I Did An Experiment At Starbucks: This Is What Happened

If there is such as thing as a ‘Starbucks Newbie’ in 2015, I’m it.

I got hooked on coffee late. Like this past December late. Believe me, I’ve spent hours hunched over a mug of my new favorite drink contemplating why I wasted 23 years not drinking this fuel of the gods.

Of course, like many before me, my gateway into the coffee world was the king of caffeine itself — Starbucks.

As a coffee virgin, I got rather attached to ‘Bucks. I trusted it. I started experimenting more — branching out to dark and blonde roasts. I even dropped my protest of calling it a “medium” instead of a “grande” (though I secretly stand by that).

But then something happened.

I went to Starbucks and got a cold drink to celebrate the first warm day of spring. Iced tea. Venti. Serious business.

But what I got back was a cup filled with ice and a semi-copper colored liquid that more resembled glacial runoff than flavorful delicious tea.

I even saw the not-so-trusty barista work their coffee bartender skills and pour in a tiny amount of tea before diluting it in a mountain of ice.

This wasn’t iced tea. This was tea’d ice.

So, after asking the barista for a little less arctic and a little more southern comfort, I decided to dust off the psych degree and do a little experiment.*

*I was good at a lot of things in Psychology…Experimental Psych was not one of them. Fair warning.


These are the drinks I chose to test; partially because they’re iced, partially because I like them:

– Venti black iced tea — Venti hibiscus refresher — Grande refresher — Tall iced chai tea latte


To figure out whether or not this was an isolated incident, I set out to discover the following:

A: How much actual drink you get in an iced beverage at Starbucks B: The very scientific ice-to-drink ratio C: Possible solutions to avoid this sad, diluted fate


The iced teas and refreshers were consistently one-third ice and two-thirds actual drink.

You can see how much ice is in a venti iced tea, and it’s a ton. Combine that with the fact that the bottom of the cup is narrower, and you can get a sense of how much drink you’re not getting.

Freakin’ optical illusion trickery.

You can see it a little more broken down below — the drink with the ice in it, how much drink you’re actually getting, and just how much ice is in your glass. Answer: roughly five pounds.

Unfortunately, the iced Chai Tea Latte isn’t as clear. The coffee melts the ice so you can’t actually see how much went in.

However, this ratio was pretty consistent for the cold drinks. And alright, I can already hear you angrily typing, “it’s iced tea, of course there’s a lot of ice.” But who wants to pay for drinking the blood of melting ice that we grow in our freezers?

Most of your drink just ends up being slightly discolored, slightly sweetened water, and it’s much too expensive for that. I just want some tea, damn it.


First of all, let’s not ask for a drink and then a separate cup for your ice. That’s crazy wasteful and I cannot condone this, even in the name of non-watery tea.

But I will say this to prep you for your upcoming hot weather Starbucks experiences: Never be afraid to ask them to go light on the ice, or to scoop some ice out and put in more drink. They’re not monsters, they’re just following the orders of the Starbucks overlord. You paid for a drink, not water.

Also, when it comes to iced drinks, avoid the tall at all costs (pun unintended). Seriously, if an ice-loaded drink that small lasts you from the counter to the front door on a hot day, then you have supernatural self-control.

To all you Starbucks purists, I’m not hating. I still go every morning, and I still love it. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to maybe cheat a little and get my iced tea at Dunkin’ Donuts.

That’s an experiment for another day.



Originally published at thesixthirty.com on April 14, 2015.

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