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QUICK REVIEW: Starbucks Blueberry Acai Refreshers

Written by | March 25, 2014

Topics: 7 Rating, Energy Drink, Starbucks

Blueberry Acai Starbucks Refreshers

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 12 fl oz
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: My favorite of the canned Starbucks Refreshers flavors. Has a pleasant acai berry and mild blueberry flavor. Contains 25% juice (which is better than the 5% juice in Mountain Dew Kickstart). It did give me a good boost of energy, albeit short. Has 100% of my daily vitamin C, so, ARGHHH, no scurvy for this scallywag.
Cons: Has the slight bitterness from the coffee that all canned Starbucks Refreshers have. With its very light carbonation, it’s, perhaps, too easy to drink and it’ll be gone before you want it. Can doesn’t say how much caffeine it has (it does say it has 50 mg of panax ginseng).

Blueberry Acai Starbucks Refreshers Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 90 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 5 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 25% niacin, 25% pantothenic acid, 100% vitamin C, and 25% vitamin B12.

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REVIEW: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Limeade and Black Cherry)

Written by | February 25, 2014

Topics: 7 Rating, 8 Rating, Mountain Dew, Soda

Mountain Dew Kickstart (Black Cherry and Limeade)

In an increasingly health conscious market full of zero-calorie sweeteners and unpalatably low-fat Chobani yogurt, PepsiCo decided to throw a proverbial middle finger in the face of personal trainers and inclined-treadmill-users everywhere when they released the first two flavors of Mountain Dew Kickstart back in 2013.

For those of you who don’t know, Mountain Dew Kickstart’s first flavors, Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch, are literally soda for breakfast. Like something out of a cartoon-binge induced dream of a seven-year-old, these two caffeinated flavors promised to give your humdrum morning that “kick” it so desperately needs.

Yet, amid skeptics (myself included), this year Mountain Dew Kickstart was ready to expand its caffeinated scissor-kick not just to our boring and mundane mornings, but to our boring and mundane evenings as well. Now available in (the rather unimaginatively named) Limeade and Black Cherry, the energy that these nighttime themed Mountain Dew Kickstarts provide can help you complete the important junk in your life, like applying for a job or finally getting around to completing that custody paperwork for your daughter. I was intrigued.

Because seeing a Mountain Dew product marketed as a breakfast beverage is not something one easily forgets, I knew exactly the retailer that would be carrying its nighttime themed companions. Looks like I was taking a little field trip to my local Walmart.

Amid familiar blue aisles of ridiculously low-priced goods and boxes of $5 movies containing twelve copies of Shrek the Third and an 80s Val Kilmer action flick, I found both new flavors of Mountain Dew Kickstart displayed humbly, at room temperature, on a rack near the checkout. Much like the Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch varieties, the first thing I noticed is that both the Limeade and Black Cherry flavors look suspiciously similar to their energy drink competition. I could not help but think that the familiarly shaped tall 16-ounce cans, colored pull-tabs, and generic labeling were channeling the style of both Monster and Rockstar.

Yet, what these Mountain Dew Kickstarts lack in originality, they certainly make up for in taste, which is surprising considering the executives over at Mountain Dew HQ decided to go with the uninspiring ubiquitous choice of Limeade and Black Cherry. However, I have nothing against these two flavors and I was excited to see how Mountain Dew (now famous for making a variety of beverages that actually have nothing to do with the original Mountain Dew itself) handled each one.

Mountain Dew Kickstart (Black Cherry and Limeade) Closeup

I have always been skeptical of flavors labeled “limeade”. Deep down I really want to believe, really, it’s just that anything labeled “limeade” usually just tastes suspiciously similar to lemon-lime, or just plain lemon for that matter.  Yet, despite my general feelings towards the marketing maneuver of all things “limeade”, this Mountain Dew Kickstart incarnation is fantastic. If Mountain Dew can do nothing else, it’s create an exemplary citrus drink. The flavor itself tastes (unsurprisingly) similar to the original Mountain Dew, but totally in a good way. Compared to other energy drinks, Mountain Dew Kickstart Limeade is a refreshing deviation from the guarana fueled, syrupy norm. In fact, if you didn’t tell me this was an energy drink, I would be hard pressed to tell it was anything other than just a new flavor of Mountain Dew.

