Saturday, August 18, 2018
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Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino has demanded the internet's attention. So how is it?

Let me take you on a mystical journey.

It involves adversity, triumph and a swirly pink beverage that is probably the most Instagram-able drink of 2017 for around $5.

Starbucks released its Unicorn Frappuccino on Wednesday. The coffee giant says the "magic" frap will be available in stores until April 23, or until supplies last.

It's meant to be elusive, like the horned mystical creature that inspired the confectionery (and caffeine-free) creation. And the internet is going totally bonkers over it. By noon Wednesday, more than 10,000 photos were posted to Instagram marked "#unicornfrappuccino" and Twitter was exploding with opinions.

A Tampa Bay Times editor added to the chatter by tweeting the drink was an "abomination." A fellow Times reporter wrote it was a "hard pass" for him. Some wondered about the sugar content, others wondered if it even tasted good.

So, I set out for answers at the St. Petersburg Starbucks near the intersection of Fourth Street and Ninth Avenue N, where I learned straight from the barista's mouth that the drink contained no caffeine.

What?

Rather, he said, it's a cream-based mix of sour, sweet and tangy mango. And he and his coworkers had already made a lot of them by the late morning.

My shift normally starts at 7 a.m. so coffee has become a bit of a life essential. I decided I'd order a small coffee and chat up uincorn-seekers for my story before trying the drink for myself. Then I found out I couldn't, at least not on Starbucks' property.

I'm not calling Starbucks out here — it's a common blanket policy for stores not to allow reporters to interview customers in-shop unless you get prior permission, which typically needs to be organized days in advance.

The easier solution is to stand on a public sidewalk and stalk people as they leave the shop. So, that's what I did. It was kind of like a game!

Would catching a person with a unicorn drink be just as challenging as spotting a unicorn itself?

Yes, I learned. It is arguably just as difficult. Now, it's not because people weren't buying the drinks. It's because I looked like I was trying to get people to sign a petition. Or talk about religion. Or sell something.

Most buyers had more than one of the drink and were running them out to a car waiting, likely to bring back the mystery concoctions to eager coworkers. I couldn't catch them in time.

Then I met Kelsey Row, 27. She walked out with a half-finished unicorn frap and wondered why I was sitting in the sun on the sidewalk. She was on her 15-minute break from a nearby doctor's office. The Starbucks junkie saw the drink covering social media and said she had to try it.

"It's really pretty," she said.

Agreed. The drink comes out a purple-pink with sour blue syrup woven in. When its mixed, the flavors blend and the color changes more to pink.

Row, too, was bummed there was no coffee in the drink. As a mother of four, she, too, understands the perils of caffeine addiction. She got her usual iced coffee on the side. But she was happy with the mystical beverage for what it was. To her, it tasted similar to the store's acai berry "Refresher" but blended with cream.

"The sprinkles on top kind of fall to the bottom and make it crunchy," she said. She was totally into it.

Here's the deal with the drink: You have to have a sweet tooth or be in the mood for something like a milk shake to enjoy it. The blue syrup is pretty sour, with the same kind of zing you get from Sour Patch Kids or SweeTarts.

In a statement, Starbucks describes the drink as "blended crème" with a "sweet dusting of pink powder ... with mango syrup and layered with a pleasantly sour blue drizzle."

I didn't personally taste mango, but the drink was tasty. I saw one Tweet describe the taste as "peach cotton candy with hints of sour apple" another person eloquently wrote, "it looks like ya'll (are) drinking blended Play-Doh."

A standard grande, or medium, drink is 410 calories. It's made with whole milk and packs 59 grams of sugar. I ordered a tall, or small, which seemed like more than enough and has 39 grams of sugar and is 280 calories.

I didn't hate it. It was fun and trendy. It's just not the kind of beverage I'd normally seek out when I want a Starbucks fix.

But parents be warned, it is totally the kind of thing your kids will beg you to buy them in the drive-thru.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

 
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