In late August 2021, the website Simplemost published a story with the headline, "Starbucks’ Black Aprons Have A Different Meaning Than The Green Aprons."
"Customers may see Starbucks baristas donning an apron that is a different shade than the standard green because Starbucks has a specific color system for its uniform aprons," Simplemost reported. "Each color signifies a special characteristic about the barista or store, a seasonal shift or a level of training that the barista has achieved."
Most Starbucks baristas wear a green apron. But according to an article posted to its blog "Starbucks Stories and News," the company explained that employees who complete the Starbucks Coffee Master training program wear a black apron after passing written and taste tests:
For more than a decade, Starbucks partners have been certified as Coffee Masters after completing coursework and an exploration of Starbucks coffees. They study Starbucks core coffees, such as French Roast and Pike Place® Roast, and rare Starbucks Reserve® coffees. The Coffee Master program acknowledges their knowledge and skill with the special designation of the black apron after they pass written and taste tests.
The Starbucks blog further described other apron colors and their significance, including red, orange, and purple:
In the early 1990s Starbucks introduced black aprons as special designation for partners certified in coffee knowledge, which later became what is now the Coffee Master program for partners. And in 1997, Starbucks first red holiday cups arrived, with each store (there were about 1,400 by then) receiving two red aprons for partners who were sampling Christmas Blend or stocking merchandise. Over the years, the apron has become a way to celebrate events and milestones and recognize partner contributions. Special embroidered aprons with an American flag celebrate veterans and military spouses and graduates of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan receive a green apron embroidered with a mortarboard. At a store in Malaysia dedicated to providing employment opportunities for Deaf partners, baristas wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” embroidered in sign language.
Colorful variations have also popped up over the years, like special orange aprons in the Netherlands to celebrate King’s Day. Others include pale blue aprons for the launch of Frappuccino Happy Hour and a rare purple apron for barista champions.