A simple design issue dictates that all lattes are not created equal.
It is no surprise that our Japanese writers are quite fond of coffee mega chain Starbucks, to the point that one of them was made into a meme for it.
But one day a former employee tipped us off to an unusual quirk in certain drinks such as the classic latte. According to the anonymous former part-time worker, each size of latte has a different taste and the biggest difference can be felt between the Short and Tall sizes.
Not only that, but anyone who orders the tall is especially “losing out.” Our informant who wishes to be called Mr. A insists that even after leaving the organization he still considers Starbucks to be “the most delicious coffee.” So he isn’t out to slander them.
P.K. Sanjun sat down for a cup of Starbucks with Mr. A to learn more:
P.K.: “So, why is there a difference in the taste of lattes depending on their sizes?”
Mr. A: “Well, let me explain how a latte is made. In a nutshell, milk is poured into espresso. If it’s hot, then steamed milk is used, but for an iced latte we just add regular refrigerated milk. Basically, they’re done the same.”
Mr. A: “So, why is there a difference in the taste? The amount of espresso varies according to the size: a Short gets one shot, a Tall also gets one shot, a Grande gets two shots, and a Venti gets three shots.”
Mr. A: “After that, you just pour in the milk to fill the rest of the cup and it’s complete… Get what I’m saying?”
Mr. A: “…”
Mr. A: “Um, so the biggest difference is between the Short and the Tall because each one only uses one shot of esp…”
P.K.: “Ohhhhh, I get it!”
Mr. A: “There you go.”
Since each latte uses standard 30-milliliter (1-ounce) shots of espresso, the ratio of coffee to milk varies with each drink. Since the Short and Tall both use one shot, the Tall would have the lowest amount of coffee relative to milk of the set.
P.K.: “So, does that mean anyone who orders a Tall is getting ripped off?”
Mr. A: “I don’t know about the cost of ingredients so I’m not sure about that, but isn’t milk more expensive than espresso ounce for ounce? If espresso were more expensive you’d probably be out a little money, but I don’t know either way.”
P.K.: “I see.”
Mr. A: “Still, there’s a lot of people out there who think a Short is not enough but a Grande is too big. Those people could always order an extra shot of espresso for an extra 50 yen (US$0.45), so they could just order a Tall and get an extra shot. By they way, this is all also true for drinks like caffe mocha and cappuccino that are made in a similar way.”
After their meeting, P.K. decided to put Mr. A’s story to the test and ordered each size of latte from Starbucks. Indeed, he did notice subtle differences between them and just like Mr. A said, the Short and Tall had the biggest difference.
If P.K. were to describe the Tall positively he would say that it was a mild coffee experience. On the other hand, he felt it was too bland and lacked any of the sharp edge you would expect from coffee.
It’s all really a matter of taste though; for people who like extremely milky coffee, the Tall may be a wise choice. Or for those who like their lattes a little stronger, a Tall with the extra shot would be the best route. However, if you just want to keep things simple and predictable, it may be best to steer clear of the Tall altogether.
As for P.K.. he’ll get to sleep one of these days.
[ Read in Japanese ]