Taste Test

We Tried Starbucks’ Green Tea Strawberry Blossom Frappuccino and Here’s What We Think

April 3, 2017

You know there’s something worth celebrating when a major coffeeshop decides to bring out a special drink. Starbucks regularly tempts customers with their seasonal Frappuccinos that change with the seasons, and this time around—likely in commemoration of the season of cherry blossoms over at the land of the rising sun—the coffee chain goes for green and pink in the form of their Green Tea Strawberry Blossom Frappuccino Blended Beverage, said to be available only from April 1-7, 2017.

You can, for obvious reasons, expect cherry blossom-themed Starbucks treats to make their annual appearance in Japan—the most recent iterations being the Sakura Blossom Cream Latte and Frappuccino, made with a white bean-cherry blossom milk sauce and topped with shaved chocolate, crisped-up mochi balls, and maple-flavored whipped cream; meanwhile, the US got its own Cherry Blossom Frappuccino in 2016 (which, many lamented, was little more than a white chocolate sauce-swirled, matcha-dusted version of the Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino).

This newly-released version (also available in other Southeast Asian countries) takes on an even more minimalist route—consisting of Starbucks’ very own Green Tea Frappuccino blend, with “dried strawberry bits” (which, based on appearance, we assume to refer to freeze-dried strawberries) blitzed in, I am told at the counter; and strawberry whipped cream, piped both on the bottom (right before the Frappuccino mix is poured in) and the top of the cup. Save for the color combination and the use of the word ‘blossom’, no explicit reference is made to cherry blossoms, cherries, or sakura, which ingeniously helps avoid the issue the American version was subjected to last year. Still, strawberries and matcha are frequently paired together in other Japanese sweet treats, so this couldn’t be bad, right? Or would it be little more than a sad, flavor-clashing gimmick whose appeal lies solely in its extremely short, merely-weeklong availability period?

The Frappuccino base is pleasant and familiar—a milky mix with just enough earthiness and bitterness that isn’t the most potent out there, but does the job of delivering the gist of matcha. It’s thin enough to be refreshing but still plenty rich that it feels indulgent, and just sweet enough that it (thankfully) doesn’t give you a sugar-induced headache (assuming you watch your portions anyway). Dried strawberry bits supposedly in the mix admittedly weren’t all that discernible that it was difficult to tell it apart from their regular green tea Frappuccino, at least not during the first few sips. Meanwhile, the strawberry whipped cream takes on a flavor (and color) that borders on artificial, but is totally nostalgic, bringing to mind commercialized strawberry ice cream or Strawberry Nesquick (raise your hands if you agree: that pink stuff is the best). More freeze-dried strawberry bits on top not only make for some serious eye candy, but contribute a vibrant, tongue-tingling tartness that balances out the cream and does a good job at making it taste closer to actual berries folded in cream.

Individually the parts each hold their own, but how do they combine? At first we went for the (seemingly) obvious method of nabbing it with a spoon, like you would a parfait, trying to get a bit of the cream and a bit of the Frap base in one bite. It didn’t quite work for whatever reason; the strawberry cream lost against the green tea, whose earthiness far dominated the former’s subtle character. And really, who consumes Frappuccinos that way?—you’d think Starbucks would at least consider the dynamics of straw-sucking, rather than spooning, in designing their drinks. (Also, that sentence sounded hella awkward.) Sipping is the way to go, though it helps to allow the Frappuccino to warm up just a bit rather than diving into it straight once you get your cup from the barista. (Which gives you just enough time to whip up your phone and take whatever #foodstagram shots you need in this day and age of pics or it didn’t happen.) It’s when you get to the point where the ice in the Frappuccino has melted slightly (not completely, mind you) and the bottom cream works its way into the Frappuccino mix that the combination works its magic. The whipped cream and Frappuccino base imbibe each others’ essence into one another, and the marriage of tastes begins: the strawberry flavoring, as subtle (and artificial) as it is, acts as a a buffer of sorts—which, similar to how vanilla works with chocolate, helps tone down and round out the more assertive green tea. The green tea, in response, gives the strawberry a burlier character with its (light, but present) bitterness. The best way to conclude the sensation is by using the tip of your straw (definitely ask your barista for a spoon straw for this) to get one or two of the freeze-dried bits on top—the burst of tart they give really work well with the earthiness of the matcha. At this point, it’s hard to draw the line of where the matcha ends and the strawberry begins; they do harmonize wonderfully, and—dare I say it—it’ll be hard to go back to the regular Green Tea Frappuccino after this one. It is good…… in the context of being a Frappuccino drink.

Let’s be clear: this—like all other Frappuccino drinks, really—is a dessert drink. Mega-matcha mavens looking for a drink that fully showcases the intricacies, the umami complexity and full-on husky earthiness of the Japanese green tea might find it a tad creamy and sweet for their liking. And at P 165 for the smallest (‘Tall’) cup of what is essentially an icy, sugary dairy drink and considering they’re not using any particuarly uber-top tier, exclusive ingredients or even fresh fruit (though props for the real dairy milk and cream), the pricetag hardly feels justified. But it is Starbucks after all. Beyond the drink itself, you are paying for the privacy, the air conditioning, the amiable baristas, the coffeehouse jazz on repeat—and that’s fine. There are probably better green tea drinks and green tea-strawberry desserts out there—but if you already are one to frequent the international coffee chain, or if you need a quick matcha-strawberry fix available almost every corner of the city, then Green Tea Strawberry Blossom Frappuccino isn’t bad at all.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She is a cheapskate in other aspects of her life, preferring to use her savings on specialty vinegars and degustation menus. While she admits to eating out too much, cooking and baking remain her first love, and she's always looking for quirky new ways to use up seasonal produce. Thanks to her obsession with (unnecessarily) making everything from scratch, she is now desperate to clear her fridge full of homemade condiments. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.
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