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Try These Starbucks Drink Substitutions to Get Through the Supply Shortages

A barista prepares a coffee drink at Starbucks.

Missing your out-of-stock Starbucks faves? These tips, tricks, and substitutions can help you avoid a frustrating coffee run!

With Starbucks customers reporting sporadic shortages across the country, it’s the perfect time to become an armchair expert on the little tricks that can help you find a delicious substitute if your favorite tea, syrup, or drink recipe is out of stock. Here’s everything you need to know about the current shortages, plus some of the best substitutions you can ask your baristas about:

What’s Happening with Shortages at Starbucks?

In early summer, Starbucks patrons began reporting scattered instances of out-of-stock items, varying from store to store. It includes everything from food items like cake pops and sandwiches to drink ingredients such as green and chai teas, toffee nut and hazelnut syrups, peach tea and peach syrup, oat milk, and more. Business Insider reported on an internal Starbucks memo that listed as many as 25 items that could be in short supply for months to come.

So, what’s behind all this? Same as many other industries: supply chain issues. It’s essentially the same reasons that computer chips and furniture have long wait times at the moment. Due to ongoing supply chain and shipping issues that have plagued a number of industries, certain items are simply more difficult to manufacture and ship at the moment. For the most part, these shortages are somewhat unpredictable and can vary from region to region or even between individual, relatively close-together stores.

Because of the unevenness of these shortages, Starbucks drinkers may have to get a little creative for the time being! The one piece of good news, though: none of these current out-of-stock items will be discontinued permanently, so all your favorites will be back at some point.

Try These Starbucks Substitutions

Depending on what your local Starbucks still has in stock, there are plenty of options that you can swap in for your out-of-stock faves. Your best resource, of course, is your barista! They’re the ones who are the most familiar with the ins and outs of the products—and they’re the ones who have probably been asked about these shortages several times already—so they probably have the best knowledge to point you in the right direction.

To get you started, though, these substitutions may get you started with some of the most common choices, which are great for either swapping in for an out-of-stock ingredient or just mixing things up a little during “normal” times!

  • For toffee nut syrup: A combination of caramel and hazelnut may work, if they have those two flavors in stock. You might also consider trying a drink with almond milk plus caramel and/or hazelnut syrup, to get the sweetness plus the nutty profile of the toffee nut.
  • For strawberry or dragonfruit refreshers: Try a lemonade with strawberry puree or raspberry sryup. Another option is the passion tea, which you can mix with coconut milk or with lemonade for a more “refresher” taste.
  • For oat milk: Try one of the other non-dairy milks, like soy, coconut, or almond. It won’t have quite the same flavor, but it’s probably the closest approximation you’ll find.
  • For brown sugar syrup: Cinnamon dolce syrup works best, if it’s in stock, because the flavors are fairly similar. Caramel may work, too, for a sweeter taste, or you might try dissolved brown raw sugar packets.
  • For peach green tea lemonade: While most of the peach products (including both juice and syrup) are out of stock, you might try lemonade with raspberry syrup. Of course, it’s not quite the same as peach, but it’s still a tangy, fruity, sweet lemonade.
  • For iced green tea: This one is a little more complicated. As a pretty close substitute, you can order the Jade Citrus Mint brewed tea, and ask for it to be iced. If you do this, however, be aware: this tea has to be brewed and then iced, so it will take longer and it may be more efficient (for you, the baristas, and other customers) to order on mobile or walk into the store rather than clogging up the drive-thru.

Keep in mind that some of these substitutions may not be available themselves at all times. You might find yourself trying something new!

On top of the substitutions here are some tips to help get your Starbucks fix with minimal fuss:

  • Ask your baristas for their recommendations. They know what works and what doesn’t. They also know what’s available in their store at that moment. You’ll save a lot of time starting with their advice.
  • Avoid ordering a complicated, substitution-heavy drink when it’s crowded. Popping in after the morning or lunch rush when your barista has more time to offer a drink tip (and make the drink) is a great way to have a better experience.
  • Do be extra courteous and consider tipping, especially if you’re asking for a drink with modifications. It’s been quite a year for service industry workers and a little extra patience and kindness will definitely be appreciated.

You can try these substitutions the next time you pop into Starbucks. And if your local Starbucks just can’t nail down the extras you crave in your coffee, you can always go the homebrew route and jazz it up yourself. You can start with a French press, pour-over, or even single-serve coffee machine and add in your favorite flavors and toppings right at home. Or, hey, maybe you can do something totally crazy and try something else besides coffee for your workday pick-me-up!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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