It can be frustrating to pull up to your favorite coffee shop and be confronted with a long line when you want to get your coffee and get back on the road. This is especially true here in LA, where a 5 or 10 minute delay in getting on with your commute can mean you’ll be spending an extra 30 minutes in traffic. Yesterday, CEO Howard Schultz confirmed plans to allow customers to place orders through Starbucks’s mobile app and pick them up later. That means that you will eventually be able to order and pay for you drink before you even arrive at Starbucks, so you just need to run in and out with your drink. The idea of “mobile ordering” is one that Starbucks has been talking about for some time, but this is the first time that they’ve confirmed it is in the works. While it might not be a must-have feature for regular drip coffee drinkers, it is a big plus for people who order food that needs to be prepared in some way before it is served. Since Starbucks is planning to continue to build its food options, there will be an increasing demand to cut down the wait times associated with ordering food, especially during busy morning commuting hours.
Los Angeles-area residents are very familiar with the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf brand, a chain of coffee shops that was started here in So Cal. You probably also know that their menu is not the same as Starbucks’ menu, despite the fact that they are both coffee shops. They call their drinks different things (Ice Blended vs. Frappuccino) and have different sizes (regular vs grande), but many of the drinks are similar. The Starbucks Caramel Macchiato is one extremely popular drink that Coffee Bean has never had a variation of on their menu – until recently. This year, Coffee Bean launched a line of Latte Macchiatos that are more-or-less the same as Starbucks popular macchiato drinks: they’re heavy on the milk, made with flavored syrups and have shots of espresso added at the end.
I enjoy Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiatos and was surprised that it took Coffee Bean so long to put them on their menu. I didn’t waste much time in trying them out and decided to start with the Vanilla Bean. It is made with a syrup that is PACKED with crushed vanilla beans – more on that in a minute. You can see from the photo above that the barista at the Coffee Bean I went to did not make the drink properly. He put the syrup and espresso together in the bottom of the glass and topped it off with milk (and a crazy amount of foam). Long story short, I had it remade and it came out the same way. I decided just to go with it even though the drink looked nothing like the picture. Perhaps you can’t tell in a paper cup, but you certainly can in the clear glass!
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is a Southern California-based coffee shop that is a big regional competitor for Starbucks. They have a lot of similar drinks on the menu and everyone seems to have a favorite drink at each shop. But fans of Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiato (and the Hazelnut Macchiato) have never been able to get that same type of drink at Coffee Bean. Coffee Bean stuck to their guns about what a traditional macchiato should be and offered up a caramel latte with a similar flavor profile to the Starbucks’ drink – but that wasn’t quite enough to win over Caramel Macchiato-fans. Finally, this year, Coffee Bean launched a line of Latte Macchiatos that are similar to the Starbucks’ drinks. They’re made with steamed milk, flavored syrups and have the espresso shots poured over the top to “mark” the foam and give the drinks a layered look. They’re available in caramel, vanilla bean and dark chocolate, and they’re sure to attract So Cal fans of Starbucks’ macchiato who want to give their new flavors a try.
A cup of coffee can get you going in the morning, but it may also help you remember all the details of your morning meeting a bit better. The results from a recent research study from published online in Nature Neuroscience shows that coffee can actually improve your memory. The study involved asking a group of men and women to study pictures of a variety of objects and then given (or not given) the caffeine equivalent to 2 cups of coffee. The next day, the subjects were asked to perform a test that would show how well the remembered the images from previous day and the caffeine-assisted people consistently remembered more accurately than the group without caffeine. Memory wasn’t helped by just a half a cup, you needed at least the 2 cup dose to see results in the study.
These results back up previous findings that the caffeine in coffee makes you more alert and that alertness allows you to pay more attention to anything you need to remember, but this shows that it likely improves your ability to recall that information later. This isn’t to say that it is a memory pill that will suddenly turn you into Sheldon from Big Bang Theory (if it did, you probably would already have noticed that), just that you shouldn’t hesitate to take that second cup in the morning because it will probably pay off later in the work day.