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Does Starbucks’ unicorn frapp live up to the hype?


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Photo: Hannah Weintraub for Well+Good

You know a trend is at its ultimate peak when it lands at Starbucks, the most mainstream place on Earth. And while mermaid toast is not yet on the menu, today the world’s most popular coffee chain started selling unicorn frappuccinos—for one week only (until April 23).

As a proponent for all things magical, I pranced half a block away to try it. (Hey, Starbucks are everywhere.)

With newspapers reporting that people are “freaking out” over the rainbow-colored drinks, I expected there to be a line out the door, and maybe a special section inside, reserved for Instagramming. But when I walked in, most people were in “serious coffee” mode, ordering cold brew and cappuccinos. And the only signage was a photo on the “featured drink” section of the menu—I didn’t even see it until after I ordered.

Have you ever had a Creamsicle dipped in melted Skittles, topped with Pixie Sticks?

“Excuse me, what’s in the unicorn frappuccino?” I asked Jason, the barista, when I got to the front of the line, much to the distress of the guy behind me in line—he wanted his caffeine fix ASAP.

Jason rattled off a long list of ingredients for me, including three different syrups: creme, mango, and vanilla. Other than that, there’s milk, pink powder, blue powder, and blue drizzle. Oh, and whipped cream, of course.

“What exactly is in the pink powder?” I asked Jason.

“Oh, well, it’s kind of like a mixture of, um…”

“Basically sugar?”

“Well, yeah basically,” he said, laughing. This sure is a far cry from the unicorn lattes at Brooklyn’s The End, which are made with blue algae and maca, and use dates for sweetness. Jason was pretty excited about the magical drink. “The baristas have known about it for months, but the company wanted to keep it a secret. But it’s too hard to!” he said excitedly. He also told me that after this week, customers won’t be able to order it off-the-menu style. “I don’t even know if we have enough ingredients to last the week!” he said.

A grande with nonfat milk has 59 grams of sugar.

I ordered a grande with all the fixings and when my order was called out—”Unicorn frappuccino for Emily!”—I pushed past all the people waiting for their almond milk macchiatos and passionfruit teas and grabbed my magenta drink topped with hot pink and blue sparkles.

Now for the taste test. Have you ever had a Creamsicle dipped in melted Skittles, topped with Pixie Sticks? No? Well I imagine it would taste exactly like a unicorn frappuccino. As you can imagine, the sugar rush is intense: A grande with nonfat milk has 59 grams of the sweet stuff.

To be fair, Starbucks does use spirulina to make the blue powder, but citric acid, sugar, and maltodextrin are also used for that vibrant hue. And the brand uses real mango concentrate—and turmeric!—in the mango syrup, but certainly not enough to outweigh the other more questionable ingredients.

If I was 10 years old, I would completely flip out for the unicorn frapp and slurp up every hot pink drop. But, alas, I am a grown-up latte drinker who knows that sugar basically kills you (I’m really fun at parties)—so I took about five sips, and that was enough for me.

Here’s the thing, though: You don’t need heaps of sugar and a long list of hidden ingredients to make magical-looking drinks. Mother Nature has her own rainbow bounty.

Fortunately, Starbucks has a rainbow drink that actually is healthy and you can also get avocado on everything.

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