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Thursday, May 13, 2021
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Starbucks’ secrets: The inside scoop on the new seasonal drinks

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From an iced pistachio latte to a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappuccino, Staff Reporter Talia Bina samples some of Starbucks’ new spring drinks.

Staff Reporter

Starbucks is always rolling out new drinks to celebrate the start of a new season or holiday. As spring has sprung, so have these new drinks — as have the TikTok’s featuring them. While I usually opt for my regular iced caramel macchiato with almond milk, the new Starbucks menu (and of course, the influence of TikTok) pushed me out of my comfort zone to explore some of the new tasty treats offered. 

As a self-diagnosed lactose intolerant individual (as many are), I was thriving when I saw the new arrival of oat milk on the menu. Oat milk holds a creamier consistency than almond milk with a more milk-like taste that I really enjoy, so I was super excited to see how non-dairy Starbucks drinks would hold up against the original dairy counterparts. While I’m pretty sure that many Starbucks syrups and other products do contain dairy, my dairy sensitivity is not severe to the point that I cannot enjoy dairy syrups. However, if you have a dairy allergy, be sure to ask your barista if your drink has any dairy products in it. 

When I first saw the pistachio latte rolling into stores, I was intrigued. I am not unfamiliar with pistachios, and it’s commonly used in Persian culture; but I believe it needs to be used wisely. I love the nuttiness pistachios bring to desserts, but I was hesitant considering how the salty nut might combine with coffee. Ultimately, my first test drink was an iced pistachio latte. I opted for almond milk as a non-dairy alternative to whole milk thinking it would complement the nutty pistachio flavor. I was right. The drink was sweet and slightly nutty, and I could see tiny flecks of green at the bottom of my coffee cup where the syrup had settled. 

With my first sip, I knew this would be a favorite. However, when I proceeded to mix the remaining syrup at the bottom into my drink, the sweetness became slightly overpowering. I decided that next time I would get less pumps of the pistachio syrup (and I did; I’ve ordered this multiple times since and I hope it stays forever!) Overall, I would rate this drink a 10/10, equally as good as my usual iced caramel macchiato. 

As I rolled up to the drive thru for my next adventure, I thought I’d try to battle my social anxiety and do what everyone on TikTok does— I asked the barista to surprise me with any drink. I just asked that she please make it non-dairy and she kindly did. As I pulled up to the window, I was looking forward to being handed a special secret menu drink. 

Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

Unfortunately, I was mistaken. My barista kind-heartedly handed me the new Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso. I assumed it was just an easy choice since it was new on the menu and non-dairy, and I happily accepted my purchase as I was looking forward to trying it anyway. When I had been reading people’s comments on this drink, I found that people had mixed reviews. Mostly, people commented that the drink was tasty, but that it lacked a strong brown sugar flavor and that the coffee aspect was much stronger than expected. Many people also commented that their drink wasn’t filled up to the top as that’s how it was supposed to be made. I found that this was true, but the gap wasn’t significant, and the drink had a pretty layered look with the dark syrup on the bottom, the coffee in the middle and a light layer of foamy bubbles on the top. I gave the drink a quick stir to make sure I’d get the full flavor, and I was surprised. I have to say, I agreed with the comments people made. There was no distinct brown sugar flavor, and I was expecting a rich, deep molasses flavor which I didn’t get. There was a slight sweetness, but I can’t say it had a distinct taste. I also don’t love my coffee super strong, but it wasn’t unbearable. I was also very disappointed to find that my drink was missing the cinnamon powder on top. 

I would ask for an extra splash of oatmilk next time and would hope to get that cinnamon flavor to cut the bitterness of the coffee, but I still happily finished the drink in its entirety. Considering the faults this coffee presented, I would rate this one a 7/10. I definitely think, however, that with an extra splash of milk and some cinnamon, it could be perfection. 

Iced Guava Passionfruit Drink

As I began to recover from my caffeine surge, my next trip to Starbucks was a caffeine-free drink. I browsed the menu to find that unfortunately, most drinks have caffeine. Starbucks, please bring some more caffeine-free options! However, Starbucks had one drink that caught my attention: the Iced Guava Passionfruit Drink. On the app, the drink had a lovely light pink hue and the fruity description reminded me of one of my favorites, the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher (which contains caffeine). It seemed perfect for the day’s vibes as it was 65 degrees out, and the sun was shining, an indication that the weather was beginning to match the new additions to the menu. 

