Starbucks Secret Menu Drink of the Day: Roasted Chestnut.


I came across a fantastic website devoted to the Secret Menu at Starbucks.  I too have an interest in the Secret Menu possibilities at Starbucks and have written about it, here.

A drink that caught my eye is called the Roasted ChestnutRoasted Chestnut Starbucks

Here is the recipe:

  • Start by ordering a Hazelnut Macchiato
  • Add toffee nut syrup (1 pump for a tall drink, 1 1/2 pumps for a grande, and 2 pumps for a venti)
  • Add extra hazelnut syrup (1 pump for a tall, 1 1/2 pumps for a grande, and 2 pumps for a venti)
  • Add white chocolate mocha syrup (1/2 a pump for a tall and for a grande drink or, 1 pump for a venti drink)
  • Top with spiced whipped cream and hazelnut drizzle

Drink.

Some important notes to keep in mind when ordering a drink from the secret menu:

1.  Make sure you know the recipe of the drink you would like to order and not just the name.

2. Depending on what drink you’re ordering and what add-ins there are, be prepared for extra costs.

3.  Paying with a registered Starbucks card or with the Starbucks mobile app will earn you stars towards free rewards.

4.  Savour every sip

5.  Come back and post your thoughts here!

What are your favourite Starbucks drinks?

How my 1 hour reprieve from Parenting was Ruined at Starbucks.


There really is nothing worse than having only a few precious minutes of kid-free time – today’s was to have been spent at Starbucks Canada while the kids were in a program – and it’s ruined by someone taking their time doing something very simple… Like ordering a cup of coffee.

Crazy, eh?

I dropped the kids off at their program, then headed over for a cup of coffee and for a sanity break at the closest Starbucks.  I had 55 minutes now, and I just wanted my drink and to sit down and get to work.  I had my laptop and there was only one guy in line in front of me.  He was already ordering when I settled in behind him in line.  I figured I was a minute or two away from my coffee.  Little did I know it would be almost 15 minutes later before I had my drink…

It was so bad that once he realized he was entitled to a free drink, paused to figure out what to order and after what seemed like 2 minutes, he ordered a venti (huge) triple-quad, half-caf…. something, something, something… That drink order was as long as the wait, and of course, as barista repeated the drink back to him, she made a mistake and he went through his entire order all over again to make sure she understood.

Yawn.

Then once he was finished – 8 minutes later – and he had to pay for his drink, he decided he needed a snack, so he walked over to the window and thought about that, before ordering the food.

Now came time to pay.

Of course, he had not taken out his card to pay!!! He searched high and low for his wallet, but could not find it.  Then he decided he was going to pay through his phone, which he had to retrieve, turn on, open the app, load what ever the %^$^ he needed to load only to find out there was not enough money on his phone to pay.

So back to his backpack he went and this time he produced a debit card.

He paid (no tip) and then turned and smiled to me.

I waited 12 minutes for him to order, and pay, and he smiled and me.

So I smiled back.

Said good morning.

Walked up to the cash, ordered a grande Americano with a pump of mocha and a pump of peppermint and I knew that in a mere minute I would be enjoying a delicious drink.

It’s bad karma to be an asshole, plus it’s a lot of work.

My hour of freedom was now down to 35 minutes.

Sigh.

Have a great day everyone!!!

The Urban Daddy

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Facts About Starbucks’ Canada and Naming Starbucks’ New Blonde Roast Contest


Map of the countries with Starbucks Coffee Shops
Map of the countries with Starbucks Coffee Shops (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starbucks is the world’s top coffee retailer with over 19,500 stores in 58 countries.  Canada ranks second to the US in the number of stores (over 12,800 in the United States compared to over 1,245 locations in Canada).  Japan, Great Britain, China and South Korea round out the top 6, all under 1000 locations.  But you cannot really trust these numbers because Starbucks are opening nearly 5 new stores everyday.  Starbucks recently held a contest for Canadians to help name their new Starbucks Blonde Roast coffees, which are best described as their lighter roast with a subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied, full of flavor, and delicious.  I liken it to a roast which gently awakens the senses – the more you enjoy your cup, the more flavour you detect.When they first launched the Starbucks Blonde Roast, I immediately picked up the VIA instant packets and was shocked by the lack of flavour from the first sip.  Used to strong coffee I had added way too much cream and sugar and it drowned out the mellow flavour of this mild roast and once I learned to be gentle with this Blonde, I began to notice the subtle flavours and it has become my go to roast.

