REVIEW: Starbucks Summer Skies Drink

There is a morning every year that I walk out of my house, and I can feel the very beginning of summer. A new warmness in the breeze takes me back to those mornings heading to school and knowing the year was nearing its end. Starbucks, hoping to capture that summer feeling, introduced a new line of Refreshers, anticipating them to be 2024’s drinks of the summer. One of the three new offerings, Summer Skies Drink, takes the Summer-Berry base (raspberry, blueberry and blackberry flavors), shakes it with coconut milk and ice, and serves it over raspberry flavored pearls.

Don’t let the name “raspberry flavored pearls” make you think they are anything new. They are nothing more than popping boba that has been on the menu at chains like Dunkin’ and Sonic. I was confused by the use of “pearls” instead of popping boba, as the term (at least to me) invokes the more traditional, chewy boba. Regardless, I was surprised to see Starbucks coming to this trend a little late.

Like most Refreshers, the drink has a nice pop of color. Reminiscent of a Bomb Pop, its visuals scream “summer.” Using the included boba straw, I took my first sip. As expected, I got a mouthful of the raspberry-flavored pearls, which overshadowed the base’s flavor. With the slightest bit of pressure, they popped, and the generic somewhat sweet raspberry taste filled my mouth.

Going back in, I made sure to try the base to get a better idea of its flavor. Without the pearls’ influence, it was a mildly sweet, berry delight. The coconut milk added a smooth creaminess and allowed the Summer-Berry base to shine. Trying the whole thing together (drink & pearls), I found the spherical additions almost unnecessary. They added the unique texture of popping boba, but I didn’t find they enhanced the drink’s taste. It was this nice, light, creamy beverage with a fake raspberry flavor at the end. Another thing of note, I was left with a large amount of pearls by the end. The size I got (grande) came with two scoops, which I felt made the drink-to-pearl ratio uneven.

Starbucks’ Summer Skies Drink is a refreshing summer option, but it doesn’t quite hit all the high notes. The real star is the Summer-Berry and coconut milk base; it offers a light, fruity, creamy sip that feels like summer. However, the boba pearls feel a bit like a trendy afterthought. They add texture, but their strong flavor clashes with the base. I might tinker with it (blended? or less pearls?) to see if it elevates the experience. For now, though, the Pink Drink will likely remain my go-to for a fruity, caffeinated summer pick-me-up.

Purchased Price: $6.45
Size: Grande
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 29 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 50 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Starbucks Summer-Berry Refreshers

Summer.

A time when the days are long and the nights are short. A time when you hope your deodorant’s claim of lasting 24 hours is accurate. A time when you’re very likely to sweat bucket if you hang outside for any decent length of time during the day. Okay, maybe not buckets, but you might perspire so much that you could fill a Tall-sized Starbucks cup with sweat. To replenish the liquid you’ll lose this summer, Starbucks has a shiny new Summer-Berry Refresher, available in cup sizes from Tall to Trenta, which you can reuse to find out how much you sweat during these upcoming hot months. I hope you don’t fill a Trenta-sized cup.

Starbucks says the drink is “a sweet summer blend of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry flavors, shaken with ice and poured over raspberry flavored pearls that deliver a delicate and deliciously sweet burst of summer fun.” There are also versions that come mixed with either lemonade or coconutmilk. I decided to hydrate myself with the regular one.

The beverage looks more Instagrammable than my photos make it out to be. According to Starbucks, this is its first blue-colored drink. Well, primarily blue because the many raspberry pearls create a purple-red pearl pillow for the Summer-Berry base to sit on. I love how the ice spheres and blue base combine to look like a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. I could stare at it until the clouds have faded, I mean, until the ice has melted.

Its smell and taste reminded me of an ice pop. Although the base has multiple berries, I thought the blueberry stood out more. But the drink got raspberry-heavy when the fruit-flavored liquid trapped in the pearls was released as they exploded between my teeth. That’s when this Refresher really tasted like a blue raspberry popsicle. Crushing the ice between my molars kind of made me feel like I was chewing on an ice pop and doing stuff my dentist would disapprove of.

