I picked up an addiction to Starbucks Chai Tea Lattes while living in London. On my way to work, I passed three (yes three!) Starbucks shops in the five minute walk between the St. Paul’s tube station and my office.
There was a jarring juxtaposition between St. Paul’s Cathedral, the 300-year-old masterpiece, looming over the thoroughly modern Starbucks stores. Every day, Londoners and tourists would pile into a queue that wound through the store and out the door.
If I had the willpower to pass by that shop, I would be struggling by the second, then would usually cave by the third.
I took years to become a Starbucks fan. When the stores started descending on New York like locusts in the late 1990s, I thought they were overpriced and overrated.
But when my daughter was born in London in the winter of 2006, I needed to get out of the flat on those days when it started to get dark at 2:30 in the afternoon (i.e. almost every day from December to February).
Baby-friendly coffee joints are limited in London. What makes Starbucks unique is that most shops have doorways and aisles that are wide enough to allow strollers — even a double Maclaren. Also, there are usually changing tables in the bathrooms.
And of course, the drink of choice for all of the moms I know — the Chai Tea Latte — is the perfect blend of froth and spice. I’ve tried to order the same drink at other coffee shops, only to find it’s just too sweet.
At one place in Atlanta, the barista leaned on the spout of a syrup dispenser, releasing a gel-like substance that resembled dishwashing liquid. It reminded me of 7-11 slurpees, which included shaved ice and bright red syrup. The drink tasted like hot sugared milk. Which I suppose it was.
I’m under no illusion that Starbucks doesn’t also use syrup – in fact, I had to ask for extra in my order yesterday (perhaps because of the economic downturn, my local has been skimping lately). But it’s a bit less sweet, and a bit more spicey.
After I had resolved to cut my intake to every other day from my current daily fix, I was perplexed to see that they are rolling out the Pumpkin Spice Latte — which will be tougher to resist.