I tried to order 10 items off of Starbucks' 'secret menu,' but I would only drink a few of them again
- There are now over 45,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag #Starbuckssecretmenu.
- These menu items are generally made with ingredients that are already available at Starbucks, and multiple secret menu items have gone viral on social media. They're not quite official, however.
- I tried 10 Starbucks secret menu items to see if they're worth the hype. Though some of the drinks were quite tasty, I don't think I'll be ordering them in the future because of the associated additional fees and the complex ordering process that could easily confuse - or even annoy - baristas.
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Starbucks' secret menu is not really a secret.
There are over 45,000 posts on Instagram that include the hashtag #Starbuckssecretmenu. Multiple secret menu items have gone viral on social media, and at least one wildly popular one has even been added to the chain's official menu.
Secret menu items are mainly created by Starbucks fans and fan-based blogs to fit personal tastes or to celebrate holidays and events in pop culture. They're generally made with ingredients that are already available at the chain.
Baristas, however, do not seem to be enjoying the secret menu trend. Many have taken to online forums like Reddit to complain about customers who come to order popular "secret" drinks but do not have the recipes required to make them.
I did my research before going to Starbucks to order these combinations for the first time. Still, I found that a lot of the instructions online were not clear enough for the baristas to understand exactly what I wanted.
Five of the drinks I tried were concoctions that have been popular for years, appearing on several must-try lists curated by media outlets. Most in this group were created by individual customers to fit their personal tastes, and they later caught on through social media. The other five I tried were more recent inventions, all having been created this year. The majority in this group were made by Starbucks fan blogs to celebrate holidays or events in pop culture.
Though some of the drinks were quite tasty, I can't see myself ordering them in the future because of the high additional fees and the complex ordering process.
Here's how my first Starbucks secret menu experience went.
First, I ordered five of the most popular drinks in grande sizes: Cotton Candy Frappuccino ($5.95), Cookies & Cream Frappuccino ($5.95), Banana Split Frappuccino ($9.20), Purple Drink ($3.75), and Shaken Strawberry Lemonade ($4.75).
The Cotton Candy Frappuccino is supposed to be pink. But for some reason, mine did not look pink at all. I checked with the barista, and she told me that she had followed the instructions I had given her.
To order, ask the barista to add one or two pumps of raspberry syrup to a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino (add-ons cost $0.50).
The taste of my special Frappuccino perplexed me even more. The flavor of the raspberry syrup was overwhelmingly strong and artificial. I blended the whipped cream topping and the drink. It got slightly better.
Luckily, my Cookies & Cream Frappuccino looked just like what I'd imagined, and it tasted great.
To order it, get the Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino blended with white mocha sauce and top it with your choice of chocolate or regular whipped cream. I chose the latter because there was no add-on fee.
It had a deep and delightful chocolate flavor. But, I wondered if I should have just ordered a regular hot chocolate instead. The tastes were not so different.
I was shocked when I found out that the add-ons for the Banana Split Frappuccino cost $3.45. This better be good, I thought.
To get it, add vanilla bean powder, java chips, and a whole banana to a Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino, and top your drink with whipped cream, mocha drizzle, and caramel drizzle (add-ons cost $3.45).
The slightly sour strawberries and the $1.25 add-on banana made for a perfect, refreshing combination. I couldn't stop sipping. The java chips, though, were not really necessary in my opinion.
The Purple Drink immediately tempted me with its look. It was surely very Instagrammable.
To order it, get Passion Tango iced tea with soy milk, vanilla syrup, and blackberries (add-ons cost $0.50).
When making this special order, the barista asked me twice whether I really wanted soy milk in my tea. After my first sip, I totally understood why. It did taste weird, but it was not so bad because the flavor was extremely light.
Finally, I tried the Shaken Strawberry Lemonade. It did appear to me that quite a few secret menu items were pink and contained strawberries. But, I wasn't complaining.
To order, blend lemonade and strawberry flavors with no add-on fee.
The drink first stimulated my taste buds with sourness, and then it soothed them with sweetness. Taking both the price and the taste into consideration, I thought it was the best among the five.
Next, I switched to another Starbucks location for the more recently invented "secret" drinks: the Lucky Leprechaun Frappuccino ($5.75), Harley Quinn Frappuccino ($6.25), Chocolate Strawberry Cold Brew ($5.05), Orange Drink ($4.75), and Upgraded Pink Drink ($3.75).
The Lucky Leprechaun Frappuccino was created for St. Patrick's Day, and I could see why.
To order, add peppermint syrup (one pump for tall size, two for grande, three for venti) to a Matcha Green Tea Crème Frappuccino, then ask for a layer of whipped cream on the bottom and another on top. There's no add-on fee.
The first sip tasted like a mouthful of strong, peppermint-flavored gum. But blended with the whipped cream topping, the drink immediately turned softer.
The barista had to remake the order three times before finally handing me the Harley Quinn Frappuccino I wanted. It's probably one of the most complicated secret menu items, and it definitely looked wild.
To order, add vanilla and hazelnut flavoring to a Strawberry Frappuccino, then ask for strawberry purée at the bottom. Finally, top half of the whipped cream with matcha powder and the other half with crushed dragon fruit (add-ons cost $0.50).
Usually, when the visual is extra impressive, the taste is not so much. That wasn't the case for this drink.
I marveled at the subtle flavors –– the fruity sourness followed the vanilla sweetness, then the deep coffee flavor rose up, and finally, all of them mingled together in harmony.
The Chocolate Strawberry Cold Brew is supposed to have strawberry cold foam on top. My barista obviously mixed the foam with the brew, but I decided to just go with it.
To order, ask for a cold brew with sweet cream cold foam, and add mocha or white mocha to the cold brew and strawberry purée to the cold foam. You can also add chocolate curls or cookie topping. I didn't add a topping, and my add-ons cost $0.60.
I was startled by my first sip. The unpleasant acidity tasted as if something was spoiled. And even worse, it lingered for a very long time. It's probably the most terrible drink I've ever had.
I immediately moved on to the Orange Drink, which had a very promising look.
To order, add peach tea and a splash of soy milk to a half-sweet black tea lemonade (add-ons cost $0.80).
The drink turned out to be proof of the perfect chemistry between lemon and peach. I could barely tell there was soy milk inside. Without even noticing, I'd drunk almost half of it.
Finally, I turned to the Upgraded Pink Drink. Since the Pink Drink — a mix of Strawberry Acai Refresher and coconut milk — was such a hit in 2016, I had great expectations for this improved version.
To order, add strawberry infusion, light coconut milk, a scoop of strawberries, and two Stevia or Splenda to an unsweetened Passion Tango Iced Tea (add-ons cost $0.50).
Where did all the flavors of the ingredients go? I tried a strawberry chunk on its own, and it tasted like nothing.
In general, though some of the drinks were quite satisfying in flavor, their add-ons either cost too much, or they had complex instructions that could easily confuse — or even annoy — the barista. I can't see myself ordering them often in the future.
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