It’s hard to imagine a time before Starbucks brought on the American coffee revolution. Before the heyday of those familiar green-and-white awnings on street corners in every major city, coffee was more like medicine: a caffeine charged fixative to keep us awake until lunch. But something beautiful happened with the advent of Starbucks: coffee became personal. What we took in our coffee began to be more complicated than cream or sugar, and we all collectively began to try things we never thought we’d be able to pronounce, much less order — frappuccinos, lattes, double espressos.
Coffee with friends became the new lunch with friends, and experimenting with our orders become just as much fun as trying braised quail instead of boring chicken. Late-night college study sessions began to require Tall Red Eyes instead of pots of black coffee. An afternoon on the beach meant swinging thought the drive-through and picking up a Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino before oiling up and diving in.
However, somewhere between late nights in the library freshman year and nine o’clock traffic to entry-level jobs, the experimenting ends. Picking our go-to Starbucks drink has become a new American rite of passage, and whether you're a grande hazelnut macchiato or an iced venti soy pumpkin spice latte, your drink has become part of your personality, a product of dozens of cardboard cups' worth of searching for the coffee you salivate for, Pavlov’s dog-style, whenever you smell fresh ground beans. Imagining a perfectly made, piping hot grande mocha, no whip, has become part of the pleasure of drinking it.
Admit it, you’ve been in Starbucks, ready for the order that has become your order, and been completely bummed when they were out of a syrup you love or your standard 2% milk. A vanilla latte simply isn’t the same as a skinny vanilla latte, and you’ve developed your Starbucks palate so well that you can immediately taste the difference. If you’ve ever said to a barista "Excuse me, but I think you maybe switched out toffee for almond?" you’re no first timer. You’ve got a Starbucks standby drink, and that’s perfectly okay.