Chestnut Praline Latte (Starbucks)

Nov 08

The winter holiday season is back, and that means Starbucks’s red cups and holiday drinks have returned. This year, along with the classic Gingerbread Latte and Eggnog Latte, plus new yearly staple Caramel Brulée Latte, comes a new holiday drink: the Chestnut Praline Latte.

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

I’m a sucker for nutty pralines, so I was pretty excited to try this drink. And I can say right away — I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a sweet drink, like all their holiday specials, and the taste is definitely nutty and praliney. It reminds me of the Toffee Nut Latte, another favorite of mine. Or as my wife said when she tried it, “it tastes like a cookie.” I’m gonna have a tough choice every time I go into Starbucks this season, choosing between the Chestnut Praline and the Gingerbread for my latte fix.

This drink is made with the usual latte fixings (espresso and steamed milk) plus chestnut flavoring syrup, whipped cream (if you want it), and “spiced praline crumbs”. Like all lattes, you can get it iced, decaf, and with your choice of milk. You can probably also get it in Frappuccino form, if you’re in the mood. Unfortunately it’s quite sugary, so diabetics, carb-avoiders, and calorie counters may be out of luck.

All in all, this new winter offering is a pretty dang tasty drink. If you like the Toffee Nut or Gingerbread lattes, you’ll probably dig the Chestnut Praline too.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Chestnut Praline Latte
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: hot or iced or Frappuccino, decaf or regular, your choice of milk
  • Verdict: A sweet and flavorful addition to the holiday drink lineup
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Pumpkin Spice News

Aug 22

As you may have read on the internet — especially if you’re as coffee-obsessed as I am — the Pumpkin Spice Latte is coming back early this year. Here’s the dates: Official launch is September 2nd. However, through a series of “challenges” on social media, people can “unlock” the PSL at their local Starbucks as early as August 25.

The PSL is traditionally a fall drink, which has some people crying foul at the early release. After all, it’s still August and already we have Halloween candy going on sale, and even some Christmas merch appearing in stores. The tendency in retail is to draw out lucrative seasonal sales as long as possible in the hopes of drawing in more money.

On the flip side, however, drinks that evoke a certain season might reasonably be marketed during a time when people are preparing for that season. Like the first turning of the leaves (if you live in a place where leaves turn, which I don’t), the PSL could be considered as much a sign that fall is coming, as a sign that fall is actually hear. I think that’s the feeling that Starbucks is trying to get in on — a seasonal drink as a sign that the season is coming soon.

Last year, Starbucks realized the social media potential of this drink and pushed it hard on their Twitter account. This year they’re going even further, with a Twitter account specifically for the drink itself (@theRealPSL). The idea is that you follow this Twitter account, complete certain challenges by replying to it — today’s challenge was to find an ingredient on the Starbucks Instagram account — and eventually learn a “passcode” that you give at your local Starbucks to “unlock” the drink, allowing them to start selling it early.

Why go through all this just to sell a drink? Well, “social media engagement” is a big buzzword right now and Starbucks has jumped aboard that train with both feet. It can be an effective and inexpensive way to build buzz about a product, as well as getting immediate feedback on how well the campaign is going. And it’s working: mainstream media outlets are carrying the story. The return of a seasonal drink at a coffee restaurant is now “news”. You can buy billboards and TV ads, but here with a few minutes of typing every day they’ve gotten a crazy amount of publicity.

Of course, it’s a little hypocritical for me to scrutinize their methods. After all, here I am, writing about both the drink and the social media campaign. Just like I wrote with excitement about the coming of the Fizzio sodas and the new shaken teas (all five of those reviews are still among the highest-viewed pages on this site). So if it’s a problem, I’m part of the problem. If it’s a trend, I’m part of the trend. In my defense, I try to be as informational as I can.

Will I be trying to get my Starbucks to sell the Pumpkin Spice Latte early? Probably, I love those things.

