Six Stellar Coffee Recommendations from a Summer Barista

With travel plans and reunions put on hold, I spent this summer working at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea in Nashville. While I was definitely not the best barista (I spilled many drinks all over myself behind the counter), I loved working at the register and hearing everyone’s unique coffee orders. 

I’ve always stuck with my favorite drinks, afraid of trying something new and having to pay for something I might end up not liking, so one of the best perks of working there was getting to experiment and try some new drinks. Here are some of my favorites!

  1. 1. Iced Vanilla Latte

    Iced vanilla lattes are my favorite staple drink—the vanilla flavor adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the refreshing order. I usually order one at every new coffee shop I visit and base whether or not I come back on it. If you feel like spicing it up, request a different type of espresso; usually coffee shops have a premium espresso (like Starbucks’ blonde espresso or Sweetwaters’ Abianno espresso) that is sweeter and a slightly different flavor than the standard

  2. 2. Chai Latte with White Chocolate Syrup

    Not gonna lie, I was really confused when a regular customer added white chocolate to her chai latte’s every morning this summer. When we accidentally made a mistake one day, she left the messed up coffee at the store, and I curiously took a sip. Chai lattes are usually a mix of cinnamon and other autumnal flavors, and the white chocolate added the perfect level of sweetness to the already-good drink. If you’re a fan of sweeter drinks, I highly recommend this unusual combination of flavors.

  3. 3. White Chocolate Mocha

    For the few weeks when it is absolutely too cold for iced lattes, I switch to a hot white chocolate mocha. It’s slightly less chocolatey than the typical mochas, and it’s fun to add different whipped cream and other toppings—like peppermint, chocolate or caramel drizzle—to the top.

  4. 4. Caramel+Mocha Blended Drink

    I discovered this drink accidentally this summer trying to save the leftovers from a mocha ice dragon (our version of Starbucks’ frappuccinos) and a caramel ice dragon, accidentally combining the two blenders. Out of curiosity I tasted it, and it turned into one of my new favorites. I ended up making it for myself at least once a week and recommended it to every customer that would listen. The two flavors compliment each other well without being overpowering.

  5. 5. Thai Iced Tea

    As a barista, I will admit that I hated making thai tea. The orange colored powder made a mess no matter how careful you were and always ended up staining my hands. However, one of my last days of work I decided to finally try a thai tea—which we topped with an ounce of half and half—and I was shocked by how good it was! I don’t normally like iced teas, but it tasted similar to a chai latte with more of a watery than a milk base. If you’re looking for a non-coffee alternative, thai iced tea is definitely a hidden gem.

  6. 6. Vanilla Cold Brew with Heavy Cream

    Full disclosure: I don’t like cold brew. The taste is a little too bitter for me, no matter how much cream I add in. However, cold brew is one of the most popular drinks, so I feel like it has to be included in this list. It has a strong coffee flavor and gives people plenty of energy. It’s also one of the easiest drinks to make from a barista’s point of view, so that’s a plus, too!

Whether you like your coffee hot or iced, with vanilla or chocolate, black or with cream, I hope you enjoy these recommendations and find your new signature drink soon!

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