Drink of the Week – The New-Fangled Frappucino

April 30 2010 - 1:04 AM

While I do love Starbuck's coffee, I'm probably not a great person to 'review' a frosty coffee beverage. I simply like coffee. I like espresso. I like Americanos. I like drip coffee, french press coffee, cappuccinos, cold press coffee… I even like coffee ice cream. I like coffee. I worked in a coffee shop after college and it was one of my favorite jobs. I love making coffee… roasting beans, grinding beans. Even recently I developed an affinity for Nespresso pod coffee.

So when Starbucks invites me to sample a Frappucino 'Any Way You Want It' I figure there must be some way I'd like it. While I was happy to see Starbucks trying to use stevia as a sugar substitute, I was not surprised by the bitter aftertaste that has always accompanied my stevia-based tastings. There are branded forms of Stevia sold by, who else, Cargil. I'm not sure which stevia product Starbucks is using.

I was also not totally surprised to see them using xanthan gum though I was surprised that they told us about it. They use a coffee base comprised of espresso and their columbian blend which, like the VIA instant coffee, is water soluble. I really do like VIA and was surprised that when I tried the coffee base on its own that it was extremely bitter. That bitterness unfortunately was not lost in any of the coffee-drinks I tried. The strawberry drink was not bitter at all. It was pretty refreshing as it was not overly sweet but it had a lovely sheen to it which reminded me of my xanthan-lobster bisque. There's nothing wrong with the gum. It's a very common stabilizer, it just has a congealing effect that is fairly distinct. Xanthan-based sweeteners instead of corn syrup based sweeteners is somewhat of a good move but you're swapping one processed ingredient for another processed ingredient.

That really is no surprise as the frappucino seems to be a wholly processed drink. Unless you're drinking a decaf, in which case you get real espresso shots pulled, you get a pump of coffee-base and a pump of sweetener and a pump of caramel (or whatever flavoring you want),  and a cup of ice and blend it all together and, voila, instant milky coffee slurpee.

The upside is that you can go in and ask for a frappucino with shots of real espresso, milk and chocolate syrup. It's basically a blended iced mocha.

Bottom line is that I am still a Starbuck's junkie. There's nothing wrong with the frap but I'm still just getting my coffee black with a couple ice cubes. That's Starbucks the way I want it.