TAMPA -- It's a Starbucks apocalypse for fans of the Gingerbread Latte.
Just in time for the holidays, the coffee chain quietly took the popular drink off the menu; baristas are under corporate orders not to order the materials to make the drink for the rest of this holiday season. Baristas at several area Starbucks locations confirmed the change and though they declined to be quoted by name, they said they're not allowed to make a Gingerbread Latte from scratch.
Why? According to a Starbucks spokeswoman, Tampa, Orlando, Chicago and Indianapolis are part of a test by Starbucks to remove the drink from the menu in favor of "two new handcrafted holiday beverages'' -- the Chestnut Praline Latte and the Cherry Jubilee Mocha.
"We look forward to learning more from the customer response to this initial market test,'' a company-released statement said.
Seasonal drinks are a huge draw for Starbucks, and many customers consider drinks like the Eggnog Latte and others the symbolic beginning of the holiday season. The Pumpkin Spice latte became so popular that Starbucks actually faced a shortage of the spices needed to make the drink.
Removing a drink from the menu runs counter to an announcement Starbucks made on Nov. 12, when the company launched five holiday drinks together: The Gingerbread Latte, Caramel Brulee Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Skinny Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog Latte. Several of those drinks are still on the menu at Tampa-area cafes.
It also runs counter to Starbuck's national profile, as the company's own Web site has blogs with employees raving about how important the Gingerbread Latte is to their holiday. "Gingerbread has the power to evoke warm memories of holiday cheer and cherished family traditions," according to one Starbucks official blogger, "Helen_K." "Since I was a child, gingerbread cookies heralded the arrival of the holidays."
The move is unusual in other regards. Starbucks baristas are trained that besides the formal items on the menu, if a customer asks them to make any kind of drink, if the ingredients are in the store, the barista should make it. That's fostered a kind of underground market in "Secret Drink" recipes that Starbucks fans concoct and popularize on blogs made just for that purpose.
As for official comment from Starbucks on the change, messages to the company have not yet been returned.
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Original headline: No Gingerbread Latte for you!, Starbucks tells Tampa customers
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