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STARBUCKED!! The Demise of Donna's Double Latte!

  • Aug 28, 2009
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Before moving to Los Angeles in 1991, I had never heard of the renowned Starbucks Coffee or anything so foolish as paying over three dollars for a cup of java.  As a Midwesterner, I enjoyed independent coffee houses and recall my grandmother serving up Folgers at home when it was just about two bucks for the entire container.  But I was living in the entertainment capital of the world of the world, loving every minute of my newfound lifestyle and Vanilla lattes.

My return to the Midwest at the start of the millennium only furthered my fetish, as Starbucks had now expanded (inasmuch as corporate had predicted), and there now seemed to be a Starbucks on just about every corner.  I pursued my lattes with a vengreance-downing two doubles a day-spiraling into the shank of the evening, where I'd switch to a double decaf latte for my nightcap.  I knew I was spending too much money, but justified this fixation by reminding myself that I had given up on Strawberry Margaritas and my clothes horse habit had diminished as well in the last few years.  But more than the coffee, I so enjoyed the camaraderie and the chit chatting it up with all the local connoisseurs.

Then one evening the way I viewed coffee would change forever.  It all began when I ordered my double latte and a flirtatious barista I'll cal "Cal" said I was too "easy."  I had a litany of comebacks for Cal, but decided instead to play it cool, asking him to explain his remark.  The industrious barista went on a tyrant, naming off a variety of desert type coffees, telling me what other customers ordered-demanded would be a better word Cal assured me-and said that I should be more adventurous in my coffee choices.  After that, a wild streak emerged that I didn't know existed and I, too, began mixing, blending and spoiling myself with a variety of countless coffee concotions.  I wasn't trying to be difficult; let's just say I wanted to be a team player like everyone else!

Slurping on so many coffees wasn't easy and with my nerves in a frazzle, I finally settled on my favorite drink from which I've never faltered:  a tall, nonfat double four-pump sugar-free Hazelnute latte, extra hot, light on the foam.  Because I ordered that drink so often and with such gusto, one of the baristas affectionately began referring to it as "Donna's Double."  Word spread quickly and after that all I had to do was set foot in my favorite Starbucks and before I knew it, a smiling barista was whipping up the Donna Double, light on the foam, Hazelnut latte.  I had arrived!

Unfortunately, my fifteen minutes of fame wasn't meant to be and most recently I've departed Starbucks, leaving the Donna drink in the dust.  After receiving a series of murky looking lattes, I became agitated, but brushed it off by telling myself that even baristas are entitled to an off day now and then.   I didn't investigate until about a week or so later when another one of my beloved lattes (the fifth in a row) arrived lukewarm and flavorless, like it was straight out of the faucet.  When I informed the young barista (whom I had never met before,) that my drink tasted like tap water, she responded with an indignant, "we don't put water in our coffee."  What? No water??  Starbucks doesn't use water in their coffee???  What in the heck HAD they been putting in my drink all these months?  This time I was given a gift card for all my trouble and that sufficed until the big chill.   Here's how the Donna Double met its demise:

I wanted to give Starbucks another chance, but have to admit that I had an eerie feeling the night I popped into my Favorite Starbucks around 8 P.M., requesting the famous double latte.  This time I proposed that it be made with extra foam instead of the light I usually ordered.  I left the drive-up for the privacy of my home and was delighted when I opened the lid to a creamy foam latte, looking like it was made to order.  What happened next made me feel like I was the star in my own Lifetime movie, the one where the protagonist poisons the spouse with a powerful shot of Potassium Chloride.

I took a sip and began to choke on huge hunks of salt in my mouth, so potent that I could barely swallow.  The taste of the salt combined with the coffee and the Hazelnut flavor was overpowering as were the chunks of salt lingering on my tongue.  I choked, spit it out, caught my breath, then gingerly took another sip to make sure my taste buds were in check.  Yep- more of the chunks appeared and it wasn't just in the foam; the entire drink was swimming in salt.

I marched directly back to Starbucks, signaling to the barista (another new employee) that there was a problem with my drink.  I displayed the foam mixed with the salt and asked how this could have happened.  I then observed a large canister of salt sitting directly next to the espresso machine, pointed it out to the sheepish looking barista, who swore he had no idea how the chunks of salt made its way into my drink.  He didn't offer to return my money, nor did he give me a gift card.  He just stood there dumbstruck, scratching his head while he held this huge container of salt in his hand.   Oh- he DID offer to make me another drink (minus the salt), but I digustingly declined.  Tired, angry and a little shaken, I went home, never to return.

As of this writing, I've yet to file a formal complaint, as I believe I'm still in double latte shock.  This review may alleviate some of the pain, but I still have to wonder how something so good could have gone awry.  I AM happy to report that in recent months I've made a full recovery, enjoying a new life where I sip on tea and nibble on a biscuit in the afternoon.  On the philosophical side, I have to ask were those delicious Hazelnut Lattes too much of a good thing?Should I give the latte another try somewhere else??  What about a local coffee house?  For all you Starbucks aficionados, more power to you, but for me, the memory is just a grind!  Definitely, NOT recommend at this time.

