Fizzio is the name for the new line of all natural sodas that Starbucks has begun rolling out to some of their stores this week. There are quite a few Starbucks customers who are looking for non-coffee and tea drinks to go with their afternoon snacks, and sodas are just another alternative to smoothies and the creme-based Frappuccinos – not to mention that they’re an alternative to regular Refreshers and tea lemonades for customers who just like a little carbonation! The sodas are made one at a time in a machine that is similar to a SodaStream, with specialty syrups and are available in three flavors: Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale.
I’m a big fan of ginger beer and ginger ale in general because they are generally very refreshing, so that was the first soda I decided to try. It was delicious, with a strong ginger spice and a nice sweetness. I felt that it seemed a bit less sweet than many regular ginger ales, which pushes it go the ginger beer side of the spectrum for me – and that is a good thing. I’ll definitely be putting on my “to-order” list any time I’m looking for a refreshing, fizzy drink to go with a salty snack, even though I know that I’ll still be sticking to coffee most of the time.
Starbucks is rolling out their summer menu this week, and two delicious shaken ice tea lemonades are on the menu: Peach Green Tea Lemonade and Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade. The Peach Tea Lemonade debuted last summer, while the blackberry is new for this year. Thanks to a promo for registered Starbucks card holders, I was able to get my hands on both tea lemonades before they hit the main menu. The Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade is made with a blackberry syrup, which turns the drink an intense berry color. Unlike the Berry Hibiscus Refresher, which also uses blackberries, there are no chunks of berry floating around in this drink to plug up your straw as you sip.
The blackberry tea lemonade has a green tea base, which is a good way to showcase the berry flavors without overpowering them with a black tea base. It is not too sweet – in fact, I would say it is slightly less sweet than the peach tea lemonade – but has the distinct flavor of juicy berries to it, which makes it satisfying and refreshing. One thing that the drink does not have, however, is any hint of mint. I expected to be able to taste a bit of mint in a drink with “mojito” in the name, but berries definitely dominated. I’m not positive (yet), but this drink is made with Teavana tea and Tevana makes a Blackberry Mojito Tea that could very well serve as the base for this drink. Despite the fact that there really is no mint flavor, the drink is a great alternative to some of the other iced tea lemonades and is a fantastic drink for a summer afternoon.
Horchata is a very popular and refreshing Mexican drink typically made with rice, water and milk (or rice milk), then sweetened with sugar and flavored with cinnamon. There is a bit of variation from recipe to recipe – some include almonds, vanilla or even sweetened condensed milk – but the idea behind the drinks is always the same. It’s something that you’ll find served at just about every Mexican restaurant and taco stand in LA – and now, some SoCal residents can also find it at McDonald’s. McDonald’s recently announced that they would be launching a new Horchata Frappe for the summer.
As a fan of regular horchata, I felt the need to run out and pick one up to give it a taste test.
Los Angeles-area residents are very familiar with the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf brand, a chain of coffee shops that was started here in So Cal. You probably also know that their menu is not the same as Starbucks’ menu, despite the fact that they are both coffee shops. They call their drinks different things (Ice Blended vs. Frappuccino) and have different sizes (regular vs grande), but many of the drinks are similar. The Starbucks Caramel Macchiato is one extremely popular drink that Coffee Bean has never had a variation of on their menu – until recently. This year, Coffee Bean launched a line of Latte Macchiatos that are more-or-less the same as Starbucks popular macchiato drinks: they’re heavy on the milk, made with flavored syrups and have shots of espresso added at the end.
I enjoy Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiatos and was surprised that it took Coffee Bean so long to put them on their menu. I didn’t waste much time in trying them out and decided to start with the Vanilla Bean. It is made with a syrup that is PACKED with crushed vanilla beans – more on that in a minute. You can see from the photo above that the barista at the Coffee Bean I went to did not make the drink properly. He put the syrup and espresso together in the bottom of the glass and topped it off with milk (and a crazy amount of foam). Long story short, I had it remade and it came out the same way. I decided just to go with it even though the drink looked nothing like the picture. Perhaps you can’t tell in a paper cup, but you certainly can in the clear glass!