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Customers Complain Starbucks Has Basically Become an Ice Cream Shop

'This is such an obvious cash grab.'

In today's competitive coffee chain market, places like Starbucks and Dunkin' are constantly rolling out new features and offerings to stay on top—mobile orders, seasonal specials, and colorful, social media-ready concoctions are all part of the deal.

But some once-loyal customers are not enjoying the pivot away from classics like, well, coffee. One disgruntled group of Redditors in particular is calling out Starbucks for shifting so far away from its core offerings that it's basically now an ice cream shop.

The lively Reddit conversation kicked off with one user sharing a photo in the Starbucks subreddit of all the cold foams Starbucks now offers: Caramel Brulée, Chestnut Praline, Matcha, Pumpkin, Salted Caramel, Sugar Cookie, and more. "We do not need these many cold foams," the user wrote. "[T]his is such an obvious cash grab."

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"We are an ice cream shop," one commenter replied, receiving nearly 1000 upvotes for the sentiment, and other self-professed Starbucks employees soon weighed in on how the Seattle-based franchise has changed in recent years.

"My store sells less than like 30 brewed coffees a day," wrote one employee. "All we make are the same five drinks with random cold foam added."

festive starbucks holiday drinks on a red background
Courtesy of Starbucks.

Another employee suggested that this wasn't just about Starbucks trying to upcharge customers for an added dose of sugary flavoring, but about encouraging social media posts about their new drinks and flavors, free publicity that ultimately drives business to Starbucks even if it changes the types of drinks people are ordering.

"The reason there's so many foams is Tiktok/social media," the Starbucks worker explained. "Last year so many people asked for sugar cookie foam at our location, it just makes it easier to ring up Sugar Cookie Foam instead of Vanilla Foam, Sugar Cookie in Foam."

Unfortunately, another employee shared that—despite their rampant popularity—cold foams can be one of the harder concoctions for baristas to make, especially when they're updated so frequently.

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"I also love that the holiday training didn't show us how to make the new foams," they wrote. "Like the chocolate peppermint. Is it one pep and 1 malt? 2 pep and 2 malt? Does it even use malt or did they decide to use mocha?"

If you're wondering what exactly cold foam is, fair enough. Introduced in 2018, cold foam is a twist on the hot foam you'd typically see on a latte or cappuccino, created by frothing cold nonfat milk until it's creamy, either leaving it plain or mixing it with flavored syrups for an even sweeter topping. You can add cold foam to any iced drink at Starbucks—just be kind to baristas who may or may not be trying to figure out the secret recipe behind the scenes.

While Starbucks may be offering more and more sweet treats and hyping up its sugary iced offerings, you can definitely still keep it simple (and low-sugar) with their hot or iced coffees or plain espresso drinks. There's no denying that sweet, creamy cold foam looks appetizing when you scroll past it on social media, but just because Starbucks has ramped up these offerings doesn't mean you need to turn your coffee order into dessert.

Whether you're for or against cold foam, Starbucks can still serve your caffeine needs—but baristas do seem increasingly sick of whipping up ice cream-esque treats all day long instead of serving coffee.

Louisa Ballhaus
Louisa is a culture writer and author from New York City covering entertainment, celebrity, and lifestyle content for outlets like Cosmopolitan and Bustle. Read more about Louisa