A little over a year ago, I told you that Starbucks was testing syrup extracts for your beverage rather than the current bottled syrups.

My original article featured a small test in Portland, Oregon – Starbucks tests syrup extracts.

Since that 2017 article, the test of syrup extracts has greatly expanded. Syrup extracts have been spotted in numerous areas of San Diego County, the Sacramento area, and St. Louis. I’ve had many partners tell me, “these are coming.” One partner said, “expect them national sometime in fiscal 2019.” None of that is confirmed. The only thing that an official Starbucks spokesperson said to me, when I inquired on May 18th, was “I don’t have an exact store count but as you know we’re testing a new way for our customers to experience flavor in our core espresso beverages! Right now it’s in select stores, including in California as you can see.

I dropped by a Starbucks in Carlsbad, California on Friday May 18, 2018 and ordered an iced toffee nut latte with the new syrup extracts. It had been a long while since I’d tried them – I hadn’t tried the new syrup extract since the original March 2017 article.

As a refresher, if a Starbucks store is using the syrup extracts, then there’s no premade syrup with both flavor and sugar, rather you can order a flavor extract and have the barista add as much or as little simple syrup separately. The syrup extracts come in small bottles with green lids, and the barista shakes some of the extract into your drink.

I decided to order my drink twice: I ordered one iced toffee nut latte with extract and cane sugar, and a second one with extract but with no cane sugar, comparing and contrasting the two drinks.

The register barista gave me a pre-warning that she didn’t think the toffee nut worked so well without sugar at all, and recommended that I add just a few pumps of cane sugar. A grande iced toffee nut latte would come with some shakes of the syrup extract plus 4 pumps of cane sugar, for the standard recipe.

Despite the warning that a little sugar was recommended, I ordered one drink as the standard and the other completely without sugar. It’s true, the one without sugar really lacked in flavor. Maybe toffee nut in particular needs a little simple syrup.

What does all this mean? Well it cuts both ways. If this really launches nationally, it will be a major overhaul of almost every single beverage of Starbucks. Of course, black coffee drinks, and plain lattes and such without any sweetening flavor won’t be affected. But for many customers, they may notice their drink flavor has changed, and might have to readjust how they order their beverage. Indeed, some will need extra simple syrup, and some less. In any case, it will be a big adjustment. Some customers who really want the option of a low sugar drink will be happy to be able to control how much simple syrup goes into their beverage.

However, it sure seems like Americans are addicted to sweet beverages. I see this change causing a little chaos and disruption before it ends up being accepted by the typical Starbucks customer.

It’s a bold move by Starbucks, if this is indeed coming nationally.

EDIT on 5-27-18: Indeed, I have confused “Simple Syrup” with “Cane Sugar Syrup” – They are used interchangeably in this article. However, the Starbucks iced teas are standard with the Cane Sugar Syrup. Other beverages, like the beverages I tried in this story, as well as all other non-tea drinks, are served with the Simple Syrup. My apologies for the confusion.