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January 13, 2007

Starbucks Valencia Syrup Gets the Boot

Starbucks has an assortment of syrups available, one of which is valencia (aka orange). I like an occasional mocha valencia and have also recently discovered that if you put valencia syrup in an iced black tea it is quite scrumptious.

So, I was disappointed to hear that the syrup was no longer going to be offered. At first it was going to be a seasonal discontinuation, but then it turned out it was gone forever. The Starbucks we usually go to (one of eight within a square mile in downtown Redmond) had ordered extra stock because the baristas there all liked it, but they eventually ran out, in fact about 10 minutes before I got there one day last week.

I recently discovered the "Starbucks Gossip" blog and this post about the mocha valencia. It's originally from July 2005, but the comments started up again as the discontinuation rumors began. Then in December Steve Chamraz, an investigative reporter for a TV station in St. Louis, got involved and started sniffing around. He wound up posting five articles in his blog (one, two, three, four, five). After being misled by a PR firm, he eventually unearthed a copy of a Starbucks internal memo about the Valencia caper, offering advice to baristas on how to defuse the potentially explosive situation that could arise when customers are denied their orange flavor blast.

It seems that the syrup was actually phased out last September 30, with stores then slowly working through there stock. The memo is worth reading for its slightly zany advice on how to "start this journey [to a new favorite beverage] with your Valencia customers". The theory is that those customers fall into one of three categories, based on what they are looking for in a drink: fruity, citrus flavor; sweetness; and chocolate/fruit combo. Thus, they can be redirected to, respectively, raspberry or melon syrup; white chocolate mocha; and...actually I can't tell, the memo doesn't quite line them up one-to-one (almond mocha, maybe, is the chocolate/fruit replacement).

The memo doesn't really say WHY the syrup was discontinued; there is a reference to "slow-moving products", and some vaguely sinister implication that having too many syrups back there creates a negative work experience for baristas.

I'm all for making baristas happy, but as someone said in a comment on the Starbucks Gossip blog, "why do we keep the crap like raspberry and coconut?" Do they really think that people who are looking for an orange flavor are going to be happy with melon flavor? Orange, melon, it's all the same right? Starbucks, Tullys, all the same, right?

If you're interested in hoarding the stuff yourself and surreptitiously dosing your coffee or tea in your car, or else selling shots like crack in the parking lot, you can order it from Syrup 2 U (and presumably other places). They sell Torani in both orange mandarin and sugar-free orange; I don't think that's exactly what Starbucks used but I suspect the orange mandarin is close enough.

Posted by AdamBa at January 13, 2007 09:35 PM

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Funny you mention that. They used to stock quite a few flavors of syrup, but at some point last year (or prior, dunno) they seem to have consolidated to a select few. One of the casualties was in fact, the Almond syrup. They still have "Almond", but the new one is based on Orgeat, which while being almond based, is a French concoction with an orange-y flavor that I don't like. Fortunately, in the seattle area here we have other options, so I've only been hitting S$ for chai. Their loss.

Posted by: Jon at January 14, 2007 12:20 PM

Randomly, that's my favorite syrup too (in fact, the only one I consider worth the calories). I'm depressed. Glad you're on the case; I would have been more upset to have to discover this sad state of affairs for myself.

Posted by: Becky at January 16, 2007 03:39 PM

No doubt a shared exposure to orange-flavored chocolate as children...actually, inspired by the comment above that the almond syrup was orange in flavor, I tried an almond mocha. I could have sworn it did indeed have an orange flavor, but Maura said I was imagining it. Not bad, however, I'll have to try it in the black tea.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at January 16, 2007 09:39 PM