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The History of the Starbucks Caramel Macchiato

While it is one of the most popular Starbucks drinks today, the Caramel Macchiato wasn’t on the original Starbucks menu. In fact, when the first Starbucks location opened in Seattle in 1971, it didn’t have a traditional menu at all. Over time, the chain built up its army of stores and its menu, but it would take 25 years for the now-iconic Caramel Macchiato to arrive. Starbucks wanted to create something special for the chain’s 25th anniversary in 1996. To meet this goal, the Caramel Macchiato was created by Hannah Su, an employee (or 'partner' in Starbucks lingo) with 21 years of experience. She developed the now-iconic drink with some help from a small team of fellow employees. The whole process took around 10 months and involved testing over 30 different iterations. According to Su, the biggest challenge was creating a caramel sauce that tasted amazing but also stayed on top of the foam. Su’s team was successful in creating a delicious drink with the desired structural qualities, and the Starbucks Caramel Macchiato debuted in the fall of 1996. It was originally slated to be a temporary menu item that would be offered for just a few weeks to commemorate Starbucks’s 25th anniversary, but it proved so popular with customers that it was added to the permanent menu soon after. While a classic macchiato contains espresso and milk, the added vanilla syrup and caramel drizzle included in the Starbucks version created by Su gave the drink an impressive appearance and a significant sweetness that really set it apart and helped popularize it across Starbucks’s many locations (then numbering around 1,000). Later, Starbucks began to offer an iced version of the iconic beverage, which interestingly, is made using a slightly different recipe than the hot version. Starbucks’s Research and Development team has also continued to innovate on Su and her team’s creation over the years, creating variations on the Caramel Macchiato such as the Iced Coconutmilk Mocha Macchiato and the Iced Cinnamon Almondmilk Macchiato. And of course, the iconic, original Starbucks Caramel Macchiato continues to be a fan favorite today.

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