I’ve had popping boba before, so the sensation of chomping down on these pearls is not new to me. But I’ve always found that making them explode in my mouth is soothing and that my teeth can experience what my feet feel when they step on bubble wrap.

Starbucks’ Summer-Berry Refresher is like summer in a cup with a blue sky color, pearls that pop like fireworks, and a flavor that’s like a summer frozen novelty. It’s a great way to beat the summer heat and make you feel refreshed.

Purchased Price: $6.75
Size: Venti (24 fl oz)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 75 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Starbucks Spicy Cream Cold Foam

The barista raised her eyebrow after I placed my order. “Have you….” she paused. “Have you tried the spicy stuff yet?”

I ordered my standard drink (three shots over ice) and added the new Spicy Cream Cold Foam from Starbucks. This order prompted the barista to ask me the question laced with unspoken caution. No doubt people have been trying the drinks and, I’m guessing, disliking them. “No, I’m just curious to try it,” I answered.

The “swicy” (spicy + sweet) trend started in late 2023, but the combination of sweet and spicy is not new. I’ve been enjoying swicy foods such as hot honey and Tajin-dusted fruits for a while. By having the sweet element, it cuts down on the burning aspects that come with most spicy flavors that aren’t an enjoyable sensation to everyone.

Getting the drink, I could see the chili blend (paprika, chili powder, ancho chili powder, and cayenne pepper) in the cold foam. Interestingly, I couldn’t smell it; it smelled like the standard cold foam. My curiosity got the best of me, and I tried the foam on its own. At first, the blend of sweet heat was enjoyable. The creamy sweetness of the cold foam and chili spices gave me that swicy flavor I enjoy. However, a few moments later, things took a bit of a turn.

After the initial taste, I felt an uncomfortable, dry burning in the back of my throat. Even without knowing the exact spice blend at the time, I immediately knew the culprit for my discomfort: cayenne pepper. It had to be cayenne, as the sensation was exactly the same as when I tried the Master Cleanse diet years ago, which involved mixing maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper into water.

Giving my drink a swirl, I took a sip to see if the espresso would help mellow the cayenne a bit. At the top of the sip, the addition of the espresso was wonderful. The normally somewhat bitter bean juice was smooth and had a bit of sweetness. The flavors were working so well, only to be ruined by the aftereffect of the cayenne’s dull burn in my throat.

I love seeing Starbucks taking swings with some of its newer drinks, but this wasn’t the home run I had hoped it would be. The flavor was outstanding, but the physical sensation from the cayenne was terribly uncomfortable. It wasn’t until I reached the last few sips that I tapped out. No amount of swirling could stop the settling of spice at the bottom of the drink. I imagine an iced latte might be better suited for the Spicy Cream Cold Foam, but I don’t think potentially being uncomfortable again is worth a second attempt.

Purchased Price: $4.90 (drink + cold foam)
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Cold foam nutrition facts are unavailable on Starbucks’ website.

REVIEW: Starbucks Canned Cold Brew Premium Coffee Drinks

Like a moth to a flame and a line of cars to a grand opening of a fast food chain opening in an area for the first time, whenever Starbucks offers its coffee in cans or bottles, I must flock to it to get my caffeine fix in a handy recyclable container. The newest additions are the Starbucks Canned Cold Brew Premium Coffee Drinks that come in three flavors: Vanilla Sweet Cream, Chocolate Cream, and Salted Caramel Cream. Unfortunately, I was only able to find the first two.

A Trenta-sized Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew is my go to drink at Starbucks, and this canned version tastes nothing like it. Instead, it’s similar to other canned vanilla coffee drinks that have a light coffee flavor and are heavy on the cream, sugar, and flavoring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because love those kinds of drinks and buy them regularly. But because this tastes similar to those, there’s nothing compelling for me to prefer it over them, especially because those drinks come in 12- or 16-ounce bottles or cans, while this one comes in an 11-ounce skinny can.

