Review of Starbucks’ Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew
Earlier this week, Starbucks added two new vegan beverages to its menu: Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew and Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew:
- Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew: Skip the afternoon slump. This handcrafted beverage is made with plant-based protein and cold brew, then blended with coconutmilk, cacao and a banana date fruit blend for sweetness. It’s a part protein, part Cold Brew and all delicious.
- Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew: Skip the afternoon slump. This handcrafted beverage is made with plant-based protein and cold brew, then blended with almondmilk, almond butter, and a banana date fruit blend for sweetness. It’s part protein, part Cold Brew and all delicious.
I had assumed it was only available in the United States, but decided to ask a nearby Starbucks barista if it was going to be making its way to Canada. Lo and behold, it was already available! I asked if anyone had ordered it yet, and she said I would be the first since the signs promoting the new additions hadn’t arrived yet.
Even though I had already settled on cacao (chocolate > everything else), I asked the barista what she recommended and was happy when she suggested cacao. It cost $6.70 CAD and took a few minutes to prepare:
The last time I tried a vegan drink at Starbucks, I was pretty underwhelmed, so my expectations were pretty neutral. I had also read in the Refinery29 review that they found the drink to be “grainy,” which is typical of most protein shakes or smoothies.
I didn’t find the drink to be grainy at all, and I do tend to notice that kind of texture in other smoothies/shakes. That was definitely a plus. The cold brew was also very flavorful and rich, making me want to order it on its own next time. One thing I was expecting was for the drink to be almost painfully sweet, but to my pleasant surprise, it really wasn’t. It was also very filling, which surprised me even though I knew it contained 10 grams of protein (the almond version has 12). As I write this, I still feel full, hours after consuming it.
Now on to the not-so-great parts of the drink. I do think it’s a bit pricey, and I would have liked the cacao to be one of the more prevalent flavors since that was why I ordered it. The cacao–and the cold brew–were at most a backdrop to the extremely overpowering flavor of…banana. I will admit my bias here, I tend to avoid anything with banana flavor, which is why I’ve yet to try Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey. Besides homemade banana “nice cream,” I really don’t like any desserts, smoothies, shakes or ice creams to have banana in them, let alone as the spotlight. However, much to my disappointment, it was the dominating flavor in this drink. Dates as sweeteners? Yes! Bananas? It becomes a banana smoothie.
Of course if you love (or are even just neutral to) bananas in a smoothie, the Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew may be a great vegan option for you as it will keep you full, satisfied and caffeinated. Unfortunately for me, the dominant banana flavor is the primary reason I would not purchase this again. The drink can be customized, as Refinery29 noted, but you can only replace the banana date blend with a whole banana, which would be even worse for me.
On a side note, the next time I walked by a Starbucks, I saw the signs promoting the new plant-based drinks in all their glory: