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[Photo: Alice Gao]

I've got to admit, I was a little surprised that the new Salted Caramel Mocha at Starbucks actually contained sizable grains of salt. Ones big enough to crunch! The catch? They disappear in less than a minute.

You order a salted caramel mocha. (You feel the people around you in line sizing you up for doing so.) It's topped with whipped cream, a predictably sugary caramel drizzle, and: hey, there they are! Salt crystals. It's a little unexpected. And frankly, when you get a little salty crunch against the (too) sweet caramel, it's a pretty tasty moment.

But here's the thing. The whipped cream melts in about forty-five seconds. I'm impressed that photographer Alice managed to capture any of it on camera above. I'd gotten two of these to go, only to wonder, once I opened the lid a few minutes later, if they'd forgotten the toppings. Nope. Just melted. And once the whipped cream melts, caramel and salt grains dissolve away too.

The drink itself? There's no one thing really tastes like. Well, maybe there are three things it tastes like. On first sip, it's sweet enough I'd think it hot chocolate, of a reasonably decent, step-up-from-Swiss Miss persuasion. After a second, the coffee kicks in; and a second later—there's the caramel, sweet and simple and, well, Starbucks.

It's certainly a more coffee-like drink than their caramel macchiato, in which I have trouble sensing coffee at all. But the novelty of the salted caramel mocha is pretty much all in that first sip.

About the author: Carey Jones is the Editor of Serious Eats New York and co-editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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