Starbucks: a flavorful extraordinaire


photo by Sarah Hinnant

The Pistachio Latte was released on Jan 5 and is available warm or iced.

Starbucks, a franchise best known for pumpkin spice lattes and Nitro cold brews, has yet to run out of ways to revamp a standard cup of coffee. There seems to be a trend in incorporating nuts into signature Starbucks drinks, with over 25 menu items with either hazelnut, chestnut, or almond additives. It is no surprise that the new drinks, the Honey Almond Flat White and Cold Brew and the Pistachio Latte,  stick to the flavor precedent.  

The coffee chain has put more effort into flavoring their coffee than maintaining the quality of the coffee itself. Stripped of its syrups, sweeteners, and creams, a plain cup of black coffee ordered off the Starbucks menu is quite unenjoyable, and the obvious emphasis on the flavor of its most recent additions to the menu is a reflection of the company’s priorities when it comes to creating a beverage.  That being said, the chain still does a wonderful job at masking the bland , base flavors of their beverages with frivolous notes of supposedly “exotic” ingredients  and “lavish” additives. 

At first glance, the Pistachio Latte is extremely unappealing. Typically, pistachio desserts and drinks fail because the nut’s flavor is either overpowering and artificial or overly subtle and tasteless. However, the Pistachio Latte from Starbucks pairs the pistachio flavor with the bitter taste of coffee in a new way. The latte is tangier than the average cup of coffee, and the hint of orange zest acts as a buffer between the two unique flavors.. The Pistachio Latte succeeds at pairing zesty, bitter, and nutty flavors. 

Starbucks’ honey almond drinks, however, are an entirely different story. Sticking to a classic combination of flavors, the Honey Almond Milk Flat White’s notability lies in the type of drink it is. Flat whites are served everywhere now, but they originated in Australia. They are usually made with steamed milk poured over espresso, creating  a creamy texture. The flat white is traditionally made from whole milk, ordering it with almond milk allows the bitter espresso to shine through more. Honey, a subtle yet essential sweetener, prevents the bitter espresso from overpowering the almond flavor while not suppressing the other components.

 Although each component of flavor is well-balanced, the drink could have used a more interesting choice of ingredients. Honey and almond are two of the most frequently occurring combinations, and putting them in yet another beverage is a little repetitive. The flat white is still enjoyable because it doesn’t contain excessive amounts of sweetener, unlike the Caramel Macchiato and Hazelnut Bianco Latte.

The flat white also comes as a cold brew for the warmer days. Although the iced beverage has significantly less almond milk than the flat white, it has a sweeter flavor. 

Transforming traditional beverages with non-traditional flavor combinations makes Starbucks the pioneer of the flavoring world, raising the bar for brands everywhere. The next time you drive by the harbor for flavorful espressos, lattes, and cold brews, it may be worth taking a step inside.


Which Starbucks drink would you order?

Caramel Machiatto
Regular Iced Latte
Starbucks Refresher
Black coffee
Pistachio Latte
Honey-Almond milk Flat White
Nitro Cold Brew
Vanilla Bean Frappuccino
I don’t drink coffee.

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