So of course I wanted to enter the contest to create the name for the Blonde Roast and in doing so, I found some interesting facts about Starbucks I felt compelled to share.

So, here are the 13 Most Interesting Facts About Starbucks, then the details about the contest …

13.  Starbucks currently employs over 137,000 employees, which may not seem like a lot, however this is twice the population of Greenland.

11.  There are currently over 87,000 drink possibilities – a free drink to anyone who can name all 87,000.

10.  There is a size called the “Trenta” which is 30oz / 916 ml or slightly bigger than the capacity of your stomach which on average has a capacity of 900 ml.

9.   A Starbucks grande coffee has 320 mg of caffeine which surprisingly contains over four times more caffeine than found in a Red Bull energy drink.

8.   The Starbucks cinnamon chip scone has more calories than a McDonald’s quarter pounder with 480 calories.

7.   Starbucks uses 2.3 billion paper cups per year.

6.   They currently serve 40 million customers a week.

5.   The owners almost went with the name Pequod, the name of the boat in Moby Dick, instead of the character Starbucks’ name

4.   After tasting the Clover at a small café in New York and claiming it the best cup of brewed coffee he has ever tasted, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided to buy the company that made Clover in 2008 and began introducing the dream machine at select stores around the country

3.   Most Starbucks stores have been equipped Swiss-made Mastrena, which was created to make “the highest-quality, consistent shot of espresso”. The machine also allows baristas to interact with customers due to it’s size and shape.

2.   My first choices for the new name were “Mellow Yellow”, “Platinum Blonde” named after the great Canadian band, “Ambition”, “Natural Blonde” and the “Have More Fun” Roast.  These have all been entered in the contest.

1.   The first Starbucks location to open in Canada was at the Seabus Skytrain Station in Vancouver on March 1, 1987. This humble store was Starbucks Coffee’s first international location.  My last suggestion was to honour that location with the “Seabus Light Roast Blend.”

On February 20th, Starbucks Canada will announce the 3 finalists and open up the voting.  What was your name for the Blonde Roast?

The Urban Daddy’s 2012 – 4th Annual Coffee Rankings


Richmond Hill locationWelcome to the 4th annual Urban Daddy coffee rankings.

Before we get into the 2012 list, I would like to recap the 2011 rankings.  Those rankings were based on the following criteria;

1. Taste

2. Price

3. Freshness

4. Other intangibles, such as snacks and food available, payment options, if the lids leak and other additional perks.

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Urban Daddy’s 2011 rankings:

1. Java Joe’s

2. Tim Horton’s

3. Starbucks

4. Coffee Time

5. Timothys

6. Second Cup

7. Tim Horton’s US

8. Country Style

9. Dunkin Donuts

10. Seattle’s Best Coffee

11. McDonald’s

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The 2012 Urban Daddy Official Coffee Rankings:

1. Java Joe’s

2. McDonalds

3. Tim Horton’s

4. Neighbours

5. Starbucks

6. Aroma

7. Timothy’s

8. Country Style

9. Second cup

10. Coffee Time

11. Seattle’s Best Coffee

How were these rankings calculated?

Easily.

Drinking a lot of coffee during many different times of the day and in various locations gives me a feel for how the coffee tastes when it’s at its freshest, and when it’s served during a low-traffic period.  I love coffee and I know my coffee.  I even checked online to see if there was a registered coffee expert designation, and there was not (if there is, please let me know, not a barista one though) so I am designating myself a CCDE.  A Canadian Coffee Drinking Expert.

