Before working at Starbucks, I figured every drink was handcrafted!

After all, aren’t they all made by baristas?!

I now know what handcrafted drinks are, though it can be a bit confusing so I’m about to dive into all the details! 

Let’s get started!

What Does A Handcrafted Drink At Starbucks Truly Mean?

According to Starbucks, a handcrafted drink means its made with "a bit more love" than other drinks on the menu.[1]

It’s basically any drink where the barista uses complex techniques and a personal touch (like latte art, for example). 

Even using an espresso machine requires a certain skill and technique to get things just right. 

If the drink includes espresso shot(s), steamed milk, is blended, or simply requires at least a couple of steps to make, it’s likely ‘handcrafted’. 

For example, a seasonal Starbucks hot chocolate drink counts as handcrafted.

Starbucks bottled drinks or pre-made drinks like bottled water or milk do not count, nor do regular coffees or teas that only require a splash of milk and sugar.

What Starbucks Drink Types Are Considered Handcrafted?

I realize this could be a bit confusing, so let me break down the categories into which are considered to be ‘handcrafted’. 

Espresso-Based

If there is an espresso shot in the order, it is most likely handcrafted.

There are so many handcrafted espresso drinks to choose from at Starbucks. They’re the bread and butter of the coffee chain, considering it’s, well... a coffee chain. 

Pulling espresso shots, even for basic espresso drinks, takes skill. There’s a lot of room for error and customization. 

Some of the espresso-based drinks that count as handcrafted beverages include:

  • Espresso
  • Espresso Con Panna
  • Caffè Americano
  • Cappuccino
  • Honey Almond Flat White
  • Irish Cream Americano
  • Pistachio Latte
  • Cinnamon Dolce Latte
  • Espresso Macchiato
  • Caramel Macchiato
  • Latte
  • Blonde Vanilla Latte
  • Flat White
  • Caffè Mocha
Starbucks Shaken Espresso

Frappuccino And Other Blended Beverages

Did you know that Starbucks bought the rights to the name Frappuccino in the ‘90s?[2]

These delicious Starbucks handcrafted drinks are perfect for cooling off in the summer.

Frappuccinos are essentially iced blended drinks with cream and signature Starbucks syrup on top.

There are two kinds of Frappuccino - coffee-based and cream-based.

Frappuccinos are kind of similar to milkshakes, but are even more decadent with an array of delicious toppings. 

These popular drinks are highly customizable and difficult to perfect. With over 31 rotating flavors, it is difficult to choose a favorite - here are some of mine:

  • Pistachio Coffee Frappuccino
  • Java Chip Frappuccino
  • Caramel Frappuccino
  • Matcha Crème Frappuccino
  • Chai Crème Frappuccino
  • Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
  • Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino
  • Chocolate Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
  • Espresso Frappuccino
  • Vanilla Bean Crème
  • Strawberry Crème Frappuccino
  • Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino

Iced Coffees

An iced coffee is the perfect mood booster on a hot day.

I’m a huge fan of Starbucks iced lattes and iced mochas. 

Cold coffees are considered handcrafted drinks.

My favorite iced beverages and shaken espresso drinks include:

  • Iced Caffè Americano
  • Iced Shaken Espresso
  • Iced Oat Latte
  • Iced Caffè Mocha
  • Iced Caramel Macchiato
  • Iced Pistachio Latte
  • Iced Coffee
  • Iced Espresso
  • Iced Flat White
  • Iced Honey Almond Milk Flat White
  • Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte
  • Iced Blonde Vanilla Latte
  • Iced Caffè Latte
Starbucks Iced Caffè Latte

Iced Teas

It does not get better than sipping on an iced tea in the summer sun.

So how can iced teas count as handcrafted drinks?

It may seem surprising, but a lot of elements are required to create handcrafted iced teas.

For example, I can choose the amount of ice water, which syrup I want, and which milk and toppings I prefer.

Each of these behind-the-bar additions makes iced tea a handcrafted drink at Starbucks.

Bottled iced teas do not count - they must be freshly prepared behind the counter to gain handcrafted beverage status.

Some of the best-iced tea options include:

  • Iced Chai Tea Latte
  • Iced London Fog Tea Latte
  • Iced Black Tea
  • Iced Black Tea Lemonade
  • Iced Royal English Breakfast Tea Latte
  • Iced Matcha Lemonade
  • Iced Matcha Tea Latte
  • Iced Green Tea Lemonade
  • Iced Passion Tango Tea Lemonade
  • Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade
  • Iced Guava Black Tea

Cold Brews

Is cold brew considered a handcrafted beverage at Starbucks?

At most Starbucks locations, nitro and cold brew are considered handcrafted, as small batches are allowed to sit in cold water overnight for optimal extraction.

To create cold brewed coffee like the sweet cream cold brew, a barista will mix course ground beans with cold water and steep for 20-24 hours.

These small batches slowly extract the coffee as the water heats up, creating a smoother flavor.

Nitro coffee has added nitrogen to create a sweet, velvety flavor and a foamy head of microbubbles without additional sweeteners or syrups.

