Don’t you think there’s something lovely about a thoroughly crafted cup of coffee or tea? Knowing the barista put time and effort into your order makes it taste better. That’s probably why Starbucks Coffee emphasizes its handcrafted drinks.
What Is a handcrafted drink at Starbucks?
According to Starbucks, handcrafted drinks require “a bit more love” to make. They’re complex, requiring effort beyond pouring from a jug or carafe. The extra preparation needed for handcrafted drinks includes pulling shots from the espresso machine, shaking ingredients, pumping syrups, or blending.
Most of the items on the Starbucks menu are handcrafted and are all customizable according to customer preference. Below is a specific breakdown of what counts as a Starbucks handcrafted drink.
The Starbucks menu is home to complicated and simple espresso drinks, each of which counts as handcrafted because you can’t make them without a fresh espresso shot.
The coffeehouse chain’s regular menu of handcrafted espresso-based drinks includes but isn’t limited to the Cappuccino, Espresso, Espresso Con Panna, Flat White, Honey Almond Milk Flat White, Cinnamon Dolce Latte, Caffè Mocha, and White Chocolate Mocha.
Frappuccinos and Blended Beverages
The Frappuccino is another item on the Starbucks handcrafted drinks menu. Baristas blend these to order to ensure they are just right — not too chunky or runny. After all, the Frappuccino is a Starbucks signature; each must live up to the company’s reputation. The Mocha Cookie Crumble, Coffee, Strawberry Crème, and Chai Crème Frappuccinos are popular picks among the restaurant’s Frappuccino fans.
At the time of writing, there are more than a dozen variations of this popular drink on the Starbucks menu, some with a coffee base and others with creme. But when you factor in all of the customer-created secret menu recipes, there are too many Frappuccinos to count. Each is a handcrafted drink.
Other non-Frappuccino blended drinks at Starbucks, like the Blended Strawberry Lemonade, also count as handcrafted. Just like Frappuccinos, baristas make each of these to order.
Making a Starbucks iced tea involves more than letting the tea leaves steep in cold water. Since customers can customize their drink’s water quantity, amount of ice, and sweetener or flavor content, Starbucks iced tea is a handcrafted item.
The Iced Royal English Breakfast Tea Latte, Iced London Fog Latte, Iced Chai Tea Latte, and Iced Black Tea are just a few of the iced teas Starbucks offers.
Sipping an iced coffee drink is an easy, effective way to get the all-important caffeine kick when the temperature is too high for a hot beverage. That’s why Starbucks sells things like the White Chocolate Macadamia Cream Cold Brew, Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, Iced Caffè Latte, and Iced White Chocolate Mocha.
The drinks mentioned above and the rest of their icy counterparts are handcrafted because of how baristas assemble them. Making iced lattes means pulling shots of espresso, and, as we already mentioned, requiring an espresso machine makes it handcrafted.
Cold java beverages made with cold brew instead of espresso are also handcrafted; baristas steep the coarsely ground beans in water for nearly a full day before serving this brew!
Not every chilled coffee beverage at Starbucks is handcrafted. Regular iced coffee — a brew made via a drip coffee machine and left to cool in the refrigerator until someone orders it — does not fall into this category. But hold that thought; we’ll touch more on what isn’t a handcrafted drink later.
Starbucks seasonal drinks are — you guessed it — only available during certain seasons. Examples are the almighty Pumpkin Spice Latte that shows up (and sells out!) every fall and the Peppermint Mocha that arrives in time for Christmas.
Each seasonal beverage at Starbucks is made to order and is, therefore, handcrafted.
Steamers are hot, non-coffee drinks. One is the Caramel Apple Spice, a mix of steamed apple juice and cinnamon dolce syrup topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. The Vanilla Créme is another example of a steamer, containing steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and whipped cream topping.
These and all the other drinks in the Steamer category are considered Starbucks handcrafted drinks.
Hot chocolate needs no explanation. With its three primary ingredients (steamed milk, mocha sauce, and whipped topping), it’s a basic drink. But still, despite its simplicity, it bears the Starbucks handcrafted label. So does white hot chocolate, a spin on the crowd-favorite beverage that uses white mocha sauce instead of regular chocolate syrup.
What do Starbucks’s Pink Drink, Strawberry Acai, and Dragon Drink Refreshers all have in common besides that they all offer refreshment when you need it most? They’re handcrafted drinks!
Making a Refresher involves more than pouring a pre-made drink from a jug into a glass and adding a few ice cubes. These popular pick-me-ups are somewhat complex drinks and have specific steps baristas must follow to get them to taste just right.
