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What does a Starbucks caramel latte have in it?

A Starbucks caramel latte is a popular coffee drink that combines espresso, steamed milk, and sweet caramel sauce. Latte means “milk” in Italian, and refers to the large amount of steamed milk that gives lattes their creamy texture. Lattes are different from cappuccinos in that they contain more steamed milk than foam. The combination of rich espresso, sweet caramel, and steamed milk makes a Starbucks caramel latte a delicious and comforting coffee drink.

Ingredients

The main ingredients in a Starbucks caramel latte are:

  • Espresso
  • Steamed milk
  • Caramel syrup

Let’s look at each of these key ingredients:

Espresso

All lattes start with a shot or shots of espresso. Espresso is made by forcing hot water at high pressure through finely ground coffee beans. This produces a concentrated coffee liquid with a thick crema on top. Starbucks uses a dark roast coffee blend for its espresso shots. A standard Starbucks latte contains 1-2 shots of espresso, depending on size. Espresso provides the rich, intense coffee flavor in a latte.

Steamed Milk

Lattes get their name from the Italian word for milk. Steamed milk makes up the majority of a latte’s volume and gives it a creamy, silky texture. Starbucks uses 2% milk that is steamed to create a rich, frothy consistency. The steamed milk also helps temper the bitterness of the espresso. Lattes contain more steamed milk than foam compared to cappuccinos.

Caramel Sauce

What sets a caramel latte apart is the addition of sweet caramel sauce. Starbucks uses a proprietary caramel syrup that has a buttery, brown sugar taste and thick consistency. The caramel sauce adds a touch of sweetness to balance the espresso and steamed milk. The amount of caramel sauce can vary based on personal preference.

Standard Recipe

The standard recipe for a Starbucks caramel latte is:

  • 1-2 shots espresso
  • Steamed 2% milk
  • 2-4 pumps caramel sauce

The number of espresso shots and amount of caramel sauce depends on the size of the latte. Here is the breakdown:

Size Espresso Shots Caramel Pumps
Tall (12 oz) 1 2
Grande (16 oz) 2 3
Venti (20 oz) 2 4

The espresso shots are pulled first and mixed together with the caramel sauce at the bottom of the cup. Steamed 2% milk is then added to fill up the remainder of the cup.

Customizations

One of the great things about Starbucks is you can customize your caramel latte in different ways. Here are some popular options:

Milk Options

While 2% milk is standard, you can request other dairy options like whole milk, nonfat milk, soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk. Each milk variety will give the latte a slightly different taste and texture.

Alternative Sweeteners

If you want to cut down on sugar, you can ask for sugar-free syrups like vanilla, cinnamon dolce, or hazelnut. Or opt for artificial sweeteners like stevia or Splenda.

Extra Flavors

Try adding mocha sauce or pumpkin spice sauce for more flavor variety. You can also top your latte with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla powder.

Whipped Cream

Get an extra touch of sweetness and texture with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Nutrition Information

Here is the approximate nutrition information for a standard Starbucks grande (16 oz) caramel latte made with 2% milk:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 250
Total Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Trans Fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol 25 mg
Sodium 150 mg
Total Carbohydrates 36 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 33 g
Protein 9 g

As you can see, the carb and sugar content is quite high, mostly coming from the caramel sauce and milk. You can lower the carb amount by requesting sugar-free syrup and low-carb milk options. Overall though, an occasional caramel latte is an enjoyable treat!

Cost

A Starbucks caramel latte typically costs between $4-$6, based on size. Here are current prices at most U.S. locations:

Size Price
Tall $4.45
Grande $4.95
Venti $5.45

Prices vary a bit by region. Expect to pay more in higher cost-of-living areas. Customizations like alternative milks or extra shots also raise the price by $0.50-1.00 typically.

