DC Area Is Starbucks’s Favorite Testing Ground

Seasonal lattes, egg sandwiches, cupcakes--we get to try them first.

The Washington-area palate must be pretty refined. Or maybe it’s that we just like to eat a lot. Whatever the reason, major food and beverage distributors such as Starbucks love to test out their new products here first, before introducing them to the rest of the country. Ever since the first East Coast Starbucks opened in Washington in 1993, we've been their corporate guinea pigs. Much of the testing–of new Frappucinos, latte flavors, and baked goods–happens at the Georgetown store at 3122 M Street, one of the nation's highest-volume Starbucks.Though the New York Times recently covered the launching of the Starbucks breakfast sandwich in Manhattan, this was no big news for Washington. In fact, the Georgetown location has sold them for almost two years. At first, it was just the reduced-fat turkey bacon melt, now a national best-seller. As Washington-area customers sampled sundried -tomato-this and sausage-that, Starbucks finalized its national menu to include six varieties of egg sandwich, including flavors like spinach-fontina (food critic Cynthia Hacinli's favorite), sausage-and-cheddar (the second best-seller), and ham-and-cheddar on a bagel. Each is packaged from Whole Foods.
Maybe the breakfast sandwich was a hit, but some test products disappear after just a few sightings. Remember those vanilla and chocolate cupcakes? They were sold in singles and four-packs which Jim Massey, manager of the Georgetown Starbucks, says "would fly out of the store." Though they seemed like a big hit—our very own Ann Limpert loved them—they were only spotted a few times this Winter. Massey shrugged his shoulders—isn't sure if they'll ever come back. If they did, they'd have to be trans-fat friendly, now that Starbucks has joined New York in eliminating partially-hydrogenated oils. You never know with Washington-area Starbucks. Certain baked goods or latte flavors are not as lucky as the breakfast sandwich.