What Is NOT a handcrafted drink at Starbucks?
The list of handcrafted Starbucks drinks is long, but so is the list of non-handcrafted beverages. So, what doesn’t count?
Most, if not all, Starbucks locations have a refrigerator filled with already-packaged items like bottled water and tea, canned energy drinks, and boxed fruit juice. Those don’t fall into the handcrafted drinks category.
Brewed Coffee and Tea
Yes, a barista prepared the piping hot joe in your cup, but doing so didn’t require specific skills. Therefore, plain drip coffee isn’t a handcrafted drink at Starbucks. Neither is regular iced coffee, which is a drip brew served over ice.
Brewed tea isn’t in the handcrafted category, as Starbucks employees don’t need any special training or to put forth any additional effort to drop a tea bag into hot water. So, drinks like the Mint Majesty or Earl Grey teas aren’t handcrafted.
Starbucks discontinued the sale of alcohol at U.S. locations years ago, but it’s worth noting that, when they were available, these drinks were not considered handcrafted.
Roasty Roundup: Bestselling Starbucks Handcrafted Drinks
We don’t have time to list every single handcrafted drink Starbucks offers. And even if we did, let’s face it, you don’t have time to read all that. Between the regular, seasonal, and secret menu beverages that fall into this category, there are too many to name! So, to keep things short and sweet, we’ve opted to share only 11 of the best handcrafted drinks at Starbucks, starting with a classic: the almighty pumpkin spice latte — PSL, for short.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Love it or hate it, you’ve heard of it, as the pumpkin spice latte is the king of fall coffee drinks. This beloved beverage combines Starbucks’s signature espresso with steamed milk, pumpkin spice sauce, whipped topping, and pumpkin spice topping (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove — so yum!). Forget what the calendar says – the PSL’s annual return is the indicator of autumn’s return.
Blonde Vanilla Latte
The Starbucks Blonde Vanilla Latte is one of the coffee shop’s regular drinks, and it blends the classic vanilla flavor with blonde-roasted espresso and creamy steamed milk. The default recipe calls for two percent milk, but feel free to ask the barista to use your favorite milk alternative instead. You can give your drink an even more personal touch by increasing or decreasing the amount of vanilla in your cup to your liking.
The Caramel Macchiato is a beloved Starbucks handcrafted beverage, and it’s not hard to understand why. Vanilla and caramel syrup work together beautifully, the franchise’s signature espresso provides a lovely caffeine kick, and a splash of milk makes it creamy. Finished off with a drizzle of caramel sweetness, this drink, hot or iced, is perfection.
Iced White Chocolate Mocha
According to some of the company’s baristas, Iced White Chocolate Mochas are among Starbucks’s top cold drinks. The delicious drink brings espresso, white chocolate sauce, and milk together over a handful of ice cubes to create something sweet, refreshing, and energizing. And the best part? There’s also a hot version, an excellent choice for when you’d rather have something cozy and warm.
Java Chip Frappuccino
The Java Chip Frappuccino isn’t the kind of drink you’d consume daily. But when you want to splurge on something extra special on your Starbucks run or are craving something dessert-like, this blended delight is what you’re looking for.
Since it’s a coffee Frappuccino, not a creme-based one, it has caffeine. Starbucks employees assemble it by mixing the brand’s Frappuccino roast coffee, Frappuccino chips, milk, and mocha sauce in a blender with ice. Then, the final product gets a crown of whipped cream and chocolate drizzle.
Iced London Fog Tea Latte
The Iced London Fog Tea Latte should be in your regular drink rotation if it’s not there already. It gives coffee lovers a break from their usual orders and gives tea enthusiasts a delicious dose of their favorite brewed beverage.
Citrusy, bright Earl Grey tea serves as the base drink. Add vanilla-flavored coffee syrup and milk to the mix, and it becomes a London Fog latte. Subtly sweet, smooth, and offering a mild caffeine boost, the Iced London Fog Latte is one of Starbucks’s most popular handcrafted teas.
Pro-tip: To give the Iced London Fog Latte an extra boost of vanilla flavor, ask the barista to add vanilla sweet cream cold foam.
Chai Crème Frappuccino
Have you ever wondered what a chai latte would be like in milkshake form? Well, wonder no more! Starbucks solves this mystery in the form of the Chai Crème Frappuccino. The creme-based handcrafted beverage is a blended mixture of chai concentrate, milk, and ice, and the whipped cream and cinnamon topping make getting your chai fix more fun.
