REVIEW: Starbucks Chile Mocha

Starbucks Chile Mocha

Some like it HOT and I am one of those humans.

No, I’m not talking about the 1950’s movie starring Marilyn Monroe, but the Scoville scale. Just in case you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about: the Scoville scale measures the heat of a pepper from 0 units (bell peppers) to 16MM units (pure capsaicin). I can realistically only handle up to a habanero (350K units) so I’ve been on a mission to increase my capsaicin tolerance.

Along comes Starbucks’ latest drink innovation, the Chile Mocha. I drink Starbucks religiously (who else spent way too much money on Starbucks for Life) and I like heat. Advertised with “ancho and chile spices” and “for those mornings that need an extra kick,” I expected the Chile Mocha to dazzle my taste buds.

In true Goldilocks-fashion, I had to try all three: the Frappuccino, the hot mocha, and the iced mocha. Unfortunately, the only thing consistent about the three was that they all came with too much whipped cream.

I started with the Frappuccino. Nothing about the Frappuccino tasted like chile or even mocha for that matter. It was so sickeningly sweet that it tasted toffee-like; maybe the barista used the toffee nut syrup instead of Chile Mocha powder. So, heat was nonexistent. I even tried the Spiced Mocha topping on top which looked like straight cayenne/paprika but actually also had sugar crystals mixed in.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 2

The powder fondly reminded me of a less concentrated version of Lucas Mexican Candy. However, cayenne is only 50,000 Scoville and paprika is, if you’re lucky, maybe 100 Scoville units. Instead of ordering the Chile Mocha Frappuccino, I might as well have just ordered a plain ol’ coffee frap for $1 less and 90 less calories.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 3

I moved onto the iced mocha next. I was immediately a little off-put by the powder sitting at the bottom of the drink. I tried mixing it but the powder at the bottom was just out of straw reach. After my first couple of sips, I felt a very slight warming/heat sensation in the back of my throat. FINALLY!

However, it was short-lived as it quickly neutralized. While the iced mocha was a little more coffee-forward, it still erred on the too-sweet side. Disappointed, I proceeded to eat the whipped cream with tasty wannabe Lucas Mexican Candy power and left the rest of the drink.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 4

Lastly, the hot mocha. At this point, my high expectations were demolished. But, the fact that my first sip actually tasted like a mocha was a great start. Unlike the iced mocha, the heat actually built up. At first, I thought it was way too subtle but as I drank more, I concluded that this level of heat probably works for people not trying to burn off their taste buds (unlike me). If it were any spicier, it would likely be too spicy for some folks. I also really enjoyed the temperature contrast of the cold whipped cream with the hot mocha.

Net-net, stick with the hot mocha. I know it’s still 90 degrees in certain parts of the country, but fall is right around the corner! For my fellow capsaicin enthusiasts, I’m dropping a Ghost Pepper Mocha suggestion in Starbucks’ inbox.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall 12 oz (Hot Chile Mocha with whipped cream) – 270 Calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams total sugars, 10 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: Varies
Size: Tall
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chile Mocha)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Iced Chile Mocha)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Chile Mocha Frappuccino)
Pros: Fondly reminiscent of Lucas Mexican Candy Power. Hot Chile Mocha.
Cons: Too much whipped cream. Frappuccino and Iced Mocha are sugar bombs. Minimal heat.

REVIEW: Starbucks Caramel Waffle Cone Frappuccino

Starbucks Caramel Waffle Cone Frappuccino

Out of all of the different junk food options out there, I don’t think there’s a more difficult one to spell than Frappuccino. Seriously, if the Scripps National Spelling Bee folks wanted to make it hard for kids to win, Frappuccino is the word. Heck, even Starbucks baristas seem to have plenty of difficulty spelling it.