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January 03, 2010
whoa! That sucks. I have a favorite store of Starbucks, I hope nothing changes there.
September 04, 2009
Hahaha... you make me laugh! I'd say it's a case of all good things must come to an end! ;-)
September 03, 2009
I think my solution is the way to go. Make your own espresso drinks and pocket the $4.
August 31, 2009
Ugh, gross!  I already hate salt rims on margaritas, so hearing your story just made me cringe.  Question though, I've never been a barista before, but I was under the impression that Donna's Double was suppose to be sugar free, only sweetened by the four pumps of sugar-free hazelnut syrup, so how in the world could salt, or even sugar for that matter, end up in your latte?

So sorry about your experience!  Thanks for sharing it with us though.  Perhaps you should get addicted to Peet's?  They've never wronged me!
August 29, 2009
I think Starbucks and bottled water are God's way of telling us that we have too much expendable income.
August 29, 2009
omg this is so tragic yet hilarious!! i hope you've found some yummy new teas!! :)
August 29, 2009
Oh NO, Donna! That is horrible. I am not a Starbucks fan but, do have quite a fondness for Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. They use powders instead of liquid flavors and blend the powder while pouring the hot milk into the cup- so that you get plenty of deliciousness. AND what coffee house has salt? It might've been the powdered solvent they use to clean espresso machines which is obviously poisonous if ingested. Wow....I'm so sorry you had that experience. You should tweet and Facebook Starbucks corporate with this review so you can get a decent compensation!
August 28, 2009
Great review! I would stick with the tea and biscuits, thank you very much. Like bottled water I suspect many of these exotic coffee drinks priced at $4 or $5 each are among the greatest scams ever perpertrated on us. I got a little worried for you. I thought you were going to tell us that those chunks were Comet cleanser! I guess that expansion baristas just can't cut it.
More Starbucks reviews
review by . March 04, 2009
Before I quit drinking coffee (it was an addiction) I would frequent this spot only when with a group of people who wanted to go there because going there by myself would make me feel guilty I am spending so much money on a cup of coffee. Now that I am not a coffee drinker I don't waste my time there unless:    a) Someone gives me a Starbucks gift card   b) I have arranged to meet someone there because it is a convenient location      Now I tend to think …
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2012
My favorite place to meet for a variety of options to meet and share good and pleasant moments
Quick Tip by . January 17, 2011
Yeah, they're corporate, but I'm a sucker for their vanilla lattes ;)
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
If you have a Starbucks addiction, like me, or even if you only stop by a couple of times a month, make the investment in a Starbucks card. Register it online, for free, and after only 5 drinks, the rewards start to build up. Free soy milk, free flavor shots. Using my registered card makes the price of my drink (Tall, Cinnamon Dolche Latte) drop from $3.76 to $3! Plus, you get a postcard from a free drink of your choice after 15 visits and for your birthday!!
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
I love Starbucks, but I can't help but think of the calories whenever I drink a speciality drink from there!
Quick Tip by . April 15, 2010
At Starbucks the service is usually quick. My order during the winter is always a chai latte with skim milk.
Quick Tip by . March 06, 2010
I know they're corporate... but they're so tasty! :D I still try to go to mom 'n pop places though.
Quick Tip by . November 11, 2009
Sometimes its all you have, and I have to say, my skinny cinnamon latte today was not bad...not GOOD, but not too bad.
review by . May 13, 2009
Starbucks Shaken Black Tea/Lemonade
I grew up in New York City and always used to love being able to leave the house and go to any deli and get great tasting Lemon Ice Tea.  I live in Philly now and as much as I love Philly, you can't get that king of ice tea anywhere!  They are all into the sweet tea thing.  So when my dad first told me about the Starbucks black tea/lemonade, I had to try it.    Before I started getting the Black tea/lemonade, I used to get the TAZO passion fruit tea.  I would …
Quick Tip by . October 21, 2009
Hmm, I'm thinking a Caramel Macchiato with heavy, heavy caramel sauce & lots of that whipped cream. Now that's sweet & dreamy!!
About the reviewer
Donna Linn ()
Ranked #256
Donna Linn, M.A.T.      Donna Linn has had a distinguished and multifaceted career in communications, entertainment   and education. A prolific writer and interviewer, Linn … more
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Starbucks is an international coffee and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington, USA. Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 16,120 stores in 48 countries, including around 11,000 in the United States, nearly 1000 in Canada and more than 800 in Japan. Starbucks sells drip brewed coffee, espresso-based hot drinks, other hot and cold drinks, snacks, and items such as mugs and coffee beans. Through the Starbucks Entertainment division and Hear Music brand, the company also markets books, music, and film. Many of the company's products are seasonal or specific to the locality of the store. Starbucks-brand ice cream and coffee are also sold at grocery stores.

From Starbucks' founding in Seattle as a local coffee bean roaster and retailer in 1971, the company has expanded rapidly. In the 1990s, Starbucks was opening a new store every workday, a pace that continued into the 2000s. The first store outside the United States or Canada opened in the mid-90s, and overseas stores now constitute almost one third of Starbucks' stores. The company plans to open a net of 900 new stores outside of the U.S. in 2009, but has announced 900 store closures in the US since 2008.

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