced tea and iced coffee. Every store is supposed to do this. If customers want their beverages unsweetened they have to specify that when they order. It wouldn’t be a big deal if every store made their drinks to standard so customers would know what to expect. But, like fert said, we never hesitate to make the drink the way you want it.

  • 26 Rebekah // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Oh, also, if a barista asks if you want it sweetened or not, they’re just trying to be helpful and avoid wasting a drink. Some managers prefer that the baristas don’t ask, because adding Classic Syrup is standard. Like, we don’t ask if you want whipped cream on top of your mocha, because it’s supposed to come with whip.

  • 27 leah // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Peet’s coffee here in Seattle provides simple sugar at the little islands so you can add as much (or as little) as you like it. I always wished other coffee shops would do that too.

  • 28 Kat // Aug 7, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I work for Starbucks (I know, it’s kind of evil) and when you say “lightly” sweetens you should know that it is the “Classic” syrup that is used and it contains somewhere around 20 calories per pump. A tall iced coffee comes with four pumps (80 calories and so much sugar you can’t imagine). It’s the same way with the iced teas. It is standard so a lot of barista’s are told not to ask but I always do since I think coffee is coffee.

  • 29 Mary T // Aug 7, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Weird, same thing happened to me last week. I thought maybe I’d misunderstood something and just drank it. I like sugar, but I was actually trying to *not* have it just then. I took it as a sign… ; )

  • 30 Mariko // Aug 7, 2008 at 10:37 am

    I know! I was totally shocked when I ordered the brewed ice coffee or whatever they call it, and it was all sweet! Hello, brewed ice coffee should be just that! The next time I asked for no sweetener, and I swear they added water or something, because the coffee tasted like it was hot coffee with a bunch of ice cubes thrown in (i.e., diluted and watery). Oh well, as far as burdens go, this is one I think I can handle. Happy coffee drinking!

  • 31 Rachel // Aug 7, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I was a former Barista…There are so many great standards that are followed but sometimes there are new people training or just lazy people and that is why your iced coffee was sweetened or not sweetened or watery!! As far as the company goes, I am so glad they are cutting their losses and reorganizing in order to keep the company strong.

  • 32 Rebekah // Aug 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Starbucks has a link on their website for customer comments and suggestions. It’s a good place to voice your concerns about how you prefer your iced coffee and iced tea. In the meantime, getting your beverages unsweetened is as easy as letting your barista know.

  • 33 Mer // Aug 7, 2008 at 11:37 am

    In North Carolina, you better say “UNsweetened” when your order tea. The default is always sweet tea. I don’t like sugar in my tea, either, so I’ve always had to do this.

  • 34 Karen // Aug 7, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I believe that if a coffee or tea is going to be sweetened automatically by default, it should be clearly stated on the menu. I’m diabetic – and having sugar in my coffee without knowing it was there can cause my blood sugar to spike! If it’s their policy to sweeten their drinks, that’s fine. But let us know, so those of us who need to keep an eye on our sugar will know we need to specify that we’d like it unsweetened!

  • 35 lilikoiknits // Aug 7, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Most of the starbucks around here ask, but occasionally it seems like they don’t and I’ll forget. The worst is that sometimes I don’t taste before adding spenda and then it is really hard to tell if it was sweetened or not before.

  • 36 Karen // Aug 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I got a doubleshot over ice at Starbucks, and to give them credit, they asked *if* I wanted it sweetened. I said no. But then, I live in the North, where unsweetened iced tea and coffee is the norm.

  • 37 Andi // Aug 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    In Canada sweetened iced tea is the norm. Was I ever surprised when I got unsweetened in Washington! I wonder why it’s different in different places?

  • 38 Michelle // Aug 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    The first time I got Sbux Passionfruit Iced Tea it was soooo delicious, but the second time I was asked “sweetened or unsweetened”? Requested un-, assuming that I wouldn’t have gotten sweetener without my consent. But no! The default had been sweet. Almost every other time, though, I’ve been asked for my preference.

    Also, @michele, a friend of mine had a big issue with “regular” coffee when he moved from Texas to NYC. “Regular” sounds so innocuous, it took him forever to figure out how to get unflavored, uncreamed, unsweetened coffee!

  • 39 Tammy // Aug 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I haven’t had “real” iced tea since I moved to Canada. Growing up in Colorado our norm was sun tea (tea brewed w/ the heat of the sun) poured over ice. Here, the only version of iced tea I’ve seen is Nestea in a can. For coffee, it’s a Starbucks americano every time (iced or not – yum!). And it’s never sweet, by the way.

  • 40 Seattlejo // Aug 7, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Hmm Thanks for the tip. I typically get my iced coffee with vanilla syrup added, so i never realized that it usually came sweetened.
    With the iced tea I’ve gotten used to asking for half the sweetener.

