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The Secret Starbucks Drink

It turns out there's a drink that Starbucks doesn't list on its menu. Well, not a drink, exactly; rather a size -- but the size affects the quality. Slate sussed it out:

The drink in question is the elusive "short cappuccino" -- at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the "tall," and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the "customer-preferred" size, the "Venti," which weighs in at 20 ounces...

The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one... Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better.

The problem with large cappuccinos is that it's impossible to make the fine-bubbled milk froth ("microfoam," in the lingo) in large quantities, no matter how skilled the barista. A 20-ounce cappuccino is an oxymoron. Having sampled the short cappuccino in a number of Starbucks across the world, I can confirm that it is a better drink than the buckets of warm milk -- topped with a veneer of froth -- that the coffee chain advertises on its menus.

This secret cappuccino is cheaper, too -- at my local Starbucks, $2.35 instead of $2.65. But why does this cheaper, better drink—along with its sisters, the short latte and the short coffee -- languish unadvertised? The official line from Starbucks is that there is no room on the menu board, although this doesn't explain why the short cappuccino is also unmentioned on the comprehensive Starbucks Web site, nor why the baristas will serve you in a whisper rather than the usual practice of singing your order to the heavens.

The remainder of the article gives the economic theory explanation for why Starbucks a) offers the short cappuccino but b) keeps it a secret. (Hint: It has something to do with more money for Starbucks.)

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