Monday, June 29, 2015

Starbucks UK, Summer Frappuccinos - Caramel Coffee Jelly Frappuccino & Lemon Vanilla Creme Frappuccino

I was happy to have caught on Facebook that Starbucks & Uniqlo had teamed up for a launch party for their new summer drinks last Thursday. It was a fun event, open to the public with a DJ, some baristas handing out samples, and Uniqlo goodie bags! It was a good time - I hope the turn out was good enough to warrant more of these sorts of collaborative launch events in the UK.

I tried both of the new flavors - one of which is incredibly exciting for here in the UK: Coffee Jelly! Long a popular seasonal flavor in certain Asian countries (coffee jelly is a popular dessert in Japan, for instance) it's a flavor I never really imagined would come out here. I mean, this is a country that's still not 100 percent convinced about s'mores. However, the popularity of bubble tea in London and elsewhere in the UK at the moment might have been a signal to Starbucks that the time was right. Still, interesting & exciting - good for them for taking a risk, considering how I usually berate the UK branches of chains & food distributors for being too risk averse.

The Caramel Coffee Jelly was definitely my favorite, not too sweet as the coffee jelly has slight bitterness which balances the caramel-base of the frapp quite nicely. Of course, since it's also a coffee based frappuccino you get some of the coffee's bitterness coming through, as well. Don't get me wrong, the caramel does keep it on the sweeter side of the spectrum. At the event they were very generous with the jelly serving, but given my rather unpleasant experience with the Fan Favorite flavors, I'd say your mileage may vary at actual branches.

 Unless my suspicions were correct & that the Fan Favorites here in the UK were kind of a "oh crap, these are a big success in America! can we do it here? quick, send out a couple recipes to shops & tell 'em to do those chalk drawings of these four flavors!". See, they never seemed to be getting too promoted - like, they didn't have corporate-made signs, all of the signage for the fan flavors seemed to be done in-shop. I would say it's fair to reason that if these flavors receive more of a traditional marketing push that the recipes will stay uniform throughout - and you'll end up with great globs of coffee jelly.

The Lemon Vanilla Creme, while delicious, was insanely sweet. It's a creme base frappe with lemon & vanilla syrups. Lemon is one of those flavors that really needs a lot of sugar to stop it being unpalatablely sour. As much as I enjoy this kind of sweet & sour lemon flavor, it really only works in a quick-hit format, or when coupled with something slightly more base or even bitter. For instance, a lemon drizzle cake with tea works because you take a big glug of tea in-between bites. This drink was kinda just a liquid lemon drizzle cake - sounds delicious, right? Well, like I said, it was, but I can't imagine it would stay tasty in 12oz format. Eventually you'd reach maximum sugar, with no end in sight. Like a giant slice of lemon drizzle cake or lemon tart, with nothing to drink on the side.

 It's a shame, but I think with a bit of tweaking to make it more vanilla with a hint of lemon, this would go down a lot more smoothly. It's also kind of a shame that it's not the vanilla bean powder frapp base, which is a bit less sweet than one based around vanilla syrup. Is Starbucks USA even still using that vanilla bean powder? I used to get that frappucinno often!

Over all both of these were quite interesting choices for the UK, and I'm looking forward to a big heaping Coffee Jelly frapp as the weather heats up. 

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