I base my rankings on many different criteria, such as; value, taste, freshness, quality, the curb appeal of the locations, the cup and lid, the variety of coffees available and variety of other foods in the locations.

1. Java Joe’s – Based on all these criteria, Java Joe’s is the hands down winner again this year.  Last year I commented on some of their outstanding flavours such as; Cinnamon Hazelnut, Jamaica Me Crazy, Raspberry Chocolate, Banana Cream, Caramel, and even their Irish Cream – and I detest Irish Cream – little did I know there were more flavours, better flavours still to come such as Blueberry Pie and Maple Cream.  All these flavours are stong in scent and strong in flavour.  There is no mistaking the flavour and quality of beans when you pick up a cup of their coffee and this is not a case of a great smelling coffee with little or no flavour or strong-smelling coffee with a strong bitter taste.

I can’t say that I have ever had a poor cup of coffee here, unlike all the others.

Even the regular coffees they sell have some great flavour to them.   I go to a Java Joe’s, or brew on at home, when I want a fantastic cup of coffee full of flavour and body.  When I just want a coffee that I can savor I put no price on that.  In addition, their containers that they use to hold their brewed coffee keeps the coffee hot and does not water it down (from condensation) nor does it cause the coffee to continue brewing and therefore get bitter.

They also have a wide variety of food (sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads) which are fresh, tasty and reasonably priced.  They have a wonderful selection of organic teas, cold iced drinks plus the full range of hot drinks like  the latte, Americano, mochaccino and cappuccino.

The staff are great and their locations have, WiFi and a flat screen TV which you can watch while sitting next to the built-in fireplace. Eat-in or eat-out. Don’t forget the catering. All of this makes Java Joe’s #1 on my 2012 rankings.

They do need a better social presence, however.  Especially to let their clientele know which yummy soups or flavoured coffees they have that day.

2. McDonald’s – @McD_Canada.  McDonald’s came a long way this year and from what I hear, true or not, it is because they changed their beans to the beans formerly used by Tim Horton’s.  Where else can you get a large coffee and a muffin for $1.88?  And while we all know the variety of products available in a McDonald’s they get top marks for adding items which are health-conscious and tasty.

The only hiccup here is that I have found quite a few of their cups have an uneven seam meaning the coffee dribbles down the side of the cup and onto my hand or in my car when it splashes side to side.  As well, to get that last drop, you must remove the lid.  I have had some very questionable large double doubles, more than with most coffee shops but I have also noticed the locations I have gone to for my morning coffee have been VERY busy and it’s bound to happen.  But the flavour of the coffee stands out and it has a mellow aftertaste with a solid coffee taste.  A very pleasurable cup of coffee.

The public relations team at McDonald’s are fantastic and if you comment on Twitter you get a prompt response.

3. Tim Horton’s – Timmy’s comes in at #3 this year for a couple of reasons.  First of all I have found they are became quite inconsistent – a cup of coffee at one location will not taste the same as one in another location and it also varies during the time of day usually based on who is making it once the new sizing came in.

Yes, their addition of oatmeal gives them top marks – but you have to order it with just berries – no brown sugar powder – otherwise it’s not healthy at all, and I found they put in the sugar powder whether you ask for it or not.  I do like the 3 new bagel flavours at Tim Hortons, however a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese still gets top marks for me with my large double double.  I have been a little gun-shy about eating the chili there ever since a colleague of mine and myself got sick eating it one lunch.  The rest of the food is great.  I know they are ramping up their food menu to compete with McDonalds and so they should!  They can compete.  It’s Timmy’s.

A visit there won’t break the bank, and in some areas they seem to be on every block.  Yes, there are some concerns around whether or not they actually stir the coffee when they serve it and this was magnified with the addition of the new sizes.  Try a longer spoon!

