Love it or hate it, Starbucks is a near-ubiquitous feature on the coffee shop landscape. In many cities, you can’t go more than a few blocks without stumbling across a green sign bearing the now-iconic Starbucks mermaid logo.
Like any major company specializing in food and drink, Starbucks’ menu is constantly metamorphosing. Sure, there are some stalwarts that are always there, like the lattes and the mochas. Depending on when and where you next find yourself there, however, you may also encounter more unusual, fleeting Starbucks menu options. The coffee shop staple has long tested new drinks at different locations over many years.
Some, like the much-discussed Pumpkin Spice Latte, have become wild successes that reappear every season. Yet, for every PSL, there seems to be a series of odd ducks that never make it past their initial test. Don’t take this as condemnation of an experimental drink’s flavor, however. Starbucks has to look out for its bottom line, of course, and in so doing, they may have quashed some truly interesting and tasty drinks. Until Starbucks decides to bring back some of these discontinued drinks, we can’t know for sure.
Strawberry Shortcake Frappuccino
We might as well make it clear that few, if any, of the drinks featured here could be considered health food. Frappuccinos, for instance, are basically giant sugar bombs with a bit of flavor and whipped cream added. Of course, ordering one on occasion is fine for many people. Yet, even if you make it a rare treat, you may want to mix it up every once in a while. Standby flavors like chocolate and caramel are only going to take you so far once you’ve established a real Starbucks habit.
That’s why the Strawberry Shortcake Frappuccino is genuinely missed. Sure, it was sweet. Yes, it was aggressively pink. But it was also a nice bridge between summer and fall, introduced as it was by Starbucks in late August 2015. You could sip on the semi-frozen mixture of fresh strawberry juice, hazelnut syrup, and vanilla bean and believe that maybe summer could hold on for just another week or two. Starbucks could do well to bring this icy drink back, even if only for a few weeks.
Throughout its history, Starbucks has tried out some pretty strange stuff. Perhaps the oddest of all was a fizzy coffee concoction that debuted in the 1990s known as the "Mazagran."
According to Business Insider, the Mazagran was a co-production with PepsiCo that produced a gently carbonated, coffee-flavored drink marketed as a "sparkling coffee." Customers gave it a try in 1994 but offered up a pretty lukewarm reception to the fizzy newcomer. As Howard Schultz remembered in his book (via Google Books), the bottled Frappuccino was then introduced in 1995, and its popularity quickly eclipsed the odd duck of the Mazagran, exiling it to obscure legend.
Given that the Mazagran was only tested for a short time in Southern California on tap (via Los Angeles Times), and then briefly nationwide in the bottled version, it’s possible that it didn’t get a fair shake. At any rate, the idea of a coffee-flavored soda, or even a carbonated iced coffee, is intriguing. Tasters over at Starbucks Melody got their hands on 15-year-old bottles and tried the now rather vintage Mazagran. They reported that it was actually pretty good, at least if the drink was served cold.
Though it’s only been a few years since the Unicorn Frappuccino made waves amongst Starbucks fans, the luridly-colored drink remains divisive. Some can’t stand the thought of taking a sip from its intensely sweet, neon hued depths. Others at least have the honesty to admit that there’s something about this drink that makes them wish it would come back, even if only for a short time. Maybe it’s the magic of unicorns, after all.
According to Starbucks, the Unicorn Frappuccino actually was briefly re-released in 2017 for a scant five days. It included pink powder, the Frappuccino base with a mango syrup, and an intensely blue sour syrup drizzle. The tooth ache-inducing affair was topped off with vanilla whipped cream and more pink and blue powder. Baristas would hand over a purple drink that, with a few stirs, would turn pink almost as if by magic.
Critics have argued that this is all a cheap gimmick, but don’t we deserve a little silly joy every once in a while? Can’t we unselfconsciously clap our hands like children as our sugar drink changes color? At least, given how popular the Unicorn Frappuccino was during its time in the spotlight, there’s a chance we might see this drink sometime again.
Tazo Tea Infusions
Marketed by Starbucks as a way to take a quick, quiet break during a busy workday, Tazo Tea Infusions were first released in late 2008. Essentially, the barista would steam up some black chai tea with fruit juice, creating a caffeinated, dairy free beverage. There were two varieties available: a Berry Chai Infusion with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, and an Apple Chai Infusion with "sweet spices."
The Tazo Tea Infusions have since faded away, perhaps because people confused them with the Starbucks milky tea lattes that debuted at the same time. Some of those offerings, like the London Fog Tea Latte, made with lavender and vanilla, are still available today. Why not the tea infusions? They sound perfectly nice, especially if you’re hoping for a break from the more intensely sweet or dairy-heavy drinks on the menu. Maybe that was the issue, as quite a few Starbucks patrons are more than happy to down sugary stuff like Frappuccinos and lattes.