Needing a dictionary aside, the Frappuccino is an integral part of the Starbucks menu – so much so that they offer an annual happy hour in celebration of the various combinations of milk, coffee, flavorings, and “base.” Judging by my recent visit to Starbucks, the Frappuccino Happy Hour looks to be the most miserable place on Earth – high schoolers slurping syrupy drinks, whipped cream everywhere, and surly baristas getting a workout from pumping out so much “base.” Disney World this is not.

Starbucks tends to release a new Frappuccino flavor each year to kick off summer, and this year’s entry, the Caramel Waffle Cone Frappuccino, is a sugar-packed way to celebrate the solstice. Advertised as a “carnival delight, all grown up,” the blended drink is a mix of waffle cone-flavored syrup, dark caramel sauce, coffee, milk, and ice, which is then topped with whipped cream, waffle cone pieces, and more of the aforementioned caramel sauce. I guess this is what happens when an ice cream cone hits puberty.

I avoided happy hour at my local Starbucks and decided to order this Frappuccino for breakfast. Frappuccinos have a reputation amongst baristas for being horrible to prepare, so I ordered carefully and cordially. Aside from a little side-eye, my Frappuccino was good to go (except for the part where the barista spilled the waffle cone bits all over the counter while sighing heavily).

Starbucks Caramel Waffle Cone Frappuccino 2

Upon picking up my drink, I immediately noticed that my Frappuccino was a little naked – it was missing its topping of dark caramel sauce. Undeterred, I dug in, and was hit with an overwhelming blast of caramel. I welcomed the fact that the flavor was a little richer and deeper than the traditional Starbucks sauce, but it overpowered every single sip. In fact, it was hard to even taste the coffee over the cacaphony of caramel.

Other than the waffle cone bits perched on the whipped cream, the Frappuccino had no doughy notes to speak of. I’ll give Starbucks credit – the waffle cone bits stayed crunchy even after a few minutes on top of the drink – but they still lacked any flavor, and might have had more of a punch if they were blended in.

In the end, there’s nothing wrong with the Caramel Waffle Cone Frappuccino, but paying a premium for what’s essentially a caramel Frappuccino only makes sense if your name is Alanis Morissette.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 fluid ounces – 300 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 44 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.25
Size: 12 fl oz
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Barista upper arm workouts. Caramel. Starbucks for breakfast.
Cons: Sugared up high schoolers. No waffle cone flavor. Sauce M.I.A.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink

NOTE: This review was posted in 2015 when it was a Costco exclusive. In 2016, it’s no longer exclusive to Costco and is available in individual bottles.

If you want to hoard Starbucks Pumpkin Spice drinks so you can enjoy them year round, you either have to freeze Pumpkin Spice Lattes and then later warm them up in the microwave or hit the black market for expired Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup pumps. But this year there’s a third way and it’s available at Costco.

The Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink may not be handmade by a Starbucks Barista who wrote PSL on the side of the cup, but because it’s Costco, it’s available in bulk. It’s 12 bottles to be exact. So if you buy a pallet of them, you’ll have enough to last you until next pumpkin spice latte season.

Unlike a pumpkin spice latte you can purchase at a Starbucks location, this version has no pumpkin in it. But it does have an ingredient list short enough that I could type it here to slightly boost the word count of this review: Brewed Starbucks Coffee, Reduced-Fat Milk, Sugar, Skim Milk, Maltodextrin, Cream, Natural Flavors, and Pectin. Mmm…pectin.

At first, I thought the ginger flavor stood out a bit too much for my tastes. I think the coffee makes the spice stand out more. But, since I purchased 12 bottles of the stuff, I’ve had to drink a lot of it. And the more I drink it the more I like it. Perhaps I’m getting Pumpkin Spiceholm Syndrome.

There’s also a little nutmeg, a bit of cinnamon, and a whole lot of sugar in each sip, which makes the beverage really sweet. There’s also a lot of milk too, but it’s not whole milk so it has a thin texture. While I could see it being too sweet for some people, me and my future cavities are fine with it.

