Days are getting shorter, the air is more crisp, and sweaters are beginning to make an appearance again. Though the season may be changing, one thing remains the same. We need our coffee.
Enter Starbucks. With over 27,000 stores worldwide, the green giant is the go-to for an estimated 3 trillion visitors each year. And fall marks a particularly lucrative time for the coffee company, with countless customers streaming in for seasonal beverages such as this year’s Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, Salted Caramel Mocha, and the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Unfortunately for vegans … they’re not vegan. But thanks to my eight years as a Starbucks barista, I know a thing or two about coffee, and I’m here to enlighten conscientious consumers about festive, dairy-free coffee concoctions. All you need to keep in mind is to replace the dairy with soy, coconut, or almond milk; say no to whipped and cold brew creams; and skip the caramel drizzle. You’re well on your way to caffeination bliss.
1. Salted Caramel Mocha
No, this salty-sweet concoction isn’t vegan, but it can easily be modified to fit the bill. The bittersweet chocolate mocha sauce, toffee nut syrup, espresso, and sea salt topping are all permissible. Just order with soy, almond, or coconut milk and substitute the dairy-based caramel drizzle for a pump or two of caramel flavored syrup mixed straight into the drink, and you have a winner.
2. Toffee Nut Latte
This cozy beverage is available year-long, but Starbucks only markets it once the first leaves start to fall. Ask for soy milk for your non-dairy swap—it’s the creamiest and brings out the vegan-friendly buttery notes better than the other milk alternatives. Say no to toffee nut sprinkles and whipped cream, and you’ve got yourself a warming, perfectly sweet drink to cuddle up by the fireplace with (or your cubicle).
3. Hazelnut Hot Chocolate (or Mocha)
It’s simple to make a stellar hot chocolate at home, but when we go out, we want something special. Add a touch of hazelnut flavor to Starbucks’ velvety hot chocolate made with almond milk by asking for two pumps of hazelnut for a tall or three pumps for a grande. It’s subtle, but that rich, nutty flavor really elevates this classic beverage. The same number of pumps applies if you order a mocha.
4. Hazelnut Apple Tart Frappuccino
A blended creation, let this drink serve as inspiration for the festive vegan pastries you’ll be preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Start by ordering a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with one less scoop of vanilla bean powder and substitute with a pump of hazelnut syrup. Have your barista add some apple juice, add a few shakes of nutmeg, then blend and enjoy.
5. Butterbeer Latte
Harry Potter fans will revel in this indulgent blend, but even if you haven’t read the books, you’ll still find it wizarding. Order a soy latte, add one pump each of caramel, toffee nut, and cinnamon dolce syrups, ask for extra foam, and add a bit of sea salt topping to draw out all the sweet butterscotch notes.
6. Toffee Coconut Hot Chocolate
Love autumn, but still dreaming of summer? Try this seasonally in-between drink to help you transition to cooler weather with ease. Single-origin Sumatran coconut milk serves as the base to a vanilla- and bittersweet chocolate-infused cup of warmth, accented with toasty toffee flavor. Simply order a classic Hot Chocolate made with coconut milk and add a couple pumps of toffee nut syrup—two for a tall, three for a grande or venti.
7. Vanilla-Nutmeg London Fog Tea Latte
Delicate and smooth, the oaky-citrus flavors of Earl Grey tea mingle with steamed milk, vanilla bean, and nutmeg in this infusion good enough for a vegan high tea. Order a London Fog Tea Latte with a scoop of vanilla bean powder and a few shakes of nutmeg added in before being steeped, then finish it off with steamed almond milk and a layer of foam.
Richard Bowie is the senior editor at VegNews, an eight-year veteran barista, and has triple-checked that mocha (in company-operated US stores) is vegan.