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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Starbucks tends to stay pretty close to its home turf of coffee drinks and pastries. Sure, it makes the occasional foray into breakfast food, but half-caf lattes and mocha Frappuccinos have always been its bread and butter. So it's big news when Starbucks announces its intentions to get into fresh juice—launching the first Evolution Fresh juice bar in Bellevue, Washington this Monday.

What's Evolution Fresh? A juice company that Starbucks acquired in November of last year, which specializes in High Pressure Processing (HPP)—a way of cold-pressing juices to, they say, extract maximum flavor and nutrients. The juice bar itself will sell freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, prepared food, and more.

But the bottled Evolution Fresh juices will appear at retail stores (they're already all over the West Coast) as well as at Starbucks locations, rolling out over the next few months. We got our hands on a few to try 'em out.

The bottled juices range from $3.99 - $5.49, as sold at the Belleveue store (prices elsewhere may vary), which is on the higher end of bottled juices but the much lower end of juice bar products. The orange ("made from 5 oranges!") does taste freshly squeezed, which is about the highest compliment I can give it; with a bright sweetness and a moderate level of pulp, it tastes the way I recall Simply tasting, which is to say, pretty damn orange-y. Without repeating our whole OJ taste test, I'd rank it up there with the better ones.

The apple berry +fiber is a bit thicker, somewhere between a juice and a smoothie in texture. (Whether that's due to the banana and mango, or added vegetable fiber, I'm not sure.) It's smoothie-like in taste, too, with apple, mango, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, banana, and coconut (whew); it's got a jammy sweetness I associate with frozen berries. It's totally pleasant to drink, nothing too different from Odwalla or any other fruit-heavy blended drinks out there.

But things get a little more interesting with the vegetables. I'm big on green juices, but have never found a widely available one that isn't mostly apple juice or kiwi puree; I'm much more partial to the salad-in-juice-form, maybe cut with a little lemon or ginger, but not loaded down with fruit. And that's what the essential greens is—all green: celery, cucumber, spinach, romaine, wheatgrass, clover sprouts, and a little lime. It's a little on the thin side, and I wouldn't mind an extra hit of acid to liven it up a little. But it's smooth and drinkable, not sweet but not bitter, and it's actually made of vegetables. It's low in sugar and, well, actually makes you feel like you're consuming green things. If you know of another bottled green juice to buy for under $6, please let me know, because I'd love to try it.

And while not quite as low-sugar, the essential vegetable juice packs plenty in: carrots, apples, celery, beets, parsley, spinach, ginger, and citrus all make an appearance. The beets and celery dominate, enlivened by the tang of ginger. Honestly, this is a lot like drinking a not-too-thick puréed beet salad, vinaigrette and all. But in a good way.

Fruit juices are on a refrigerator shelf of every grocery store in the country; Naked Juice and Odwalla are old news, and some of Evolution's products will slide right into that niche. But the vegetable juices, we find more interesting. They're much closer to what companies like Blueprint Cleanse are making—but, at $5.49, literally half the cost. We'll see how the cafes do, but as for their bottled products, we're pretty happy with Evolution.

About the author: Carey Jones is the Senior Managing Editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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