For last year’s review of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, click here.
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Review: Blackberry Mojito (Starbucks)

Jun 20

This is the second of the two shaken tea drinks coming up at Starbucks this year. And if you’re anything like me, or the baristas I got the drink from, you’re looking at the name and thinking “Mojito? Is this alcoholic or something?” No, it’s not alcoholic. Nobody seems to know why it’s named like that. I learned ages ago when I was a barista never to try to figure out the logic in the Starbucks marketing department. As a shaken iced tea, it can only be ordered “on the rocks”, in sizes from 12 ounce Tall to 30 ounce Trenta.

A tall Blackberry Mojito.

A tall Blackberry Mojito.

Like the Peach Green Tea Lemonade, this drink surprised me. Knowing Starbucks’s tendency toward sweet drinks, I expected the Blackberry Mojito to be similar to the Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher or the Passion Tea Lemonade.

But this drink isn’t actually very sweet — instead, it’s basically an iced tea with an understated hint of berry in it. It’s much more tea than berry. You could probably order it with some Classic syrup if you wanted a sweeter iced tea experience, but I think it’s best without it, so you can enjoy the uncharacteristically downplayed flavors.

I’m usually not a fan of iced tea overall, but if you are, and you want a drink that’s more “tea with a hint of flavor” rather than Starbucks’s usual “flavorings with a hint of tea”, give this drink a shot.

Edit: Now that Starbucks has info on this drink up on their website, I see that it can be ordered with lemonade. That would make it somewhat sweeter. It also mentions that the tea used is a blackberry green tea from Teavana, so I’ve corrected a sentence that referred to it as a black tea. Also worth noting is the tea in question is apparently called “Blackberry Mojito Green”, hence the name of the drink.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Blackberry Mojito shaken iced tea
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: Just the size
  • Verdict: A surprisingly understated berry flavor for iced tea lovers.
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Review: Peach Green Tea Lemonade (Starbucks)

Jun 20

I’ve written a few posts speculating about the upcoming carbonated offerings at Starbucks, but there’s two other drinks coming up on the summer menu that don’t involve the mysterious carbonation machine — both shaken teas springing from the recent Teavana acquisition.

A tall Peach Green Tea Lemonade. The blur is optional.

A tall Peach Green Tea Lemonade. The blur is optional.

This review covers the Peach Green Tea Lemonade. It’s a shaken iced tea with lemonade added, like the Passion Tea Lemonade (one of my favorite drinks on the rare occasions that I want something cold). It can only be ordered iced, but can be ordered in any size from Tall up through the 30-ounce Trenta.

I’ll be honest, peach is not one of my favorite flavors, especially fake peach. So I was expecting to be kind of “meh” on this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the peach flavor is not overwhelming, and doesn’t hit you over the head with fakeness. Instead, it blends quite nicely with the green tea. The lemonade is also not overwhelming, just adding an overall citrus-ness to the drink. Unlike a lot of sweetened Starbucks drinks, you can actually taste the tea.

Overall it’s a nice balance of fruity, citrusy flavors and crisp green tea. I recommend it if you want a nice cool drink that’s not as sugary as a Frappuccino.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Peach Green Tea Lemonade shaken iced tea
  • Where: Starbucks
  • Options: Just the size
  • Verdict: A sweet, fruity, citrusy drink that manages not to completely bury the green tea.
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Quick update on the Strange Starbucks Afoots

Jun 12

Last Friday I posted that my local Starbucks had acquired a mysterious machine that the barista told me was a carbonation machine. Since then, a couple people have passed along more information about what the plans are for these machines.

According to @markinstlouis, his local Starbucks isn’t waiting for the 6/24 release date, but is using the machine to carbonate Refreshers. Makes me want a fizzy Valencia Orange Refresher already.

My brother, also an ex-barista, asked the baristas at his local Starbucks and learned that the carbonated drinks being introduced this week will be named “Fizzio” (not gonna lie, I’ve never been a big fan of the names the marketing department comes up with) and one available option will be root beer.

Carbonated Refreshers? Non-bottled root beer at Starbucks? It’s gonna be an interesting summer …

Update: Talked to another barista, and learned that they’ll be offering not just root beer, but ginger ale and lemonade soda too.

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