However, as surprisingly good the Limeade flavor was, I enjoyed the Black Cherry variety even more. I have to admit that yes, I am a bit biased. Of my specifically colored fruits, I’d have to say black cherry trumps blue raspberry any day (get at me Jolly Ranchers!). With this in mind, I was happy to find this Mountain Dew Kickstart version did my beloved black cherry justice. But seriously, this was one of the best black cherry flavors I have ever had. It’s sweet and pleasant, but, like its Limeade companion, not overwhelmingly sugary or “chemical”.

Even though both Limeade and Black Cherry Kickstart may not offer the most original first impression, their fantastic flavors are proof that Mountain Dew absolutely knows what it’s doing in the beverage game. Although, I wouldn’t mind if Mountain Dew tried to pave some completely new path in the world of carbonated beverages.

I kinda want Mountain Dew to get freaky.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – Limeade – 80 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein. Black Cherry – 80 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Limeade and Black Cherry)
Purchased Price: $1.49 each
Size: 16 fl oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Limeade)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Black Cherry)
Pros: Exemplary flavor. Barely tastes like an energy drink. Great flavor execution.
Cons: Lackluster packaging. Kinda boring flavor names. The fact that Walmart employees are incredibly underpaid.

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REVIEW: Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte

Written by | February 10, 2014

Topics: 3 Rating, Coffee, Starbucks

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte

I have personally ordered maybe four different things at a Starbucks in my lifetime. This is not because I never go to Starbucks, but because I find myself with a crippling stammer and irrational fear every time I approach the register.

My method was usually to ask a friend to order for me, and then order whatever they gave me for the next three years if it was good. I am consistently tempted to ask for a mocha-chocalata-yaya and see what comes out. Forget the “secret menu” guides all over the Internet. I need a manual for navigating the printed one.

The problem is, I can’t really bring myself to like black coffee. I love the smell. I love the energy. I love the idea of permanently staining my teeth in rebellion against my body at a young age. But every time I have a cup I cringe a little and leave most of it sitting there. And, being an ignorant novice coffee drinker, I don’t know how to make anything but black coffee. I’m not sophisticated enough to like the coffee I can make at home, but I’m too afraid to learn how to order anything I might actually like.

I dreamed that these Starbucks Via Lattes would fill this void. I could finally learn to drink a morning coffee like a real adult without having to embarrass myself in front of a barista. The idea of not having to put on pants to get said morning coffee was equally appealing.

I purchased an individual trial pack at Starbucks for a dollar, choosing to try the vanilla over the mocha. I was first shocked by the size of these. They are not your normal instant coffee packet, but probably four times larger.

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte Instructions

The instructions are pretty minimal, but include a little infographic that tells you what to do. It seemed pretty straight forward, and I do have a high school diploma, so I assumed I had it under control. I made a cup of hot water with a Keurig machine, dumped the packet in, and stirred. It was not until I finished making it that I realized I was not supposed to pour the powder into the boiling water. So maybe words would’ve been helpful.

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte Powder

I was then surprised by the color. There did not appear to be any coffee granules at all in this pouch. Instead, there was an endless stream of a powdery white substance. Although many do refer to coffee as their crack, so maybe this makes some sense.

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte Closeup

This drink was really sweet. And not in the good way of “hot chocolate sweet” or “vanilla milkshake sweet.” It was like a cup of hot, watery milk with six packets of sugar. I was even hoping some more coffee taste would come through, but it was nonexistent. Since the ingredients list both dairy powder and sugar before coffee, I probably should have expected this. But if even I am wishing for some stronger coffee flavor, you know you’ve taken it too far.

I could not finish this. It was intolerably sweet, and this is coming from the girl who will treat frosting as a cookie dip and add extra Oreos to cookies and cream ice cream. Maybe if iced and blended this could make a decent at home Frappuccino? But that seems like far too much work for something coming from an instant package.

