People across the country (and across the world) pack themselves into Starbucks locations each morning and afternoon with the goal of pumping caffeine into their veins. Others pop into convenience stores, highway rest stops, and drug stores in search of an energy jolt. Caffeine is big business, so it's no surprise to see a player from one arena cross over into another.
Starbucks has already put out a number of bottled coffee drinks, but they've now moved into another corner of the caffeine world, releasing a line of energy drinks—the Starbucks Refreshers—much like a Monster or Red Bull. They come in three different flavors, Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade and Orange Melon—with coffee extract in them, rather than taurine.
As soon as you crack it open, you get the scent of the Strawberry Lemonade—the fake strawberry you find in Fruit-by-the-Foot or Fruit Roll-ups, or just about any pink "strawberry" candy. Sadly, much like many of the strawberry flavors in the Coke Freestyle machine, this strawberry isn't too tasty. And there's no discernable lemonade flavor, just a little something slightly acidic. The initial sips are a bit of stevia shock, but that taste does dissipate on successive sips; that might be a dealbreaker for those who dislike artificial sweeteners, but if you're okay with them, it's not too aggressive. (We've had much worse stevia sodas.)
We preferred their Raspberry Pomegranate to the Strawberry Lemonade, though we might not call it Raspberry Pomegranate—it smells like grape and tastes like any sort of grape juice blend (sure enough, white grape juice is one of the first ingredients). But the best was the Orange Melon, acidic and fresh with a bright, crisp flavor.
And as for the "green coffee" flavor? They reminded Carey of Enviga, the old Coca-Cola green tea energy drink. Those had a sharp, slightly biting background flavor that wasn't quite tea-like, but still present; the "green coffee" extract, derived from unroasted coffee, isn't all too different. You wouldn't say it tastes like coffee, per se, but there's definitely something perking these drinks up.
Anyone else tried Starbucks Refreshers? What do you think?
About the authors: Carey Jones is the senior managing editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones). John M. Edwards writes about soda, occasionally fast food, and eats 85% of the food Carey orders. Follow him on Twitter (@johnmedwards).