An Almanac For The 21st Century

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Be Your Own Barista With This Starbucks Hack

Be Your Own Barista With This Starbucks Hack

I'm a longtime Starbucks addict. I used to work as a nanny, and the presence of a Starbucks cup in my hand was so ubiquitous that when I showed up sans Starbucks the kids would exclaim, "Sarah! Where's your Starbucks?!" So yeah, it's kind of a trademark. When I went through my elimination diet and couldn't have anything fun, my Starbucks order of a vanilla or chai latte turned into one for plain ol' black iced tea. And you know, I got really into them. When I drank tea I'd end up drinking more than I would when drinking plain water (I love water, but I need it to be just so, which is an annoying trait), so in terms of hydration, my tea addiction was something worth fostering. I had a whole system, where I'd go to Starbucks and order one trenta unsweetened black iced tea, then another of the same, but this one without water. Starbucks tea is concentrated, so they put a little in the cocktail tea shaker, add water, and shake it till it was blended together. Getting just the concentrated tea allowed me to drink my normal tea, then slowly add the tea concentrate to my watered down tea, making my Starbucks tea experience last longer. It was a fairly decent life hack, but then I was schooled in the ways of TRUE Starbucks hacking. By my mom.

My mom brews her own Starbucks tea at home, and she's even developed her own special blend, which she has passed on to me, and now I will share with you. It's super easy, and it will save you a ton of cash. For about three seconds I tried to figure out how much a cup of my homemade Starbucks cost me, and I immediately gave up, because I hate even simple math. But I'd guess it's cents a cup. A trenta cup, mind you. And like, 15 cents. This budgetary relief has helped me so much, and it can help you too.


First things first, you'll need some brewin' gear. You may already have some of these things, but if you do need to buy all of these items, don't worry, since none of them are going to break the bank.

1. A coffee maker. I use a super simple Mr Coffee 12-cup machine, which I bought on Amazon for $16.

2. Starbucks Tea. You can buy the huge teabags that they use in Starbucks stores through their website. You get 20 big bags for $25. This is simultaneously going to be your biggest expense and your biggest money saver. (I'll get into why later.) There are directions for how to use the bags to brew tea just like Starbucks, but if you did that, you'd get 20 enormous batches of iced tea, and in the method we're using you'll get 20 pots of tea out of one bag. LIFE = HACKED.

3. Green tea bags. I get plain old Lipton, caffeinated (obviously) tea bags at Target or Amazon. Amazon sells boxes of 100 bags for $6. Target may actually be even cheaper. What I'm saying is, you should not be paying a lot. The same is true for our next item...

4. Coffee Filters. You're going to be using a coffee maker, so you're going to need filters. These are so, so cheap. I get Target brand filters, that are 100 for $1.

Let's get brewing!


For my particular blend, you'll need two green tea bags, your Starbucks tea, and two coffee filters. 

Pop the tea bags out of their little paper sleeping bags, but you can keep them in their teabag state. Even the strings and tags can stay. At first it may seem silly to put whole teabags in a coffee filter, but you'll get over that.

Now you add your Starbucks tea. Since this tea comes in an enormous sachet, we're going to open it up and use just a bit of it at a time. These bags weren't made to be used in this way, so be very careful in opening the bag. Use scissors to cut the top off if you need to. You don't want to try to rip open this gigantic teabag like it's a bag of chips and end up vacuuming loose leaf tea from every crevice of your kitchen till you're old and gray. Once you've carefully opened your tea, pour a bit into the coffee filter. I just eyeball this part, and the amount is going to depend on your personal taste, so it may take some experimentation. I'd say start with about 3/4 of a tablespoon? Here's what mine looks like when I've added the looseleaf tea:

At this point I'd like to add that you want to make sure you have two coffee filters. This is less about making the tea and more about cleanup. When you take that soggy coffee filter out, you're going to be glad you have that extra reinforcement. You only have to spill coffee or tea remnants on your kitchen floor once to realize it looks like someone overturned a spittoon and it's wholly disgusting. Use two filters.

I use water from my Brita pitcher in my coffee maker, and while I have a 12 cup machine, I fill the water tank to about 9 cups. The reason why will become clear in later steps. This part is just like any normal coffee making experience. Add water, make sure carafe is in the machine, and that the machine is plugged in. Flip the switch. Wait for it to brew.

Remember, this is a coffee maker and we're using it to make iced tea. Don't turn on the machine and leave it for three hours, because it'll be keeping your tea hot. Stick around while the tea brews (not like, watching it brew, but don't go to the mall or something), and take it off the machine once it's done brewing. I put my carafe on one of my stove burners and let it cool for a bit. Also, don't forget to turn off that coffee maker.

As you can see, my tea is very concentrated, and the pot is only filled to just above the 8 cup mark. (Also, you can see that I didn't clean my carafe before this photoshoot. In the recent words of Kim Kardashian, "CAN I LIVE?!") Leave that little carafe of goodness to cool for a bit. Not an exceptionally long time, maybe an hour? Go watch an episode of Property Brothers.

Now we add ice! Just throw a cup or so in there. This will not only cool down your tea, but when the ice melts it will dilute your concentrated tea and take the edge off. See how the volume has already risen? We're closer to a full pot of delicious tea.

At this point, depending on how warm the tea still is, I'll either pout myself a cup or slip the carafe back into its (now cool) coffee maker while I wait for it to cool down. Then it's just a matter of refilling my cup with my newly brewed tea whenever I want. The great thing about this method (besides the amazing savings) is that you can get tea whenever you want. No longer are you tethered to Starbucks. If I want some iced tea at 3am, I can just walk to my kitchen in my pajamas and pour myself some. Some days all my to-dos are doable from home, and I can drink tea all day if I want and not leave the house. I still treat myself to a true Starbucks black iced tea once or twice a week, because it does taste a bit different and is a nice treat. Plus, I reuse the cups, because I don't have a dishwasher, but also because I just like them better. (I recently found out my mom, the originator of the Starbucks Tea Hack, does this as well.)

Like I said, I don't know exactly how much this arrangement has saved me, but even I, a woman with a math phobia, can realize it's a pretty hefty chunk of change. Convenience, savings, and the ability to feed my addiction in an even simpler way. I think that's what they call living the dream.

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