Taste Profile

So what does a Starbucks caramel latte taste like? The flavor profile is:

  • Sweet – The caramel sauce provides a sweet, buttery taste
  • Creamy – The steamed milk gives a smooth, creamy mouthfeel
  • Rich – The espresso has a rich, full-bodied coffee flavor
  • Well-balanced – The espresso bitterness is tempered by the sweet caramel and milk
  • Comforting – It is warming and comforting to drink
  • Indulgent – It feels like a sweet treat drink

The end result is a latte that walks the line between sweet and bitter, with a harmony of flavors in each sip. It makes for an incredibly satisfying coffee drink.

Popularity

Caramel lattes have been a staple on the Starbucks menu since the 1990s. There are several reasons for their enduring popularity:

  • Caramel flavor is widely appealing to most taste preferences
  • They offer more sweetness than plain coffee or black tea
  • The espresso provides a caffeine boost
  • Steamed milk makes it creamy and comforting
  • It can be customized easily to individual tastes
  • It’s an affordable daily treat or indulgence

Caramel lattes have become synonymous with Starbucks and are often one of the first drinks people try from their menu. Starbucks has sold countless millions of caramel lattes over the past few decades. While trends come and go, the caramel latte remains a staple drink order.

History

Starbucks opened its first location in Seattle, Washington in 1971. Founder Jerry Baldwin was inspired by Italian espresso bars and aimed to bring that experience to the U.S. The first Starbucks cafe only sold whole roasted coffee beans, not brewed coffee or espresso drinks.

Howard Schultz joined Starbucks as Director of Marketing in 1982. On a trip to Italy, he experienced the popularity of espresso bars and was determined to add brewed drinks to the Starbucks menu. Schultz purchased Starbucks in 1987 and began expanding across the U.S., with an emphasis on espresso beverages.

The caramel latte as we know it today appeared on Starbucks menus in the early-to-mid 1990s. This was around the time Starbucks expanded into mainstream popularity. Adding flavor shots like caramel and vanilla made espresso drinks more accessible to American tastes. The combination of espresso, steamed milk, and caramel proved hugely popular.

The caramel latte solidified its place as an iconic Starbucks menu item in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As Starbucks expanded, so did the caramel latte’s reputation as their signature drink. It remains one of their most ordered drinks today.

Ordering Tips

To get the best tasting caramel latte, keep these tips in mind when ordering:

  • Go for fresh espresso – Ask for shots pulled directly into your drink rather than pre-pulled shots sitting in the bar
  • Ensure hot milk – Request the milk to be steamed extra hot
  • Mix yourself – Give the drink a stir to incorporate the caramel sauce evenly
  • Ask for light/extra caramel – Adjust amount to your preferences
  • Specify milk – Request whole or nonfat milk for desired texture
  • Hold the whipped cream – If you want to avoid extra calories/fat
  • Ask for a taste test – Sample the drink before leaving the counter

Being specific when you order helps ensure your drink comes out exactly how you like it!

Alternatives

If you want to change up your latte order at Starbucks, consider these delicious alternatives:

Vanilla Latte

Made with Starbucks vanilla syrup instead of caramel for a sweet, aromatic flavor

Cinnamon Dolce Latte

Features cinnamon dolce syrup and whipped cream for warmth and spice

Pumpkin Spice Latte

A seasonal fall favorite with pumpkin pie spices and sweetened milk

Mocha Latte

Chocolatey espresso and steamed milk make a crowd-pleasing mocha latte

Hazelnut Latte

Hazelnut syrup adds a nutty twist to the traditional latte

White Chocolate Mocha

Combines mocha sauce and sweet white chocolate syrup

There are so many latte flavors to suit any taste or mood!

Conclusion

A Starbucks caramel latte is comprised of espresso, steamed milk, and sweet caramel sauce. It provides the perfect balance of bitter and sweet in a creamy, comforting beverage. The caramel latte has become a staple order on the Starbucks menu due to its crowd-pleasing flavor. With some customizations and ordering tips, you can craft your perfect caramel latte. Stop by your neighborhood Starbucks and see for yourself why this drink is so dearly loved!