It could be that the Unicorn Frappuccino debuted by Starbucks was never going to be your thing. Perhaps it was too twee, so full of sugar and food coloring that you couldn’t stand it. For some, though, the call of the themed Frappuccino was still all too enticing.
Enter the Zombie Frappuccino. Launched by Starbucks in 2017, it was actually the latest in a line of spooky Halloween-themed sugar drinks to come out of the coffee house. The Zombie was preceded by the Franken Frappuccino in 2014, which was followed by the Frappula Frappuccino for the next two years. After the zombie had its day, Starbucks released a Witch’s Brew Frappuccino made with an orange crème base.
The Zombie Frappuccino had a green tart apple body, topped with pink whipped cream "brains," and covered in a red mocha drizzle. Yes, the drink was clearly a gimmick, as were all its Halloween predecessors, but it was still fun. Maybe it’s missed because, like all the spooky season drinks, this one was only available for a few days. Surely, next time, Starbucks can give us the whole ghoulish Frappuccino team for a couple of weeks at least.
Back in 2016, a Starbucks press release promised patrons the opportunity to truly mix up their fall drink experience with the Chile Mocha. Too bad it was going up against the ultimate heavyweight of caffeinated fall drinks: the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Honestly, nothing that faces off with the PSL is going to come out on top, no matter how good it is. There will always be a ravenous horde of coffee drinkers clamoring for their gently spiced drinks that recall pumpkin pies and go well with aesthetic Instagram shots of plaid shirts and big scarves.
They’re missing out. According to Bustle, the Chile Mocha boasted good chocolate flavor, but what really made the drink stand out was its spicy topping, which included a dusting of cinnamon, ancho chili, paprika, cayenne, sea salt, and sugar. If only this drink would return, just so we could boast about being ever-so-slightly more daring than the PSL crowd.
Frappuccino Juice Blends
Starbucks has been around long enough as a company to know where its money comes from. Sure, their plain coffee is pretty decent, but look around the store next time you’re there, especially if it happens to be summer. Count the number of Frappuccinos you see in peoples’ hands. You’ll understand.
Therefore, it’s no surprise, really, that Starbucks endlessly revisits their ultra-sweet, frosty cold cash cow. Even without seasonal variations, there is a veritable galaxy of Frappuccinos on the menu. There are caramel Frappuccinos, mocha ones, Frapps that change color, ones that come with chocolate bits sprinkled all over, and more. Frankly, that’s only the tip of the caffeinated iceberg.
All that dairy starts to feel pretty heavy, though. That’s why it would be lovely if Starbucks brought back their blended juice Frappuccinos. Those debuted way back in 2006, according to BusinessWire, consisting of Tazo green tea and a Frappuccino juice blend. The drink came in variations of pomegranate and tangerine, two perfect flavors for a lighter summer treat.
Cherries Jubilee Mocha
At first blush, the idea of combining fruit and coffee seems pretty solid. After all, coffee beans themselves are part of a fruit called a "cherry," and different varieties of coffee beans have fruity finishes. So, it makes sense to pair up actual fruit flavors like cherry with coffee classics like Starbucks’ mocha, right?
Consumers didn’t seem to agree back in 2013, as detailed by Today. That’s when the Cherries Jubilee latte and mocha popped up in a few test cities, according to Starbucks Melody. Essentially, it was a mocha blended with cherry syrup, topped with a bit of cocoa powder and a cherry drizzle.
What was the problem? It could be that the cherry syrup needed a pretty delicate touch. A heavy-handed barista could have easily made the whole thing taste like cough syrup. Still, those flavors of chocolate, coffee, and cherry sound intriguing enough for at least one more try.
There’s always been plenty of talk about the calorie value of Starbucks drinks. It’s true that a dedicated Frappuccino habit isn’t really helping anyone, health-wise. But, believe it or not, even the sweetest, heaviest drinks currently on the Starbucks menu can’t hold a candle to the discontinued forbidden fruit known as the Chantico.
According to CNN, the Chantico, so named after an Aztec deity of hearth and home, debuted in 2005. Starbucks billed it as a "drinkable dessert." A six-ounce cup was made with cocoa butter and whole milk, producing something like a liquid chocolate truffle. Alas, it also packed in 390 calories and a dizzying 20 grams of fat. To be fair, no one ever marketed the Chantico as a health food. Neither does it appear to have come in larger sizes.
Still, those stats were apparently too much for consumers, so Starbucks quietly retired the Chantico (via BuzzFeed). Yet, the mystique of such an astoundingly decadent drink remains compelling. No one should make it their daily dose of caffeine, to be sure, but aren’t you at least a little interested? It may be only an urge that will fade once the first sip passes your lips, but it would be nice to have the chance to try the Chantico, if only to say you’ve done it.
Turns out, the United States had a shot at enjoying the Maple Macchiato in 2012. But, like so many delectable drinks that have come and gone through Starbucks’ doors, this one is no longer with us. At least, it isn’t if you’re south of the U.S.-Canadian border.