The bottle suggests to serve it chilled or over ice, but since I’m a rebel (and have 12 bottles of the stuff), I did some experimenting and warmed up a mug of it in the microwave for 30 seconds. It was wonderful and it reminded me of a pumpkin spice latte. Actually, I think I might prefer it heated over chilled.

A question some of you might be asking is if it’s an adequate replacement for when the Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino is erased from the boards from Starbucks locations for the year. No, of course not. These bottled Frappuccinos are no match flavor-wise for those handmade, wonderful, blended, sweet, and brain freeze-inducing beverages that have a nutritional bio similar to many fast food burgers. But if you’re jonesing for a pumpkin spice coffee drink in February, this’ll do.

(Nutrition Facts – 210 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 32 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, and 25% calcium.)

Item: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink
Purchased Price: ???
Size: 12 pack/9.5 oz bottles
Purchased at: Costco
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes good chilled or warmed up. Hoardable. Better nutritional bio than a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino you can get at Starbucks locations.
Cons: Ginger flavor might be a bit strong for some. Might be too sweet for some. Available in 12 packs, so if you don’t like it, you’ve got 11 more bottles to go through. Not as delicious as a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino you can get at Starbucks locations.

REVIEW: Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

As dawn breaks over the picturesque landscape, a farmer, with cup in hand, approaches the docile, grazing Teddy Graham that he has been raising since it was a wee cub. The Graham eyes him indifferently as he fills his cup with milk from the giant, bear-shaped cracker. He pats it on the back lovingly and carries the cup towards a counter in the distance.

“One Toasted Graham Latte for Dan?”

That’s is how I like to imagine the folks at Starbucks make their new Toasted Graham Latte, and if I hadn’t seen them mixing it together with my own eyes, I would have believed it, too.

This latest concoction from the ‘Bucks blends graham, steamed milk, cream, and espresso with a topping of cinnamon graham crumbles. It’s available in both hot and iced forms, but I chose the former, since the oxymoronic idea of having a drink be “iced and toasted” makes my brain freeze and fry.

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte 2

Prying away the lid of my cup, I marvel at the InstaGraham worthy cinnamon and graham cracker dust that looks like it was gently scattered by some hypocritical, tooth-rotting Tooth Fairy.

After sipping this top layer, I suddenly realize why the Toasted Graham Latte was released so close to Halloween time: it’s just like that infamously NSFW hot tub face-melting scene from Halloween 2, but with Michael Meyers murdering a Cinnamon Teddy Graham in a steamed milk Jacuzzi instead.

The faint spice of cinnamon and the earthier, honey graham sweetness of the crispy crumbles pleasantly balance the hyper sugary vanilla onslaught of the whipped cream.

But once the crumbs are all slurped up, things get a little…crummier. Without the complexity of the graham pieces to counteract the cream, the middle third of my TGL simply became an uncomfortable, cloying mess of melted cream and milk.

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte 3

After begrudgingly sucking this part down, I realized there was hope in the final third of the drink. Like a caffeinated Atlantis, all the espresso and graham syrup flavor had sunk down into the bottom. After many milliliters of hardship, my submarine tongue was happy to discover it.

When making my drink, the Starbucks barista excitedly exclaimed how it “smelled just like a s’more!” I half expected her to verbally add a *heart eyes emoji* to the end of her sentence.

But now I see that she was right. The bitter darkness of the espresso imparts woodsy notes on the sticky, leftover cream, making it quite like a toasted marshmallow.

This, along with the artificial and rich graham syrup, left me with a tasty, liquid s’more facsimile, albeit one where someone swapped the Hershey’s chocolate with coffee beans (I don’t care what kind of pranks they pulled in the ‘20s, Grandpa: it’s not funny!)

