Starbucks’ ‘secret menu’ item gets cult status in South Korea
Starbucks sells 10 million cups of an item that isn’t even on the menu
By Lee Suh-yoon
Starbucks’s hand-shaken espresso drink has been quietly getting cult status in South Korea, with 10 million cups of the double shot ice shaken espresso — which is not on the menu — sold since its debut in 2003.
The drink, simply called the “double shot” by customers, has long been absent from the menu board, with customers learning of it only by word of mouth. Its sales, nonetheless, have increased by 45 per cent annually over the past five years.
Double shot fans say they like it for its rich dense flavour.
“Coffee in Korea tends to be a bit diluted but I like the double shot because it does not mix in an excessive amount of water or milk,” said a 24-year-old university student surnamed Moon who lived abroad before and frequently enjoys a Starbucks vanilla double shot. “I like my coffee strong.”
The drink, composed of two espresso shots, milk and a syrup flavour of choice, is shaken with ice for a chilling effect and served _ without the ice _ in a signature mini cup. Vanilla is the most popular flavour, accounting for 60 per cent of all orders.
“Many prefer it as a lighter alternative to full-size drinks, especially after meals,” a Starbucks Korea PR officer and former barista told The Korea Times. “Some say it tastes like a high-grade version of sweet and heavy instant coffee many Koreans drink at home or work.”
The price for the small 120ml drink is 4,800 won (US$4.5), higher than that of a cafe latte, partly because it still contains the same number of shots as a full-size drink.
According to 2016 figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the average Korean drinks 377 cups of coffee every year. Starbucks, with over 25 per cent of the billion dollar cafe market, is currently the biggest coffee franchise here, well ahead of domestic coffee chains such as Ediya.
Starbucks operates around 1,140 shops in and nearby Seoul, with around a dozen new shops opening every month.
Last year, Starbucks Korea raked in 1.2 trillion won (US$1.1 billion) in revenue _ half of which goes to Emart, the retail giant that is Starbucks’ joint venture partner in Korea.
Some exclusive drinks that can only be found at Starbucks Korea include the new Mungyeong Omija Fizzio, a “five-flavor” berry soda drink, and the Choux Cream Latte, a new hit inspired by the custard-filled French pasty.