Twitter: @TimHortons

4.  Neighbours – It was one of my blogging community, The Green Eyed Girl, who sent me a message after last year’s rankings asking me to try Neighbours which I had never heard of.  Boy, am I glad that I did.  Their coffee is fantastic!  I tried their mild, medium and bold and in each case I found a wonderful smelling coffee, rich in flavour and full of coffee taste.  Also in containers which prevents bitterness or over-brewing, I found the best part about Neighbours coffee is that you can choose to add a liquid coffee sweetener instead of cream and sugar which means I can add a vanilla hazelnut shot and not need sugar.  It’s just as good as getting a flavoured coffee.

I drive out of my way on the weekends to get a Neighbours coffee as there is no Java Joes anywhere near me, and the Tim’s and McD’s closest have no parking.  That’s how good their coffee is.

5. Starbucks – Starbucks while pricey, and known for serving very strong coffee come in this year at number 5, down from number 3 because the drinks they have added all have a lot of fat and calories and their selection of snacks also are on the smallish side and not the kind of treats you bring back to the office.  Their blonde coffee – as mild as a coffee can get – barely taste’s of coffee and their oatmeal – which I believe they call the “Perfect Cup” was less than half full and lumpy.  It was disappointing.

On the bright side, their Cafe Americano’s are fantastic, but have gone way up in price over the past 5 years.  I read that if you have a Starbucks card, and wish to have a flavour pump in your coffee that it is free, but I often get charged it and for the $0.35 cents, I am not going to argue.  At Starbucks, customer service is king.  If there is something wrong with your drink, or an unusually long delay, they bring out the free drink coupon.  In the land of S’Bux, you get what you pay for.  I feel good going into my local Starbucks, even walking through the streets with a cup.  It’s a status symbol.

I posted their secret menu a couple of months ago on my blog, and have yet to try any of the interesting flavour combinations suggested on it.  The secret menu is cool and is part of their mystique.

@StarbucksCanada

6. Aroma - The Aroma Espresso Bar, fairly new to the Canadian scene (first store opened in Toronto in 2007, second one in Thornhill in 2009), has been turning heads and making progress in the Canadian market, considering the relative youth of the brand.  Founded in Israel in 1994, they focus on premium coffee, fresh delicious salads, a large variety of healthy sandwiches, competitive prices, contemporary decor, and devoted service.  The Aroma chain serves more than 25 million customers a year and boasts over 150 Aroma Espresso Bar branches worldwide.

My first experience of Aroma coffee was at the Thornhill location it was not a good one.  Not realizing that their bread and butter is their gourmet coffee which meant I needed 4 creams and 6 sugars to even out the strength of the coffee.  All subsequent visits have been much better and I’ve come to appreciate the surprisingly strong, rich coffee smell and flavour without any bitterness.  Next up, is to try an Americano.

7. Timothy’s – Still hit and miss, Timothy’s is the closest coffee shop to my house but unless I am craving a flavour I tend to go elsewhere.  I still find their regular coffee’s have a funny, bitter aftertaste to them and that could be because every time I go in the pot has been sitting for a long time which means either watered down or very strong and bitter from being old.  As I mentioned in previous rankings, the good thing about Timothy’s flavours is that they tend to mask old, stale coffee.  I have a bag of ground Raspberry Chocolate beans in my house and if I knew they had any of, Toasted Coconut, Raspberry Chocolate or Cinnamon Hazelnut I would go for them.  Totally worth the trip.

Like Java Joe’s,  my local Timothy’s should  set up a Twitter feed so I can check their coffee flavours in the morning.  They also need to revamp their food selections as they look average and where they are positioned in the store they look like an after thought.

I have always felt that since Timothy’s promotes itself as “Coffee’s of the World” that they seek out and bring in some really different, distinct coffees to add to their regular host of culprit’s in order to bring in a different crowd too.  Maybe make them a premium blend…  I know its hard to control how long a pot has been on – it’s always fresh when I ask, but once I taste it and find otherwise, I keep away for a while wondering if it would have been better for them had the staffer just said it was old and offered me a different drink or another option.