So like the Earth, a well made taco salad, and Shrek, the new Toasted Graham Latte from Starbucks has layers. From the blended cinnamon and sugar top, to the disturbing primordial soup in the middle, all the way to the liquefied campfire classic on the bottom, your enjoyment of this drink will likely hinge on how deep into it you’re willing to go.

Since exactly two-thirds of the latte is good, I should technically give it an infinitely repeating 6.66 out of 10. But since I’m an Internet food reviewer and not a mathematician, I guess I’ll have to round up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a box of Teddy Grahams that need a good melting. *bear emoji* *fire emoji* *skull emoji*

(Nutrition Facts – 12 oz with 2% milk – 230 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 31 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte
Purchased Price: $4.51
Size: 12 oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Teddy Graham giblets on top. Caffeinated s’more cocktail on bottom. Imaginary snack cookie dairy farms. Filing a patent for “Milk Jacuzzis.”
Cons: Overly sweet nastiness in the middle. Speaking in emojis. Trying to milk a real bear. Not being able to give Halloween snacks a 666/10.

REVIEW: Starbucks Cotton Candy Crème Frappuccino

Starbucks Cotton Candy Cre?me Frappuccino

Do you love food hacks? Do you hate baristas giving you annoyed and/or confused looks? Well, I have got big news for you! Starbucks has released six “new” flavors of its trademarked frozen treat straight from the super secret menu! From June 16th to the 30th, they are asking customers to vote for their favorite – Are you ready for the Frappuccino Flav-Off?!

The new offerings are in celebration of the Frappuccino’s 20th anniversary. Wow, 20 years! To think, in just one year’s time our little Frap will be legally able to mix itself with whiskey! Where does the time go?

At first I thought the ad said Starbucks was turning 20, and it blew my mind for a good half hour. According to Google, there is a Starbucks every 17 square feet on planet Earth. Antarctica has 46 of ‘em. There’s a Starbucks inside of the White House. Malia works there…

But we’re not here to discuss our supreme overlords at the Starbucks Corporation, or my inability to read, we’re here to review just one of the many delicious, refreshing, energizing, expensive Starbucks menu items.

Of all the new choices, the flavor that caught my eye most was Cotton Candy. Besides Lemon Bar, I felt like I could already imagine what the other flavors tasted like – Cinnamon Roll, Caramel Cocoa Cluster, Cupcake, and Red Velvet. Those are more Starbucks’ speed. I had to go with the odd ball of the bunch.

As you can see it’s probably the brightest and most flamboyant drink Starbucks currently offers. If I were them I would market it with the old saying “Pink is the new black.” Is pink still the new black or did orange steal pink’s thunder? To Google I go! … Google told me to go outside.

My first sip definitely put me in mind of classic cotton candy flavor. It reminded me of the cotton candy popsicles I used to buy from the ice cream man as a kid, sans the candy cigarette side dish. Unfortunately, as I sipped on, the cotton candy flavor faded quickly.

According to menu hackers and Starbucks alike, the flavor derives from mixing raspberry and vanilla bean syrup (I watched my barista mix those with half a cup of milk and tons of ice.) While I did definitely taste raspberry, as the ice melted and diluted the flavor, it almost tasted like melted strawberry – not raspberry – ice cream. I would say it was like a weak strawberry shake. It got worse as I went along. I’d say drink it fast, but we all know how that ends.

I did get a cotton candy-ish scent, but the stubborn whipped cream refused to really let it blast through. Actually, on that topic, as with most Frappuccinos, I found myself enjoying the whipped cream as much as the drink itself. It has always been the perfect complement to the frozen mix, and it blended well in this instance. If given the choice, always say yes to whipped cream.

Starbucks Cotton Candy Cre?me Frappuccino 2

The consistency was more Slurpee or Slush Puppy than the usual Frap… but that could be thanks to the glacier my barista added to the blender. It wasn’t as thick as the last Frap I had, and despite ordering the smallest size it still went down pretty heavy – which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I wasn’t really anticipating a meal replacement, but I got one anyway. If you opt for a Grande, Venti, or Trenta, you may not have to eat again.