I did have some hesitation, as I saw the drink was made with coconut milk and pineapple ginger syrup. In my opinion, coconut and ginger are two flavors that seem to overpower every product they’re in. I was expecting a coconut ginger cocktail, so I opted for one less pump of the syrup, but as I was handed the super bright pink drink, my expectations brightened. With one sip, I felt my heart swoon. It was a sweet, fruity concoction that tasted slightly familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I was happy to find that the coconut was undetectable and that the syrup wasn’t too gingery. I did find that the drink was super sweet even though I had gotten one less pump of syrup. I hovered to the app to check the nutrition information and found that a grande sized drink had a whopping 33 grams of sugar. I would definitely get this drink again, but next time, I’d ask for light juice blend in addition to the one less pump of syrup. Writing about it now, I’m craving it again. Definitely worth the trip — an 8.5/10. 

Thin Mint Frappuccino

Next on the list was a personal favorite that I just had to share — a secret menu Thin Mint Frappuccino. If you’re a Thin Mint fanatic like me, this is the drink for you. I’ll never understand why Starbucks only advertises peppermint products during the winter when peppermint is so refreshing on a nice spring day. Fun fact: Starbucks offers peppermint syrup year-round, so you can get your peppermint mocha fix whenever you desire! For this drink, I ordered a Venti Mocha Cookie Crumble (don’t judge me; I had a free drink) with three pumps of peppermint syrup. When I went to switch out the whole milk for oat milk, I was heartbroken to find that my local store was out of oat milk. Since I’m sensitive to soy milk and figured almond milk would water it down, I decided to accept that I’d be spending the day in the bathroom and opted for nonfat milk. I also got whipped cream because, well, go big or go home. All I can say is, it was worth it. The peppermint flavor wasn’t overpowering and complemented the chocolate perfectly. The chocolate chip pieces in the frappuccino brought chocolate to every sip, and the coffee flavor wasn’t completely forgotten either. This drink will always be a favorite. 10/10. 

Iced Honey Oat Milk Latte

I wanted to end my Starbucks testing with a bang, so I scrolled through the app and through TikTok to see what last two drinks to try. Unfortunately, I tested positive during this time, so a friend was kind enough to drop off some drinks to try. I settled on the Honey Oat Milk Latte thinking that if I did fall ill, honey would be good for me, right? (I don’t know, I just needed an excuse). I opted for the drink to be decaf to avoid dehydration and three pumps of the honey blend. I wasn’t sure what the difference between the honey blend and the honey packets were, but I think the honey blend is mixed with other sugars and (unnatural) ingredients. 

Regardless, it had a light honey flavor that I was surprised to find so delicious. It complemented the coffee well without being too sweet. It seemed like the perfect drink for a warm day, and I’m looking forward to having one again when I escape quarantine. However, I think the coffee flavor was lost in the drink, and I was slightly disappointed. I’m not sure if the oat milk made me drink too milky, but I would definitely ask for an extra shot of espresso in the future. A solid 7/10. 

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappuccino

Last but not least, my amazing friend delivered a secret menu drink that I saw on TikTok— a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappuccino. I ordered a tall Strawberry Crème Frappuccino with Frappuccino chips, oatmilk and a mocha drizzle on top. All I have left to say is, wow. I can’t say I had super high hopes for this one. I was expecting an artificial, overpowering strawberry taste that separated from the chocolate. Oh, how was I wrong. The strawberry puree was natural tasting and not too sweet, blending with the chocolate to create, well, a chocolate covered strawberry. The frappuccino chips invited chocolate pieces into your straw with every sip, and the oat milk made it super creamy without threatening the flavor; I couldn’t even tell that it wasn’t real milk. If you try any drink from this article, it should be this. No doubt, a 10/10. 

Overall, I was delightfully surprised by my experience. Starbucks has made it so easy for people to order non-dairy drinks or find something to their liking. I love how customizable everything is and each barista was very kind and accommodating. I realized that Starbucks has a drink for every type of mood: the I-need-caffeine moods, the fruity sweet moods and the super indulgent comfort moods. Even after trying a bunch of drinks, there are still so many menu options that I haven’t had the chance to try, and it makes every trip to Starbucks new and exciting. I can happily say that there wasn’t a single drink I didn’t enjoy, and after this experience, I’ll definitely be more open to trying new drinks and finding more favorites. Shockingly, I think my usual Iced Caramel Macchiato might end up on the backburner.

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