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Goodbye, Chai

Breaking up with Starbucks



Starbucks and I were intimate. I had to have it at least once daily––sometimes more often. My husband wished that I wanted him as frequently. Over the past ten years of mommyhood, I’ve always let Starbucks be the one thing I did for me every day. I convinced myself that I deserved my daily dose of pleasure. Besides, I wasn’t addicted to coffee. My affair was with their Chai Tea Latte, and I’d never heard of anyone having a tea addiction.

 Several opportunities presented themselves for me to confront my daily obsession. I researched my treat when I first became pregnant and needed to assess my caffeine consumption. Luckily, Starbucks Chai has minimal caffeine––significantly less than an average cup of Joe. So I downgraded to a tall from a grande and justified my indulgence because of the calcium I was consuming. But then there was another red flag: soy milk, which pairs perfectly with their chai concentrate, had come into the nutritional spotlight. I delved further into the soy debate, but once again gave myself the green light to drink on, knowing that Starbucks used non-GMO soy. 

The words “Soy No Water Chai” were on the tips of my toddlers’ tongues on our daily visits to Starbucks, where they were greeted by name by all the baristas. I would stand in line and my Chai would be ready for me before it was even my turn to order. When traveling, I began to seek out Starbucks locations, ensuring that we’d be within an acceptable distance for me to get my fix––I even got the app. Our annual trips to Cape Cod threw me into massive withdrawal. The Cape’s allegiance to Dunkin Donuts left me moody and unsatisfied. The signs were all there. Why did it take me so long to admit that I had a problem?

How did I finally break it off with Starbucks? The credit goes to my mother. Like many women of her generation, she has an obsession with Dr. Oz and any Oz-ian advice he offers. She gifted me with the “free subscription for a friend” to his magazine. I automatically recycled the print version of the Good Doctor along with all the other unsolicited and unwanted mail. However, one day guilt got the better of me and I found myself dutifully flipping through an issue when the article “Change Your Coffee Order, Lose 10 Pounds” caught my eye. 

My stomach turned. Staring back at me was a picture of two frosted donuts covered in sprinkles, the kind I allow my kids to have only a few times a year. Next to the donuts was a Starbucks cup labeled “Chai,” and in between the two was an equal sign. This couldn’t be. I’m a holistic health coach, How did I let that warm, silky-smooth concoction blind my better judgment? I wasn’t addicted to tea. I was addicted to a daily dose of sugar! And I’m not talking about a small amount of the sweet stuff. I’m talking about 42 grams of it; 10.5 teaspoons, 134 percent of the USDA’s suggested daily sugar intake. Disgusted with myself, I realized that this relationship had gone on long enough. It was time to break it off. And I did. Cold turkey.

I’ve moved on and I’ve never been tempted to rekindle our affair. Now, when I drive past the packed Starbucks lot, I feel liberated. As I watch anxious consumers scramble for their daily fixes, I feel empowered. I have gained an extra 20 minutes to my day, or as my mathematically skilled husband calculated, “five days over the year.”

He’s happy too. Not only did he regain my time and attention, but at $4.50 a cup we’re also saving a whopping $2,500 per year. “It practically covers the flights for our annual trip to Florida,” he cheered. I had envisioned a Longchamp handbag, but I could appreciate his point of view.

I’ve gained back time, kept money in my pocket and kicked an addiction that I had blindly ignored for years. I have a new perspective on sugar addiction––something I denied having struggled with––and now I can coach my nutritional clients from experience. Starbucks and I have stayed friendly and, yes, our paths cross as a consequence of social engagements. But I’ve made it clear to myself, there’s no enticing me back. I’ve moved on to a sweeter life, hold the sugar.


Hello Healthy: Looking for something to replace your calorie-laden Starbucks beverage? Here are a few options, all under 120 calories: Flat White (119 cal.), Cappuccino (91 cal.), Caffe Misto (63 cal.), Caffe Americano (11 cal.), Iced Americano (11 cal.), or just have a shot of espresso—oly six calories.

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