Just in case you were wondering, I felt I should inform you this Frap has no hint whatsoever of Starbucks’s famous elixir. There is no coffee mixed in. You’re not gonna get your caffeine fix, although the sugar overload will probably make up for it.

So all in all, this is a one-time try. I mentioned earlier that the pink caught my eye and I probably knew how the others tasted, but maybe there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. Still, melted strawberry ice cream with a hint of raspberry and vanilla is a pretty good taste profile, and if you’re looking for a change of pace, I guess it can’t hurt to buy it once.

I’m going to be very curious to see how this fares in the Frappuccino Flav-Off. Something tells me it’s going to be a contender, but ultimately lose out.

Back to the secret menu with you, cotton candy.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 fluid ounces – 280 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 42 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 0 milligrams of caffeine.)

Item: Starbucks Cotton Candy Crème Frappuccino
Purchased Price: $3.95
Size: 12 oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cotton Candy flavor (albeit brief). Ice Cream Man memories. Whipped cream. Filling. Vibrant color.
Cons: It’s “Vin” not “Ben.” Ice overload. Maybe too filling. Menu hack confusion. Unemployed Sasha. Cigarettes marketed to kids. “_____ is the new black.”

REVIEW: Starbucks S’mores Frappuccino (Bottled)

Starbucks S'mores Frappuccino Chilled Coffee Drink

Grammar check: Is the opposite of “s’more,” “s’mless” or “s’mfewer”? I know it’s a s’mall detail but I want to seem s’mart while I s’mear this product.

The Starbucks S’mores bottled Frappuccino sucks. S’more? How about s’mfewer? (Boom. Got ‘em. High fives all around.)

It’s not totally Starbucks’ fault, though. Let’s deconstruct the drink around the campfire. Theoretically, it’s chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker flavors in a Frappuccino. The problem begins with the concept of a liquid marshmallow. Take away the context of a fluffy, pillowy, chubby-bunny confection and you’re left with a sickeningly sweet amount of sugar. That’s the overriding flavor here, and it really dominates the entire campfire to the point of grimaces.

Creeping below is a s’mall s’mattering of cinnamon notes, presumably to cover the graham cracker part. It sort of rides along and doesn’t ruin things but also doesn’t help much, like a Muttley to the marshmallow’s Dick Dastardly.

Curiously absent is a strong chocolate element. I found this strange, because Starbucks has previously given us a halfway decent bottled mocha, although a few sips here and there I detected some bitter chocolate flavoring, quickly smoothed over by a wave of dairy. Must’ve s’muggled it in somehow.

Starbucks S'mores Frappuccino Chilled Coffee Drink 3

The balance is off. The sweetness of the entire thing is cloying and also has some sort of artificial quality that makes the entire drink taste a little bit like milk that has gone bad or something. I don’t know where the coffee flavor is. Yes, they botched the marshmallow part, but the lack of a woody, dry graham cracker taste is also disappointing. No s’miles for this s’melly coffee s’moothie.

There’s an in-store version of the S’mores Frappuccino now and I’m sure it’s better. It’s gotta be better. Please be better.

Here we are, at the end. Dude is strumming Kumbaya on the acoustic, the s’moke is billowing and I’m about to tell us a scary story. The story is about how one time I had to drink a sweet ass s’more. The scariest part is that it cost me almost three bucks. Oh, forget it. I can’t properly picture this drink at a campground… I can, however, picture throwing it into a fire. Sorry, me being s’mug.

(Nutrition Facts – 290 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 46 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks S’mores Frappuccino (Bottled)
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 13.7 oz bottle
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Helpful reminder to check out the real version at a real life Starbucks. So bad you want to give it a second chance.
Cons: Too sweet. Sweetness kills the entire thing, throws it out of whack. Gross tasting.