    Oh, and all of Mcdonalds iced coffees are sweetened too. Not that you would go to McDonalds, but I’ve got a 6 year old and the play place is a godsend on a rainy day.

  • 41 jennie // Aug 7, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    i always order: venti iced unsweetened green tea

    They often seem surprised but always get it right.

  • 42 Emily // Aug 7, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Try an iced americano — that’s what I always get — definitely no sweetener!

  • 43 Jill // Aug 7, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Yes, I had the same experience where I got it at the drive through, noticed the sweetness, but thought it was my imagination. The next time I ordered an iced coffee I forgot to specify unsweetened, and what they gave me was definitely sweetened. I asked the guy if it had sugar in it, and he said no!

  • 44 Heidi // Aug 8, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Further, I don’t want their iced coffee “mix”, I just want them to take the coffee and put it over ice, done. They always seem so surprised when I am emphatic about that.

    My mom went to a Braum’s (in the south) to get a milkshake, and was asked if she wanted the simple syrup in it. We were all horrified to find they had been ADDING SUGAR to a friggin milkshake all these years. bleah.

  • 45 chez shoes // Aug 8, 2008 at 4:57 am

    Oh goodness! No wonder I got sick the one time I ordered iced coffee there. Not to mention it tasted nasty. I’m blogging this to spread the word.

  • 46 Short, but not so sweet. « Chez Shoes // Aug 8, 2008 at 5:21 am

    […] was it? This just in via Not Martha – Starbucks sweetens their iced coffee! […]

  • 47 liz // Aug 8, 2008 at 8:19 am

    In Manhattan, Starbucks now posts the calories in both food and drink—my regular summer drink is an iced Americano, but I was thinking about taking the quick way one day until I saw the iced coffee was listed at 90 (!) calories. I asked and the barista couldn’t understand why I was even wondering. This explains a lot!

  • 48 Marnie // Aug 8, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Ew, yes, I knew this…learned it the hard way (a couple times, I’m a slow learner.)

  • 49 Molly // Aug 8, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I didn’t know that they sweetened it, but I always order things unsweetened (specifically) as a matter of course.

    I wonder why they do this?

  • 50 Anne // Aug 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Yuck indeed. Another tip – if you ever order a Chai Tea, make sure that it’s not Starbuckese for ‘Chai Tea Latte’ at your neighborhood shop (another sickly sweet surprise).

  • 51 Hanna // Aug 8, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Working as a barista, I’ve gotten a lot of people lately that really emphasize the fact that they want their iced tea unsweetened and i was thinking it was odd, but i guess now i know why they feel they have to emphasize it. we do have a smaller fraction of people who are disappointed that we don’t have a simple syrup to add to the drink and that they have to try to get sugar to dissolve or choose a flavor. guess you can’t please everyone.

  • 52 megan // Aug 9, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Hanna – I don’t mind that you sweeten the drinks, I mind that is isn’t mentioned on the menu.

  • 53 Sandy // Aug 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    In Boston they always ask if you want it sweetened or unsweetened. I don’t know why sweetened has to be sickly sweet though…

  • 54 Dawn // Aug 9, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Bleh. I have only ordered iced coffee once from Starbucks, and hated it because it WASN’T sweetened, or maybe just not sweetened enough. I had to add sugar and stuff to it, and adding sugar to a cold drink is pretty much impossible. I never knew there was another option.

  • 55 Nine // Aug 10, 2008 at 3:46 am

    I recently had my first ever Starbucks coffee in Berlin, Germany and ordered an iced coffee. I was surprised to get just that, icy cold unsweetened coffee. In the Netherlands the current hype is a smooth frappucino whith milk and sugar. I decided that I like the Starbucks coffee but for all I care they can keep their milk and sweeteners and syrups. Just strong black coffee for me please!

  • 56 Michele // Aug 10, 2008 at 5:27 am

    Up here (in Canada) iced tea is always sweet. So when I’m south of the border and ask for iced tea I always assume it will be too. Then I take a sip and make a face when I realize its not. Its funny how the whole sweet vs unsweet iced tea depends on where you’re from.

  • 57 Ghoast // Aug 11, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    If you need sweetener for your iced tea you’re probably drinking pretty crappy tea.

    Also, I can understand wanting sugar in one’s coffee… but as the default? No. Just no. This is wrong. Some may say it’s not an issue with “right” and “wrong” and usually with most issues I agree… Right and Wrong are ideas about things we make up in our heads. But this? This definitely is black and white and I’m fully comfortable being a fascist about it.

  • 58 Janet // Aug 13, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Cant believe they sweeten the iced coffee & tea without letting the customer know. Arent they worried about lawsuits from diabetics?

  • 59 Amber Renee // Sep 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I was searching for iced-coffee photos when I found this and I am right with you. I have had several times when I’ve gotten STUCK with a nasty, overly-sweetened iced-coffee to which I cannot even begin to drink. What a waste!

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