Honey Almond Milk Flat White
Though the two are often mistaken for each other, the latte and flat white are not the same. Yes, you need the same two ingredients, milk and espresso, to make them, and yes, they are both handcrafted beverages at Starbies. But beyond that, the two are different.
You can read a detailed comparison of the drinks here, but one big difference is that espresso’s flavor is more prominent in a flat white. That’s why Starbucks’s honey almond milk flat white uses blonde roast beans: to let the joe’s smooth, mellow flavor take center stage. Add steamed almond milk and a few pumps of honey blend, and you end up with a slightly sweet, nutty pick-me-up.
Chai Tea Latte
An iced or hot Chai Tea Latte never fails to create or add to a cozy atmosphere. We’d say the presence of warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger is responsible for that. You taste them in every sip, making this handcrafted tea latte the drink you want when you’re curled up under a blanket with a good book in your hand or a movie on television.
The warming spices are mixed into the latte’s black tea base. Then, a splash of milk — cold if the drink’s iced, steamed if it’s hot — join the party. That’s it. That’s all that’s needed to make this iconic tea latte. Some Starbucks customers like adding flavored syrups, too, but others enjoy it plain; either way, it’s super yummy.
The Pink Drink began its life as a secret menu item. But it became such a well-known and beloved treat that the good folks at Starbucks decided to make it a permanent fixture in the Refreshers line-up.
This drink has three ingredients: coconut milk, strawberry acai base, and freeze-dried strawberries. When baristas combine these three and serve them over ice, you get a sweet, refreshing, and fruity mood booster.
Cinnamon Dolce Latte
Starbucks’s Cinnamon Dolce Latte is a customer favorite, so we couldn’t resist adding it to our list of the coffeehouse’s top handcrafted drinks.
A shot of Starbucks’s signature espresso, a splash of steamed or cold milk, and a few pumps of cinnamon dolce-flavored syrup are all that’s necessary to make this sweet, creamy beverage. Don’t skip the whipped cream and cinnamon dolce topping here. Trust us. They take this latte to the next level.
Why Does It Matter What Drinks Are Handcrafted?
Unless you use Starbucks Rewards, a loyalty program that awards customers a certain number of stars for every dollar they spend at the shop, it probably won’t matter much to you which cups of coffee, tea, or juice count as handcrafted and which do not.
However, if you are a Starbucks Rewards user, you’ll need to know what counts as handcrafted when it’s time to spend your stars. Rack up 200 of them, and you earn a free handcrafted beverage of your choice. That’s a pretty sweet deal, especially when you consider how much Starbucks’s handcrafted drinks cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Get a Handcrafted Drink With Starbucks Rewards?
You must earn 200 stars before the Starbucks Rewards program rewards you with a free handcrafted drink.
What Is the Cheapest Handcrafted Beverage at Starbucks?
The cheapest handcrafted drink at Starbucks is the solo espresso shot. Enjoy it on its own for around $2.20.
Are Refreshers Handcrafted Drinks?
Yes, Starbucks Refreshers fall into the handcrafted category. Baristas make each of these to order — no pre-made mixtures here!
Alternative to Starbucks Handcrafted Drinks
Since we just mentioned how much Starbucks’s handcrafted drinks cost, it seems like a good time to point out that they’re more expensive than their non-handcrafted counterparts. And why wouldn’t they be? Making them requires more time, effort, and ingredients. Some people might not be willing to shell out the big bucks for a fancy-schmancy coffee drink.
Or maybe money isn’t the issue. Perhaps you don’t want to schlep all the way down to the local Starbies.
If you find yourself in one of these camps — you don’t want to pay for expensive coffee or don’t feel like going to Starbucks — we have a suggestion: get your own gear and brew your joe at home!
Nowadays, there’s an espresso machine for everyone, regardless of your budget or coffee-drinking habits. Get yourself a good one, plus a selection of high-quality ingredients (freshly roasted espresso beans, your favorite milk or creamer, flavored syrups, etc.), and start honing your barista skills. No more worrying about rewards program stars, long lines at the café, or how much you spend on venti lattes every month.
We know it’s hard to give up your daily trip to Starbucks. But the good news is that guides to making all of the franchise’s drinks are all over the internet — we’ve got quite a few Starbucks dupe recipes here on our site — so you’ll at least be able to brew beverages that taste close to, if not exactly like, the one you would’ve paid seven bucks for.
And if you start brewing at home and decide it’s not for you? Well, that’s OK — Starbucks is only a drive away.