According to Grub Street, Canadian customers get to drink the Maple Macchiato pretty much whenever they want, as it’s now a permanent menu item in that country’s locations. It makes sense, given the fact that Canada is all over the maple syrup business, to the extent that a maple leaf is featured prominently on its national flag.
Shouldn’t Canada’s neighbor to the south get another chance with the Maple Macchiato, too? It sounds pretty good, especially if it comes with "Quebec maple syrup drizzle from the Beauce-Appalache region," as the Starbucks Canada Facebook page describes it. Wouldn’t it be nice to try something with that sort of complexity and sweetness, instead of yet another hazelnut something or other? Hopefully, Starbucks will rethink their decision and at least save some of us from a long, border-crossing road trip in search of a new macchiato.
Valencia Orange Refresher
Perhaps one of the most controversial cancellations in Starbucks drink history was the widely decried cancellation of the Valencia Orange Refresher. You may at first want to shrug your shoulders and tell the bereaved caffeine-hounds to go drink a glass of orange juice instead, but don’t underestimate their love for this discontinued Starbucks drink.
According to Business Insider, Starbucks’ dissolution of the Valencia Orange Refresher in 2015 left fans "devastated." Even if you never got the chance to try the dearly departed drink, a description of its contents might help you understand the fracas. It was an iced drink with a gently caffeinated base, flavored with orange peel, cardamom, jasmine, and apricot, and it was served with an orange slice.
Even casual fans were confused by the company’s decision. Surely, the Valencia Orange Refresher was popular enough to keep around? Given the aggrieved reaction on social media, there may be a chance that this light, juicy summer drink will return one day, as it very well should.
Dark Barrel Latte
In the never-ending quest for novelty and new lattes, Starbucks is bound to make mistakes. However, while out-there offerings like the Dark Barrel Latte were definitely judged a misstep by many customers, the concept is engaging enough that some Starbucks aficionados may want to get another crack at the discontinued latte. Like many of the coffee chain’s newest flavors, the Dark Barrel Latte was tested in just a few locations in 2014 (via Los Angeles Times).
It quickly proved controversial, with some Twitter users calling it "horrid." That’s because the latte incorporated the flavor of Guinness, a dark stout popular amongst beer drinkers. While it didn’t contain any alcohol, Delish reports, it’s easy to understand why many customers weren’t going for the new drink on the block. Beer often presents a pretty distinct flavor profile with a bitter edge, especially a dark stout like Guinness. That can quickly clear a divide between drinkers who like the bitterness and those who might prefer another ultra-sweet Frappuccino with extra caramel sauce.
However, it’s not so wild to pair coffee and beer flavors. Both bitter brews have their own dedicated fan base, while stout also pairs well with chocolate flavors that can pop up in certain coffee roasts. Devotees of both might better enjoy the Dark Barrel Latte in a chocolatey mocha form, to better balance out the Guinness flavors in the blend.
There seems to be a way of thinking that sweeps Starbucks drinks into one of two very broad categories: warm and comforting, or cool and refreshing. Do you want a hot latte with a creamy texture and a sweet, maybe savory syrup? Or, would you prefer an iced beverage, perhaps with a tart edge that pairs well with the hot, sunny days of summer?
For Starbucks customers who tended towards the second category in the summer of 2016, there was the Starbucks Granitas, based on a classic Italian dessert made from often coarsely ground ice and flavoring. According to Bustle, these drinks had an icy, fluffy texture not unlike the beloved Frappuccino, but without the rather heavy cream base. Instead, the granitas were considerably lighter, with flavors like Teavana Youthberry White Tea and Strawberry Lemon Limeade. Customers who couldn’t quite let go of the extra sweet side of things could also order a Caramel Espresso Granita.
The Starbucks Granitas, which were available after 3:00 p.m. on the "Sunset Menu," weren’t long for this world. Just a few weeks into the summer, Starbucks Twitter reported that it simply "was no longer as popular with customers." Perhaps they were too hasty, however. Yes, it sounds like the Granitas were basically dressed-up slushies, but isn’t that part of the appeal? It could still be a really nice summer evening treat if only Starbucks would bring it back, perhaps even with some updated flavors.
Apple Crumble Frappuccino
Yes, there are plenty of ways to get your apple-infused fix at Starbucks. Currently, most U.S. locations offer a hot caramel apple spice or simply some steamed apple juice, the former presumably for those of us still making our way through elementary school. For a brief period in 2011 through 2012, however, there was another way. Like so many things that were here for just a short, underappreciated moment in time and then gone like dust in the wind, we’d really like to have it back.
We are, of course, referring to the Apple Crumble Frappuccino. Starbucks Melody reports that this drink was briefly tested in North Carolina and Japan in 2011, along with the similar Apple Crumble Latte. A year later, the very same Frappuccino was spotted in Warsaw, Poland, according to Starbucks Melody. It quietly faded from the world stage soon thereafter, never to be seen or tasted in the years since. Still, this is one discontinued Starbucks drink that we’d like to try again.