As the fall season comes to a close and we move into the frigid (or at least slightly cooler) months of the year, Starbucks locations across campus become more packed with students awaiting that first sip feeling. However, with lines becoming longer at each of UF’s seven locations, a busy student has to wonder: which Starbucks is really worth the hype?

When measuring the quality of a coffee shop as popular as Starbucks, I questioned the best method. It seems that each drink at each location tastes strikingly similar nowadays. How then, would I decide which on-campus caffeine station would be able to claim the top spot?

To answer this basic question, I turned to the long-lost trend of asking Starbucks baristas to “make me a drink.” With videos of these four words popping up all over social media, I figured baristas on a campus filled with youthful energy would be excited to craft their own special concoction to win the top rank on my list. With this in mind, I embarked on a journey through campus to visit four of the most popular Starbucks locations and ask them my simple question. At each location, I instructed the barista to make me a fun, creative drink with no rules or regulations. It could be hot, iced, coffee, tea, or anything in between — as long as it showed off the essence of that location and warranted its spot on my prestigious list. I ranked each drink based on four criteria: creativity, taste, energy of the barista, and price. With all things considered, here is how Starbucks locations at Library West, Marston Science Library, The Hub, and the Reitz Union measured up.

Library West

Jennifer Kim

The first stop on my adventure was Library West, the closest Starbucks to my apartment and one that tends to be overlooked. Entering the tiny coffee shop, I was especially excited to ask for my very first creative drink. However, I was bitterly disappointed when I received a standard Iced Latte with classic syrup. Hobbling out of the library, unenthusiastic to taste another beige latte, I set my expectations quite low.

Nonetheless, after taking my first sip, I re-read the label just to make sure I was drinking the right thing. Surprisingly, a standard Iced Latte turned out to be one of the tastiest drinks I tried. Creamy, sweet, and perfectly balanced, this drink gave me a little buzz while also not being too sweet. In addition, being set at only $5.33, it is quite affordable for a medium-sized study drink. The small nuances, such as the addition of cinnamon on top and even the use of “classic” syrup (rather than something fancier), made this drink sweet and simple. Although I have to dock points due to a lack of originality and enthusiasm from the barista, overall, an Iced Latte with classic syrup from Library West may just be my next work-sesh coffee grind!


Marston Science Library

Jennifer Kim

After the lack of creativity at Library West, I entered the Starbucks at Marston Science Library less than hopeful. After all, it is the science library — how creative could it be? Well, turns out I could not have been more wrong. After explaining my mission to the eager barista, my hopes slowly began rising. When my name was called and I saw a beautiful creamy coffee with light pink, airy foam on top, I knew I had hit the jackpot. At Marston, I received a well-crafted, creative Iced White Mocha with Strawberry Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Foam. Not only was the drink fun to look at, but it was also delicious to drink!

If I could describe this drink, I would say it reminds me of an adult Frappuccino. With a healthy dose of caffeine for that midday slump, it also has the cold foam, which is reminiscent of melted strawberry ice cream. It is a drink that has everything in one: the holiday aspect of a white mocha with the spring taste of fresh strawberries. While I personally found the drink a little sweet and the whopping price of $8.60 isn’t ideal for an everyday pick-me-up, the sweet barista making such an inventive drink puts Marston at the top of my list.


The Hub

Jennifer Kim

Next in line to earn the spot of the best Starbucks on campus was The Hub. Quite literally at the center of campus, this location is one of the most frequented. With its high reputation, I looked forward to seeing what exotic drink I would be handed. When explaining the experiment to the barista, I was met with little excitement and, after waiting a mere two minutes, I was handed yet another repetitive drink straight off the menu. For $6.72, I received an Iced Apple Crisp Macchiato, one of Starbucks’ seasonal drinks. Being the first seasonal drink I got, I was still excited to walk through the crisp air with a pretty, fall drink in hand.

Once again, the lack of innovation is what docks points. Still, Starbucks does its fall drinks well, and the creamy oat milk with the strong apple flavor was a perfect pairing. It is worth noting that the coffee flavor was not too strong while still providing a decent energy boost. All in all, if nothing else, it’s a great drink when you’re ready for a change from the classic Pumpkin Spice Latte.


The Reitz Union

Jennifer Kim

Finally, all coffee-ed out, I visited the last stop on my tour: the Reitz Union. Here, I hoped I would find another interesting drink to round off my day of sampling. Luckily, I was not disappointed. The smile on the barista’s face when I explained my request made me confident that I would receive a drink worthy of recognition. At the Reitz Union, I was granted a Vanilla Bean Cream Frappuccino blended with Blueberry and Raspberry Syrup. With a non-caffeinated beverage, I was happy to not have to down a sixth shot of espresso for the day.

The best part about this drink, in my opinion, is how aesthetically pleasing it is. Just looking at the bright purple frap with fluffy whipped cream on top made me excited to drink it. For $6.50, this drink was the most worth it for the price. In my opinion, the more tart berry flavor helped balance out the sweetness of the vanilla. The taste reminded me of berry pie! Despite the fact that this drink is more like a dessert than a jolt of espresso, it seems like the perfect way to enjoy a sweet treat after a stressful week.


The Verdict

After a full day of tasting different drinks from four of the most well-known Starbucks on campus, I carefully ranked each location according to four criteria that I think are vital to the overall coffee-drinking experience. Based on creativity, taste, attitude of the barista, and price, I came to the conclusion that Marston provided the best product. Coming up behind it are the Reitz Union, Library West, and The Hub. Overall, each Starbucks had something different to offer. If you are looking for some liquid motivation throughout your day, you can visit any of the on-campus locations. Nevertheless, I cannot discount the enthusiasm and creativity of Marston and the Reitz. In the future, when I am looking for both a drink and warm face to brighten my day, I know which Starbucks I will be heading to.

Jennifer Kim