Also in need of a Twitter account!

8.  Country Style – I have a love / hate relationship with Country Style and it’s that I want to love their coffee and I hate that it’s so unpredictable from store to store, and not just the flavour of the coffee but also what constitutes a double double in one location is not the same as another.  It’s frustrating because their food is incredible.  I took an entire week to try their menu at breakfast and lunch time and was very surprised with the variety, flavour and healthiness of their food.  If only they could pull a McDonald’s and get different beans or make their sugar / cream dispensers the same as Tim Horton’s or just leave it for us to add like Starbucks.  Something has to give!

Country Style is the place to go for breakfast and lunch if you are looking for fresh, flavour and healthy.  They are very underrated in this area.  They also have a wonderful social media presence and as a Canadian company I hope they can make their coffee work better to compliment their food.  They deserve more traffic.

Twitter: @CountryStyleCDN

9. The Second Cup – Second Cup comes in at number 9 because I think they have an identity crisis.  Their not so great coffee with limited flavours does not warrant the Starbucks treatment – high prices, high-end food.  At least at Starbucks, the customer is always right.  At the Second Cup locations I have visited during the year, some locations are fantastic, but some give you the glare when you start to ask questions about the freshness of the coffee or ask them to make a “perfect cup” as advertised.

In addition, their best flavours are rarely out, instead they insist on serving Irish Cream as a flavour citing the fact that it’s “popular”.  Yes, it’s popular because the regular coffee is usually bitter and people want a flavoured coffee.  They take it in spite.  I have a bag of ground Butter Pecan and Caramelo beans in my house and without fail when I serve it to guests someone will comment that they do not understand why The Second Cup does not have these in regular rotation.  Tell me about it.

The Second cup, or Les cafés Second Cup in Quebec – claim to be Canada’s largest coffee chain, yet nothing in their stores scream Canadian to me.  This would be a great area to focus in instead of international expansion – to strengthen the local brand, bring in more Canadian flavours and figure out why I need 4-6 sugars to make my large coffee drinkable.  Right now, sadly, my worst fear is walking into a Second Cup location and having to drink one of their regular coffee flavours, like the mild, Paradiso medium or bold.  It’s disappointing considering their cold drink menu is often expanding and fantastic on taste and price.  Even their food has come a long way, but the coffee…  Not so good.

The Second Cup also does not take advantage of is the space they have in most of their shops which they could totally utilize to capitalize on families by offering a safe environment for kids and snacks under 5000 calories – something healthy. Anything healthy?  Right now if I take my kids into a Second Cup location to buy a Frozen Hot Chocolate for my wife I can choose from a cookie, muffin or a rice crispy treat which I hate feeding to my children on the best of days.

Seriously, a place for parents to take their kids after dinner to hang out and buy healthy treats might save a few locations… Better than being empty, or having bodies in their nursing a drink while using their wi-fi, eh?

10. Coffee Time – Coffee Time actually has pretty good coffee with surprisingly nice flavor however the coffee must be consumed when freshly made because Coffee Time still uses the pot directly on the burner brewing so the coffee stays hot but it gets stale really quickly.  They also have some very interesting treats which are not outstanding – they look like they have been brought into the location, not made there, and they really do not look healthy in the least, but if you are hungry and looking for a snack that won’t break the bank, you can eat there.

I have to admit that I have walked in to a Coffee Time because I feel sorry their locations are so empty.  I have a couple 24 hour locations in my neighbourhood and there are some pretty scary people hanging around these locations.  Clearly targeting the lower-income market, this Canadian chain has to realize that cheaper coffee prices doesn’t mean they can scrimp on variety, selection, taste, freshness or cleanliness.

There has to be a happy medium between promoting their brand to their clients and competing with the big boys.  I have often wondered if they pulled a no frills approach by offering plain cups, less fancy but large tasty treats and a more bread and butter environment they might fill that void and do quite well.  Did any of you know that Coffee Time supports over 175 charities including;

This could be Canada’s community donut restaurant much in the same way Tim Horton’s started out.

