Three Starbucks Baristas Discuss the Thrills, and Near Spills, of Starring in a TV Commercial

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It takes exactly ten shakes to make the perfect Teavana® Shaken Iced Tea, and around 1,000 shakes to make a national television commercial for the iced teas from Teavana at Starbucks.  

This summer, Starbucks introduced new handcrafted iced teas in its stores: Teavana® Shaken Iced Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade of juicy blackberry, mint, green tea and a splash of lemonade shaken with ice; Teavana® Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade with sweet peach and ginger notes, green tea and a splash of lemonade shaken with ice; Teavana® Shaken Iced Black Tea Lemonade featuring three of the finest Teavana® black teas mixed with lemonade and shaken with ice; and Teavana® Shaken Iced Passion Tango Tea, with an infusion of hibiscus, apple, lemongrass and natural tropical flavors.

The key word – shaken.

Starbucks new iced teas are hand shaken to help ensure the premium ingredients are cooled down quickly and mixed perfectly to bring out their flavors. The ice breaks slightly in a shaker, bringing the tea to a cooler temperature and evenly dispersing the flavors.

Who better to demonstrate how to hand shake the beverage than Starbucks baristas?

For the first time, Starbucks used partners (employees) in ads for TV, the web, magazines and billboards. Some of the partners in the commercial are aspiring actors, hoping this opportunity to be in a  national Starbucks commercial will be the beginning of great things to come for their acting careers. The other baristas didn’t have dreams of being on camera.

“I’ll stick to being a barista,” said Justin Jacobs, a Starbucks barista since 2007. “I enjoyed it, but that was a lot of pressure.”

Jacobs heard about a casting call for “real” Starbucks baristas in the Los Angeles area from his manager. He had a lot of experience working with shakers at Starbucks.

“When I first started with Starbucks, tricks with the shakers were abounding back in the day,” he said. “I was all about the tricks and could flip the shakers behind my back.”

Flipping the shakers during the audition was different with dozens of people watching and cameras rolling. Although Jacobs didn’t drop a one, he admits he got into a few “tricky situations.”

When he got a call from the casting agent offering him the commercial, Jacobs said he “tried to be cool and play it off as if it was no big deal.” Then he let out a scream he was certain most of Southern California could hear.

Shooting the commercial took hours and countless takes and shakes. When he was done, Jacobs said he appreciated the opportunity to be in the spotlight for a moment. His older sister is an actress and his younger siblings are also in film production.

“It was nice to be in something that unites us all,” he said.

Jacobs said he’ll stick with Starbucks while he completes his undergrad degree in deaf studies with a focus on sign language. Eventually he’d like to get a Master’s degree in psychology. In some ways, his daily work at Starbucks is a study in psychology.

“I feel like I play an integral part in a lot of people’s lives,” he said. “Coffee brings people together in a way that no other drink or food can. We have such a wide range of people who are coming through our doors and for me it’s not just about making their drinks, it’s about making their days.”

Only six months after putting on a green apron for the first time, Starbucks barista Kristina Ho found herself in a “nerve wracking situation” in front of a casting director.

They took pictures of her hands, asked her about the craziest order she’s made since becoming a store partner in January – an upside down Caramel Macchiato with whip cream on the bottom – and had her demonstrate a unique way of shaking the iced tea beverage.

“At the store I just shake it 10 times, but I wanted to show each barista has a different personality. I did a little dance move and put more motion into shaking the iced tea. I had fun with it,” she said. “It was a five-minute audition and I didn’t think I would get a callback.” 

She did. The 15 hours of filming that followed were worth it because Ho appears in the television commercial, web advertisement, magazine ads and on the billboard. She’s studying acting and hopes the Starbucks campaign will be an “awesome boost” to her career someday.

The commercial has already had an effect on the way she makes beverages in her store.

“Everybody knows things are exaggerated on TV and we’re not really doing flips with the shakers in the stores, but we are handcrafting every drink and putting our personalities into our work. I show more of my personal flair now,” she said. “Every drink is special and every customer is too.”

“I put more of a theatrical flair into shaking the iced tea for the commercial than I do in the store, but there’s a reason we did it that way,” said Joshua Stinson, a Starbucks barista since 2006. “We have fun at work. It’s hard to show that in a 30-second commercial. The flips and shakes along with the graphics help convey that not only are our drinks unique but the people who make them are too.”

Stinson lives in L.A. because he wants to be an actor. When his manager told him about an email inviting partners to audition for a Starbucks commercial he said he thought it was spam. Later, sitting in a waiting room with dozens of other baristas, the opportunity became very real.

Stinson was chosen for the web banner ad, which has a 3D effect. He had to invent tricks that fell within a specific, limited range of motion. It took several takes to get the hang of it, but once he did, Stinson said it was all about being creative and having fun.  

He hasn’t come across the web ad yet, but says friends and family who’ve seen it think it’s “awesome” that he was able to combine his passion for acting with his love of Starbucks.

“The campaign has up leveled my game too,” Stinson said.

A few of his regular customers want him to do something “fancy” as he makes the Teavana® Shaken Iced Tea.

“I don’t want to spill the drink, so I’m not flipping the shaker, but I can definitely accommodate those who are watching,” he said. “I still do the slight flair you see in the commercial. I want my customers to have fun when they come in. Sometimes a shake is all it takes to make someone smile.”

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