I Taste Tested The Starbucks Latte Macchiato

The moment we heard the big news on Monday, all of us here at Bustle knew that someone was going to have to taste test the Starbucks Latte Macchiato (for science, you understand) — and I immediately volunteered as Tribute. I moved from suburban New Jersey to the DC metro area a few months ago, which means that I now no longer have to drive several towns over in order to access a Starbucks — there’s one right across the street from where I live. (Such is the nature of living in a city: There’s pretty much always a Starbucks right across the street from where you live.) This is incredibly exciting to me; during the roughly two and a half years I lived in the ‘burbs, one of the biggest things I missed about life in the city I'd lived in for the decade prior was the accessibility of everything. The fact that I can now run across the street, grab a coffee I didn’t make myself, and run back home, all in under 10 minutes and with no driving required? That's a Big Deal.

So that’s what I did first thing this morning — I went out into the freezing cold to acquire a Latte Macchiato. Just for kicks, I decided to give myself a point of comparison, too: I tested a Flat White alongside it. Given the seeming similarities between the two drinks, it felt potentially fruitful not only to see what the Latte Macchiato tasted like on its own, but also how it differed from the Flat White.

I’d never had either of these drinks before, so I went into the experiment with only the written descriptions of each to color my expectations. To recap, the Latte Macchiato features whole milk steamed into a dense foam, after which the espresso shot is slowly poured in; this creates a "dot," or a tiny little espresso stain on the top of the milk. The Flat White, meanwhile, starts with a ristretto shot (e.g. super conceptrated espresso), then has steamed milk microfoam added to it — kind of like a reverse Latte Macchiato.

Here, the Latte Macchiato is on the left and the Flat White is on the right:

And here’s how the whole thing went.

Latte Macchiato:

For whatever it’s worth, the Latte Macchiato kept my hand warmer on the admittedly brief walk back to my apartment than the Flat White did. Then, once I got home, I snapped the mediocre photos you see here. (I am many things, but a photographer is not one of them.) Alas, the opacity of the red cup prevented me from being able to observe the Latte Macchiato’s signature layers; however, the espresso dot is right there on the top as promised, so hoorah for that. After I popped the lids back on, I went to take my first sip…

…Annnnnd then I managed to spill coffee all over my trousers, due to the fact that I had failed to securely refasten the aforementioned lid.

Accidents such as this are commonplace for me.

After changing my pants, I finally tasted the drink properly — and the first words that occurred to me once my taste buds figured out what was going on were, “not sweet.” Why these two words? Because, like the Most Interesting Man in the World, I don’t always go to Starbucks, but when I do, I order an incredibly sweet seasonal drink that tastes absolutely nothing like coffee. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of coffee — au contraire, it’s one of my favorite things in the world — but I make my regular coffee at home, in my French press. Starbucks is where I go for fancy-schmancy things I can’t usually be bothered to slap together in my own kitchen. Also, I don't own an espresso machine, so if I want steamed, foamy milk, someone else has to steam it for me.

Speaking of the taste of coffee, that’s what the Latte Macchiato tastes like: Coffee. Coffee with a lot of milk, sure, but that just makes it creamy and pleasantly thick as far as mouthfeel goes. The coffee taste is relatively strong, too, which makes sense given that it’s, y’know, espresso. I’m not sure I'd call it bold bold, but it’s bold enough, particularly in comparison to the stuff a lot of Americans tend to drink. It’s a nice change of pace from typical coffee shop fare. The foam also doesn’t dissipate quite as fast as it does with, say, a cappuccino.

Verdict: Pretty good! It's particularly nice on a stupidly cold day, which today happens to be. Hi there, winter. Where have you been hiding?

Flat White:

After swilling a little water around my mouth in a (probably futile) attempt to clear my palate a little, I gave the second drink a shot. The Flat White definitely milder, and it tastes more like regular coffee — the full-on roasted espresso flavor isn’t quite as present as it is in the Latte Macchiato, although it’s there a little on the afterburn. The Flat White is also not as thick and creamy. To be honest, it tastes pretty much like a standard latte — the bonus being that, like the Latte Macchiato, it’s not sweet. At all. And again, if you like coffee that tastes like coffee, that’s a very good thing indeed.

Verdict: Also pretty good, although it’s similar enough in form to the kinds of lattes one typically buys at a coffee shop that what sets apart isn’t so much the overall nature of the drink; rather, it’s the lack of sweetness or flavored syrups. If you like the texture of, say, a Gingerbread Latte, but aren’t as much of a fan of the actual Gingerbread part, this one’s for you.

The Final Verdict:

You know, I actually prefer the Latte Macchiato. Maybe it’s the novelty of a new beverage, but I’m big on mouthfeel, and having a rich, creamy coffee drink that also does not taste like dessert is something my palate didn’t know it was missing. Both are delicious, though, so really, you can't go wrong as long as you follow your coffee-loving heart. You do you.

Of course, in retrospect, I should perhaps have ordered one of those two drinks as a decaf. I’m now hopped up on two full-test espresso beverages, and, well… if you never hear from me again, Gentle Readers, know that I did this for you.

Images: Starbucks; Lucia Peters/Bustle (3); Giphy (3)