NEW YORK — Call it the coffee conundrum: What to do when the mayor’s new sugary-drink rules come between a harried, half-awake New Yorker and a morning cup of joe?
Come Tuesday, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of large sugary drinks goes into effect after months of public debate over the measure, its impact on beverages like soda will be clear: no more jumbo colas. But coffee drinkers, and those who pour them, are likely to face a thicket of complications as varied as the lattes, macchiatos and Americanos on a Starbucks menu.
Customers at Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s can expect to add their own sugar packets and flavor swirls to large and larger coffees.
At other cafes, some will be given one lump, or perhaps two, in their coffees; those seeking more will need to visit the condiment stand.
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Starbucks regulars will see no change at all for the first week, then may find a raft of them one morning. Some large drinks will be affected, others not at all.
“The whole point of buying coffee is just you get it and go,” said Yolanda Rivera, 30, who was drinking a medium iced (and sugared) coffee in a Dunkin’ Donuts near Times Square on Wednesday. “It’s just going to be annoying.”
The city’s new regulations regarding coffee hinge on delicate calculations about milk, calorie and sugar ratios. As with other sugary drinks, coffee cups 16 ounces or smaller are unaffected. But unlike sodas, which will max out at 16 ounces, cups of coffee larger than 16 ounces can still be served as long as the barista adds no more than three to five packets of sugar. (The limit depends on the size of the drink.)
And once the drink is handed over, customers can add as much extra sugar as they want.
None of those rules apply to drinks that are more than 50 percent milk, like lattes, because the city considers milk a valuable source of nutrition. And there is no limit to the number of Splenda, Equal and Sweet ’N Low packets a barista can pour in.
While the regulations stipulate that servers can add a limited amount of sugar to coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s will no longer do so. Customers will have to add the sugar themselves.
A Dunkin’ spokeswoman, Michelle King, said Dunkin’ had developed its policy after consulting with the city’s Board of Health.
Then there is Starbucks, which interprets the rules as saying baristas can add sugar to large coffee drinks as long as the customer asks; the city says the amount must be limited. Rather than spending now to reprint menus and retrain baristas, the company will wait until officials gauge the response from city inspectors — and the outcome of a pending lawsuit against the rules filed by the beverage industry.
“A majority of our drinks fall outside of the ban, and we’re not expecting to make any immediate changes next week,” said Linda Mills, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, which has more than 300 locations throughout the city.
A typical grande beverage at Starbucks is 16 ounces; sizes larger than that will be affected. Many espresso drinks at Starbucks, like caramel macchiatos and pumpkin-spice lattes, would be exempt from the restrictions because they contain a lot of milk. But Starbucks is unsure how to measure the milk content of Frappuccinos, which are about 60 percent ice.
Independent coffee shops have not been immune. At Cafe Angelique in Manhattan, Robert McConkey, the manager, said he had to eliminate most large sizes of cold drinks from the menu. Large, flavored ice coffees pose a special problem because of the sugar in the flavored syrup. The cafe decided to continue selling them, but only with the syrup on the side.
“The way the law is worded, there’s plenty of ways for us to get around a lot of them,” he said. “It just seems so ridiculous.”