This did not solve my coffee dilemmas. My only hope at this point is that Starbucks starts up a delivery service with a tracker like Domino’s so I can order my coffee online without human interaction and know when to put my pants on before it arrives. Until then, you will find me drinking one of my four safe things at Starbucks, dreaming of the day I can join the elite ranks of the people who know how to order drinks with names that take a full minute to say.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 packet – 130 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: 1 packet
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: At home convenience. Simple assembly. Generous serving. Not any more sugar than most Starbucks drinks. Confusing baristas with Moulin Rouge references. Good movie stunt double for cocaine. Potential for fancier at home drinks. No pants, still service.
Cons: Sickly sweet. Impossible to drink whole cup. Minimal coffee taste. All powdered milk and sugar. Not being able to read picture instructions as an adult. Lack of coffee aroma. Domino’s Pizza Tracker not expanding to other businesses.

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QUICK REVIEW: Starbucks Caramel Flan Frappuccino

Written by | January 27, 2014

Topics: 7 Rating, Fast Food, Starbucks

Starbucks Caramel Flan Frappuccino

Purchased Price: FREE (Starbucks Card offer)
Size: Tall (12 oz.)
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Wonderful buttery caramel flavor. A delicious way to make your body extra cold during these cold winter months. Caramel-infused whipped cream is tasty and I’d shoot some in my mouth if Starbucks sold it in a can. Creamy. 65 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine. Barista correctly spelled my name.
Cons: Caramel is overwhelming because the flan flavor isn’t noticeable. Coffee flavor is nonexistent. I think I may have gotten a cavity after drinking it. Some might consider it to be too sweet, but alas, such is the Frappuccino. Drinking it too fast gave me brain freeze.

Nutrition Facts: 12 ounces (whole milk) – 280 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 44 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 10% calcium.

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REVIEW: Starbucks Caramel Flan Latte

Written by | January 22, 2014

Topics: 5 Rating, Fast Food, Starbucks

Starbucks Caramel Flan Latte

Of all the jiggly desserts I’ve experienced, flan has to be my favorite. For those readers who have never had the pleasure of enjoying flan, it’s a bit like Jello’s fancier, wealthy cousin. While Jello’s at a frat party knockin’ back Jägerbombs, flan’s sipping on a glass of Dom Pérignon with the King of Latvia’s nephew.

Flan seems to have its origins in Ancient Rome, where it was often served as a savory dish. The Romans, after eating rodents for lunch and brushing their teeth with their own pee, would gather at the dinner table to enjoy a nice plate of eel flan.

Just recently, Starbucks thought up a new way to experience flan without the addition of eel — in latte form. The popular coffee chain’s new Caramel Flan Latte features espresso with steamed milk, caramel flan-flavored syrup, caramel-infused whipped cream, and a caramel flan drizzle. Will the combination of flavors prove a dud? Or will the result be flantastic?

The first thing I noticed upon receiving my Caramel Flan Latte was the sweet, caramel aroma of the whipped cream and caramel sauce drizzle. The topping adds noticeable caramel and vanilla tones to the flavor of the beverage. However, once all of the whipped cream disappears, the beverage loses much of its appeal.

The caramel flan syrup added to the coffee base seems smothered by the coffee’s actual flavor. Only a slight hint of caramel and vanilla are present toward the end of a sip, once the coffee flavor has faded off the tongue. The entire essence of flan seems to be absent from the beverage; the coffee lacks any trace of custardy, eggy flavor.

To be perfectly honest, the Caramel Flan Latte is quite tasty, but its flavor profile more closely resembles a run-of-the-mill sweetened latte than anything flan flavored. If I tasted this beverage blindly, it would be impossible for me to identify its flavor as anything remotely related to flan. Though pleasant, the slight caramel and vanilla aftertaste provides little incentive to purchase the beverage, as Starbucks already offers a Caramel Macchiato with a more defined and noticeable flavor.

Starbucks’ new Caramel Flan Latte was a letdown. Next time, I’ll be ordering a drink with a more discernible flavor. Until Starbucks chooses to add a pump of eel-flavored syrup to their Caramel Flan Latte, I’ll be skipping the flan-flavored beverages.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall (12 oz. with 2% milk and whipped cream) – 260 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 31 grams of sugars, and 9 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Caramel Flan Latte
Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: Tall (12 fl oz.)
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Light caramel and vanilla aftertaste. Tasty coffee beverage. The King of Latvia’s nephew.
Cons: Coffee flavor smothers caramel flan flavor. Far from flan-like. The idea of eel-flavored syrup.

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