It’s not enough that here in San Diego we have miles upon miles of some of the most beautiful beaches and coastal lands in the world, along with weather so perfect I’m already preparing to be disappointed by the climate in heaven.
“Pffft,” I’ll say as I stroll through the Pearly Gates. “You call this weather? Have you ever been to La Jolla?”
“Get out,” Saint Peter will say. “I knew letting you in here was a mistake. Out. Forget your harp; drop your wings. Boys, show Mr. Weatherbee here the exit.”
“I was kidding!” I’ll cry as I’m dragged back toward the gates. “I thought you were the funny disciple!”
Then I’ll roast in hell forever.
And while I am, I know I’ll often think back to that wonderful time when I tasted the “Refreshers” that Starbucks was test marketing in San Diego.
From Reuters, dated August 4:
Starbucks will begin testing summer drinks with a base of green, unroasted coffee in San Diego today as it works on new products to drive sales and put more distance between itself and rivals like McDonald’s — which is rolling out the kinds of drinks that Starbucks built its business on.
The drinks, called “Refreshers,” will be offered in cool lime and very berry hibiscus flavors. They are made with fruit and are low in calories and caffeine, said Julie Felss Masino, Starbucks’ vice president of global beverage.
Ingredients include a “flavor neutral” powdered extract made from unroasted green coffee and formulated to have less of a caffeine kick than regular coffee, Felss Masino said.
“It’s coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee,” she said, noting that the test is a response to customer requests for more “overtly” thirst-quenching drinks.
Starbucks has been focused on introducing new drinks like Via instant coffee and create-your-own Frappuccino after a massive restructuring that resulted in the closure of roughly 900 cafes around the globe. Both new drinks efforts have helped to boost sales amid a still weak U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s has built a profitable new beverage business based on Starbucks’ core products, including espresso-based drinks, fruit smoothies and frappes.
The green coffee-based drinks are a first for Starbucks. While some companies are marketing green coffee on the Internet as a weight-loss aid, the world’s biggest coffee chain does not promote Refreshers to shed pounds, representatives said.
A “tall”, 12-ounce serving of the lime Refresher has 50 calories, while the similarly sized hibiscus drink has 70 calories.
The 12-ounce drinks will be sold at 113 company-operated cafes around San Diego at prices ranging from $2.50 to $2.95.
Both versions are packed with Vitamin C and have fewer than 15 milligrams of caffeine. That’s less caffeine than a cup of green tea and significantly less than the 260 milligrams in a 12-ounce brewed coffee, Starbucks said.
Now, isn’t that more about these drinks than you wanted to know? Me too.
In the interest of bringing you, my far-flung friends, a taste-test review of these drinks, this morning I went so far as to say, right out loud, from the other side of a Starbucks cash register, “A small very berry hibiscus, please.” Ouch. I quickly moved on to the second part of my order, for which I at least got to say, “Cool lime.”
After that I felt deeply compelled to order a grande macchiatto. Cuz … you know.
Anyway, for you marketing geeks, here’s a snapshot of the sign they had in the store about these Refreshers:
So, as to the drinks themselves:
They were both deliciously refreshing! I wish they weren’t, so I could say anything more interesting about them. For a fleeing moment I thought maybe the VeryBerry Hibiscus tasted slightly medicinal, like cough syrup. But it too was nothing more or less than deliciously refreshing.
And if you love mint juleps, you’ll love the Cool Lime flavor of these drinks, which are refreshingly delicious.
Their flavors are complex without being presumptuous, pretentious, precocious, or prevaricatingly provocative, as piquant as a pollen-laden butterfly posing precariously upon your proboscis, and as perfectly balanced as two twins on a see-saw. They pick you up—but lightly, like a blimp accidentally catching your jacket collar. And they’re sweet without being at all cloying, like a darling old aunt who still isn’t afraid to hit you with a dictionary.
Starbucks’ new non-coffee drinks are great. But will they survive against Starbucks’ coffee-coffee drinks?! I guess we’ll just have to wait to