11. Seattle’s Best Coffee – Seattle’s Best comes in at number 11 this year because now that they are popping up in Canada in Mac’s Convenience locations, I have had the opportunity to try them more often and was able to provide my thoughts.  I was disappointed because I think the name – Seattle’s Best – makes me think that they are as good, or better than that other Seattle brand of coffee, Starbucks, but I can now confirm they are not Seattle’s best at all.  I thought maybe they needed to have their own locations but unlike Neighbours which are in Petro Canada gas stations and is delicious, I confirmed that the machines in the Mac’s stores are the same ones used to brew Seattle’s Best elsewhere.

The coffee itself remained an anomaly to me even after having 5 cups of it.  It required a LOT of sugar and a LOT of cream.  In addition, I usually get through half a cup before trashing it, and I even made the last pot myself at the local Mac’s when there was a huge line-up.  The coffee packet smelled okay, but came out of the machine very bland and very disappointing.  Something must be missing here…

Twitter: @SeattlesBest

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So what are your thoughts on this years’ rankings?

Where do you get your perfect cup from and which shop won’t be getting your business?

Urban Daddy Investigates: What happened to the patio at the Starbucks at 1740 Avenue Road?


On Wednesday of this week, I was asked by the community – my former community of 8 years, actually – to investigate the disappearances of the patio on the north side of the Starbucks at 1740 Avenue Road (at St.Germain) and right across from the fantastic Safari restaurant (the best Chipotle Corn Chowder in the city and amazing lamb burgers!)

This patio means a lot to the community. There is a Facebook page devoted to making this patio and the locals who frequent it into a reality show. I could totally see that. Students, local residents, real estate agents, all kinds of people flocked to that patio to sit, chat and consume Starbucks products. This patio is one of a kind in that upper-middle class area of Toronto and It was the place to be seen… And heard.

Our urban family, often spent time hanging out there with our real estate agent, Mr. Real Estate himself, Marshall Cohen or with my in-laws where the kids would watch the world go by eating oatmeal, yogurt or mint frappuccino chip (oops, that last one was me).  More common was myself with a grande Americano while the kids covered themselves in yogurt or ate the pre-packaged egg, apple, cheese snack.

Ask anyone who has sat there or walked by and they will tell you about the characters who hang out there.  Some seem to be there ALL the time.  One common memory was of the guy with the full-length fur coat (but not a real fur coat, that’s cruel) smoking his cigars, of the elderly couple who meet there every day to chat with the neighbour and their family before everyone heads out to the office or for a stroll. 

I checked online to see if the City of Toronto had posted some patio guidelines or amended the official plan to prohibit patios from the West side of Avenue Road and found only one possible link to a draft City-wide zoning bylaw amendment to the official plan relating to Patio’s, drafted by Toronto City Planning department. 

Outdoor Patios

Proposed rules under the draft City-wide zoning by-law

Area 2 (part of the Former City of Toronto): -rear yard patios are not permitted in CR zones -side yard patios are permitted up to a maximum 50% of the building depth

and

-maximum size restriction (the greater of 30m2 or 30% of GFA)

-separation from Residential zones (40m if elevated & 10m if not elevated)

-entertainment uses not permitted

Since it is not clear to me whether or not these proposals were made permanent, or even if there was a public consultation, or if the slightly raised patio was within 10 meters of the residential property to the West of the location so I reached out to my friend, Ward 16 City Councillor Karen Stintz to ask for an update as to why the city asked Starbucks to remove the patio and why one cannot be added back to that spot.  I explained the value of this patio to our community and the fact that Tim Horton’s which had just opened up further north on Avenue Road asked for and was granted a permit for a kick-ass patio, yet this Starbucks location was not.

I was curious to hear what she has to say on this matter.  She is very alert to issues within her ward.