This can make it a great alternative to dessert-like frappuccinos or other similar Starbucks drinks. Some cold brews that count as Starbucks handcrafted drinks include:

  • Cold Brew Coffee
  • Pumpkin Cold Foam Cold Brew
  • Nitro Cold Brew
  • Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew
  • Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew
  • Honey Almond Milk Nitro Cold Brew
Starbucks Pumpkin Creme Cold Brew

Handcrafted Holiday Drinks

Seasonal beverages can make any time of year feel really special. The pumpkin spice latte has become so popular that now everyone knows what a “PSL” is.

Part of the fun of the Starbucks seasonal drinks menu is that these limited flavor combos can change depending on the date and location.

It takes regular brewed coffee and turns it into something delicious. These are my favorite seasonal drinks from the handcrafted drink Starbucks menu. 

  • Pink Drink
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Pistachio Latte
  • Star Drink
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Crème Frappuccino
  • Sugar Cookie Oat Latte
  • Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
  • Toffee Nut Latte
  • Pistachio Latte
  • Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew
  • Christmas Cookie Latte

Steamers

Steamers are my perfect straightforward sips!

Some steamers are seasonal, while others are menu staples. 

  • Vanilla Crème
  • Steamed Apple Juice
  • Steamed Milk
  • Cinnamon Dolce Crème
  • Caramel Apple Spice
  • Pumpkin Spice Crème
Starbucks steamer

Specialty Hot Teas

Is tea considered a handcrafted drink at Starbucks?

Teas are a little trickier to place in the handcrafted drinks section.

Most simple teas that are pre-packaged or require minimum preparation are not classified as handcrafted beverages.

However, there are a few exceptions.

  • Chai Latte
  • Matcha Tea Latte
  • London Fog Latte

Other Cold Drinks

Here are a few other cold handcrafted drinks that I love! 

These are things like lemonades and certain refresher flavors - give them a try!

  • Blended Strawberry Lemonade
  • Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade
  • Iced Pineapple Matcha Drink
  • Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers
  • Starbucks Refreshers Range

What Drinks From Starbucks Do Not Count As Handcrafted?

Pre-Packaged Drinks

Pre-packaged and pre-prepared drinks are not considered handcrafted. This is because they were not made with that little extra care behind the counter that other menu items are.

  • Bottled teas
  • Fruit juices
  • Milk
  • Pre-made cold coffee
  • Bottled Refreshers
  • Alcoholic beverages

Starbucks used to sell alcoholic drinks, but that has been mostly phased out.[4]

Brewed Tea and Coffee

A handcrafted drink Starbucks makes will be complex drinks that require additional ingredients.

Simpler brewed beverages like brewed coffees or teas that require minimal customization do not count as handcrafted Starbucks drinks.

Some drinks that do not come under the handcrafted category include:

  • Herbal tea
  • Hot tea
  • Hot coffee
  • Green tea
  • Veranda blend
  • House blend

You can get value for the Starbucks rewards program by adding extra items like whipped cream or vanilla syrup.

However, I do not think it is worth wasting previous Starbucks Stars on.


Are Handcrafted Starbucks Drinks Worth Your Money?

Pros
  • Customize to preference
  • Get a personal customer experience
  • Try new flavors and types
  • Match drinks to mood or season
  • Join in on trends
  • Special perks
Cons
  • More expensive than other drinks on the menu
  • Favorites are not always available
  • Too many choices or flavors
  • Can be calorie or sugar-heavy to wait longer for it to be crafted
  • Not always consistent options from coffee shop to coffee shop

I feel handcrafted Starbucks drinks are worth the money, as I’m getting a more personalized experience.

Plus, I just feel like they taste better - fresher, with care added. 

The handcrafted beverage is an investment but can be worth it for Starbucks rewards program members and lovers of certain Starbucks drinks.


Starbucks Brewed Vs Handcrafted Drink Differences

To summarize, Starbucks beverages that require skill, customization, and various ingredients added by Starbucks baristas are considered handcrafted - this applies to most drinks on the menu.

Simpler drinks that require minimal effort and skill, except for perhaps some milk or whipped cream, are considered brewed drinks.


Common Handcrafted Starbucks Drink FAQs

What size is the free handcrafted drink at Starbucks?

According to Starbucks, you can redeem any size or style of handcrafted drink with two customizations for 150 Stars through your Starbucks loyalty program.

What is the cheapest handcrafted beverage at Starbucks?

The cheapest handcrafted drink at Starbucks is the espresso, which comes in at around $2.20 - not bad for the backbone of many expensive drinks Starbucks offers.


Conclusion

Handcrafted drinks at Starbucks require a little more time and love to craft.

While I have an espresso machine at home, if I’m on-the-go, I’m always going to opt for a specially-made, handcrafted Starbucks beverage.

After all, I could get a premade coffee literally anywhere else. 

References:

1. https://twitter.com/Starbucks/status/1118244627373408256
2. https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2012/12/07/frappuccino-history/
3. https://stories.starbucks.com/asia/stories/2022/starbucks-serves-holiday-love-happiness-in-japan/
4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nikkibaird/2017/01/10/last-call-for-alcohol-at-starbucks/ 

Chloe Page

Author

Chloe Page
A lifelong mocha fan, Chloe is an award-winning writer with over eight years’ experience weaving words. Her journey in the coffee industry is highlighted by extensive research and interviews with coffee experts. In her moments of relaxation, you'll often find her sipping on Bird and Blend tea, thoughtfully scribbling in her notebook.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Bird and Blend Co Tea

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