Chocolate Cream is my favorite between the two flavors I purchased, mainly because, when the drink is shaken or stirred lightly, it’s like I’m drinking chocolate milk. The Arabica coffee only comes through when the it’s been sitting for a while, giving it a pleasant mocha flavor, but give it a swirl, and it tastes like chocolate milk again. Very good.

But here’s the thing with both smooth java drinks, and some other bottled and canned Starbucks drinks: I have no idea how much caffeine these have. The amount is not printed anywhere on the can, unlike Starbucks Doubleshot and Tripleshot Energy Drinks. It feels like I’m getting some pumped into my bloodstream with every sip, but that could be a placebo effect, since my body equates coffee to caffeine. Not knowing that number is a deciding factor. If I’m getting 50 milligrams of caffeine, not even tasting like chocolate milk will convince me to buy the Chocolate Creme one over any mocha energy coffee with two or three times more.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 11 fl oz cans
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Vanilla Sweet Cream), 7 out of 10 (Chocolate Cream)
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) Vanilla Sweet Cream 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar (including 13 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein. Chocolate Cream – 130 calories, 3 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar (including 15 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Spicy Lemonade Refreshers

Starbucks has recently been easing us into Spring with the calming powers of lavender drinks. But just as you were about to doze off due to the floral scent or the mediocrity, the Siren is here to shake you and your taste buds awake with a line of Spicy Lemonade Refreshers. Available in Pineapple, Dragonfruit, or Strawberry, these drinks combine Refreshers bases with lemonade, ice, a three-pepper chili powder blend, and freeze-dried fruit pieces.

I wanted to try the Pineapple and Dragonfruit varieties, but because the Starbucks nearest me was out of dragonfruit, I went to the next closest location. After watching the barista climb a stepladder and root around in a cabinet for a while, I eventually received two almost identical, predominantly purple drinks. It was clear something was a little off, but the taste test revealed that they were different beverages despite the visual similarity.

The Spicy Pineapple features a pineapple-passionfruit base to which lemonade, chili powder, and fruit chunks are added. The fruit should have been pineapple, but mine came with dragonfruit instead. This didn’t fundamentally alter the flavor so much as the hue, with the overall taste being pineapple-forward. These drink more like juice than lemonade, probably because the Refreshers bases are made with white grape juice concentrate. The lemonade takes a backseat and the chili powder is immediately noticeable, with a tingle in the back of the throat that builds to an all over heat that’s pleasantly spicy without being cough-inducing. There’s a tropical vacation vibe, and the spicy-fruity marriage is refreshing and summery. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys a Tajin rim on a cocktail or a few slices of jalapeño in their lemonade, you’ll be happy with this icy blend of sweet and heat.

Spicy Dragonfruit starts with a mango-dragonfruit blend, and again, the juice base overshadows the lemonade, but that’s in no way a complaint because these are delicious. The mango and dragonfruit flavors play well together, and the chili blend (which features sugar, paprika, salt, ancho chili powder, cayenne, chili powder, and a few other things) complements them both. The freeze-dried fruit pieces are mostly too large to escape the drink’s lid, but if you remove it and eat them, they’re almost shockingly crunchy. They don’t taste bad, but it was a texture I wasn’t expecting, and it left me feeling like that classic TV gag where someone mistakes potpourri for a snack. I’m not sure they’re supposed to be this way, but that isn’t stopping me from eating them.

I assumed these would just be gimmicky and that spice isn’t something I need from Starbucks, but I’m happy to report that I was wrong. It’s a shame they’re only here for a limited time because they’d be excellent sipping for summer days. It’s worth noting that I got the Pineapple version again from a second location that was also out of pineapple pieces, so supplies here might be very limited – get ‘em while they’re hot!

Purchased Price: $5.75 each
Size: Grande
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Spicy Pineapple), 9 out of 10 (Spicy Dragonfruit)
Nutrition Facts: (Spicy Pineapple 200 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of total carbs, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 41 grams of total sugar, 1 gram of protein, and 55 milligrams of caffeine. Spicy Dragonfruit – 200 calories, 0.5 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of total carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 42 grams of total sugar, 1 gram of protein, and 50 milligrams of caffeine.