By Iman Sadri
So what is your favorite iced coffee destination? And don't say something to the effect of "The best iced coffee is from La Cafe at Balthazar in SoHo." Today's choices are between "McDonalds and Starbucks." I am bringing this topic up because I am often torn between the two choices on a semi-daily basis. Sometimes, proximity and time are factors that play into this morning-oriented decision. However, sometimes when you have equal opportunity to choose both, like at the airport or when both options are on your way to work, how to choose?
Sometimes, it depends on who at Starbucks or McDonalds is making your iced coffee. Do you ask for regular flavor or do you request vanilla or caramel? At Starbucks do you have the barista carefully formulate your morning fix, or do you mix the ingredients yourself? For me, at Starbucks, I always have the barista mix my select ingredients. For the unfortunate employee in charge of making my drink, it can be annoyingly time consuming, but that's why I delegate it out. It's a detestable act to go to the condiments section and be forced to wait. Sometimes, you find the half and half to be empty or the skim milk to be in the hands of another customer. Occasionally you have to crawl over people to get to the equal or raw sugar, and that can be rude.
If you're paying a premium, you should have it made. So I ask the barista at Starbucks verbatim: " I'll please get a grande iced coffee with breve (aristocratic for half and half), skim milk, a splash of raw sugar and one equal." Sometimes they look at me like I just ordered my drink in Tagalog. So I will just smile and nod, and if they ask me why skim milk and half and half together, I reply, " It's like a whopper and a diet coke together, just one of those things." One time a barista asked me, " Where did you come up with that formulation." I replied: " I think I saw it on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain." So next time you're at Starbucks and you want an iced coffee, request my refreshing concoction and see what you think.
So if I am at McDonalds, at the drive thru or inside an airport, I always ask for, " An iced coffee, regular flavor." The consistency of it greatly varies with which cashier or food prep employee is in charge of making my drink. For some reason, the McDonalds iced coffee version always has more ice and tastes much cooler, which can sometimes be associated with more refreshment. But there is always a surprise of how it will taste, when you just say ," regular flavor" it can be too bitter, or too sweet. Sometimes, they add vanilla or hazelnut (not my favorite at all) by accident. And I'd say about 70% of the time, its on point. This means, not too sweet, not too bitter, just right, just the way the Goldilocks Gene in your taste-buds would approve of it.
So again, what is the better option for iced coffee?: " McDonalds or Starbucks." Why not Starbucks every time? Mostly for me it has to do with the drive thru convenience of McDonalds or because of the fact that some baristas at Starbucks fudge the formulation. I wonder what the consensus is among the masses. For now, I survey my patients with their choice. But I also advise them to not drink too much coffee as to avoid teeth discoloration. Nevertheless, it is an important question. Iced coffee at the McDonalds McCafe or the Starbucks option." My answer: Leave it up to your tentative taste-buds, they always have the right answer.
Iman Sadri is a cosmetic dentist and writer based in Irvine, California. He is a graduate of NYU. He covered the Sacramento Kings for The Current at American River College.