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Starbucks Quietly Discontinued These Toppings When Nobody Was Looking

After receiving a tip from an Oregon reader, we investigated.

Recently I received an email from a Thrillist reader in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. She read our story about how Starbucks is changing the sugar content in its iced tea recipe and wanted to let us know that Starbucks has made some other, more subtle menu changes recently.

You see, our valued reader always orders a Grande Flat White with coconut milk, no foam, and cinnamon and nutmeg on top, but recently, when she pulled up to the Starbucks drive-thru, she was told that the store didn't have any nutmeg. Curious, she asked if this was a one-off incident and if they'd be getting more nutmeg in stock soon. That's when she heard the jarring news: The store manager alerted her that Starbucks had permanently removed nutmeg from its repertoire of toppings.

Admittedly skeptical, I took our reader's experience with a grain of salt. It's not that I didn't trust her—because I did—I just wondered if maybe it was a regional change and not company-wide.

The store manager alerted her that Starbucks had permanently removed nutmeg from its repertoire of toppings.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many Starbucks locations have nixed the communal condiment counter where nutmeg can normally be found; it's a lot harder to keep tabs on the company's available spices when they're all hidden behind the bar. Since I haven't tried ordering a nutmeg drink for myself in a while, I wasn't sure if the spice was still available in my area.

Desperate to get answers, not only for our concerned readers but for myself and my nutmeg-loving mother, I opened my Starbucks mobile app. I clicked on a Flat White, as if I was going to order it, and scrolled to the Toppings menu to see if nutmeg would be an option. To my dismay, the only powder option for the drink was cinnamon. Where did all the powders go?

That's when I grew concerned that, not only was our reader correct in thinking nutmeg had been discontinued at Starbucks stores nationwide, but maybe it wasn't just nutmeg that got the ax. If you recall, the condiment counters used to have four powder options: cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and chocolate.

I reached out to the coffee chain to see if I could get more information about the disappearance of the powders. I wanted to ease into it, though, so I started only by inquiring about nutmeg. Here's what I learned: "I can confirm Starbucks has discontinued nutmeg," said a company spokesperson. "We encourage customers to try cinnamon as an alternative topping and talk with their barista to find another beverage customization that’s right for them."

Then I asked about the other powders that are no longer visible in the app. "I can confirm Starbucks has also discontinued Vanilla and Mocha powders," she said, though this time she mentioned that baristas still have access to vanilla bean powder and cocoa powder behind the bar, which are similar enough in flavor to be used as substitutes. Knowing this information, we're less concerned about Starbucks nixing vanilla and mocha powders.

According to a Reddit thread where Starbucks baristas weighed in, nutmeg was discontinued in US locations earlier this year due to low demand. If you're lucky, some stores may still have leftover supply, but you'll have to ask in person because the spice has been removed from the mobile app. While fewer people have talked about the vanilla and mocha powders, it's probably safe to assume that they, too, weren't popular enough to keep around.

Starbucks condiment counter powder shakers: cinnamon, chocolate, nutmeg, vanilla
Do you feel nostalgic yet? | Shutterstock

Looking back, maybe we should have seen nutmeg's removal coming. Starbucks discontinued its nutmeg-heavy holiday drink, the Gingerbread Latte, and despite pleas from gingerbread fanatics, it left it off the menu again this past winter. Perhaps nutmeg really doesn't sell as well as we thought. Then again, other surviving holiday drinks like the Eggnog Latte and Pumpkin Spice Latte contain nutmeg, so it's obviously not a disliked spice.

Reddit user jonesnebraska, who works for Starbucks, reported rumors that nutmeg will briefly return during the holidays as a seasonal spice, which would make sense, since nutmeg is central to the winter experience. Another Reddit user, Rings-of-Saturn, added that, on the bright side, if nutmeg does return for the holidays, it will likely stick around long after December because it's so rarely requested by customers. Still, leftover nutmeg in the late months of winter is no consolation to those who view the spice as a coffee essential, not simply a holiday treat.

"We encourage customers to try cinnamon as an alternative topping and talk with their barista to find another beverage customization that’s right for them."

I am a seasonal nutmeg user, so while I may not be personally affected by corporate's decision, I can't fathom emerging from the pandemic and not finding a nutmeg shaker at the condiment bar. Those shakers are part of the quintessential Starbucks experience.

I still love you, Starbucks, but I don't love this situation we have found ourselves in right now.

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.
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