I know I have been missing in action.  My excuse?  It is too hot to THINK!!

I’ve mentioned my frequent Starbucks visits many times on this blog.  I often take the Little Man to Starbucks in the mornings after our run/walks.  The Mayor, the Bunny, and I also like to go to Starbucks in the evenings on our way to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner.  And we even sell rice cookers to Craigslist buyers at Starbucks.  

This love of Starbucks is actually a love of coffee shops in general (notable favorites were Maudes and Panera), but Starbucks is so prevalent that it has become a theme in my life – from city to city; from year to year.  I remember the first Starbucks popping up while I was in undergrad.  By the time I left Gainesville for good seven years later, there were at least four stores in the college town.  

In law school many many hours were spent at Starbucks and Panera “studying.”  You may ask why this “studying” could not occur at a proper library.  Well, that just wouldn’t be any fun.  At Starbucks many pleasant distractions await when you need a mental break.  You can check your email with the wireless internet; you can order a pastry or beverage to help you muster the will to go on; you can make small talk with your barista; you can analyze the new display of mugs and summatra blend; and you can eavesdrop on the conversation at the table behind you.   What could be better?

Given my extensive Starbucks experience, I think I am particularly qualified to present the following Experts’ Guide to Starbucks.  

Register Your Card

One of the best pieces of Starbucks advice I can give you is to buy a Starbucks gift card and register it on Starbucks’ website.  This will entitle you to free re-fills on coffee during the same visit; free “customization” (including soy milk, which is usually an extra 40 cents, and flavored syrups); a free beverage with the purchase of whole bean coffee, and two hours of free wireless internet every day, and even a free beverage on your birthday. Note: The free customization will not be reflected in the initial total you are given, but it will be reflected in the total that appears on your receipt after you use your registered card.

Be a Smart and Polite Long Term Visitor

If you plan to “study” at starbucks or otherwise campout, pick your table carefully.  You don’t want to have to re-locate later.  Think about where the sun will be coming in later in the day and where the plugs are (if you have a laptop with you).  Plan to buy something.  You do not want to be the person who comes in and asks for a glass of water and then stays for four hours.  Also, please do not ask for a water cup and then proceed to fill it up with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla powder from the condiment bar (true story).  The registered Starbucks card is essential for “long-term visitors” who can benefit from the two free hours of wireless internet and free refills.

Bring Your Own Cup

Of course, Starbucks displays an amazing variety of insulated mugs to tempt you every time you stand in line.  But there is no need to buy a special mug.  You can bring any mug you have at home and receive 10 cents off any drink.  

Order a Short

If you are just going for the ambiance or you don’t need a huge amount of coffee, consider ordering a “short.”  A short is a little bit smaller (and cheaper) than a tall, but it doesn’t appear on the menu, so it is often overlooked.  I generally order coffee in a short size, but I am told that any drink can be ordered in a short size (except iced beverages).  This may depend on the store, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Order the French Press

If you are going to be spending some time at Starbucks with a friend, try ordering the French Press. They come in a few sizes and have enough coffee to share.

Get to Know Your Barristas

Even though Starbucks is basically the man, the people who work there can be quite personable.  Make it a true coffee shop experience by getting to know your barrista.  When we walk in the door of our neighborhood Starbucks in the morning, the barrista always greets the Bunny and I by name.  That makes the coffee and scone taste that much better. Update: On Saturday, the Mayor ran into Starbucks to get us Vivanos (it was ridiculously hot) while the Bunny and I waited in the car. Our favorite barista asked the Mayor where the Bunny was and he told her that we were waiting in the car because we were on our way to the aquarium. This morning I took the Bunny to Starbucks and we ran into that same favorite barista. She greeted us by name (of course) and then asked how the Bunny liked the aquarium. Awesome, right?