Review of the Starbucks Iced Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso

Yesterday, Starbucks launched a new plant-based drink, the Iced Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso. I stopped by the Starbucks in Lafayette, California to check it out on the first day it dropped.

I love stopping by Starbucks’ drive-throughs all over the East Bay. It’s an easy way to grab a quick snack or drink, and drive-throughs were a life saver during Covid-19 lockdowns. I’ve taken to getting an Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso. It’s a bit like a latte, but totally plant-based. The toastiness of the oatmilk goes perfectly with the rich, sweetness of the brown sugar. It’s a nice pick-me-up that’s totally dairy-free.

With the Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso, Starbucks is leaning into the plant-based food trend. The drink is their second attempt at building a latte alternative totally around the trendy and vegan oatmilk, which feels like it’s exploded onto the food scene in the last several years. Soymilk, stand aside!

When I heard that Starbucks had a new drink for the Spring, I immediately drove over to my local cafe to get one.

What’s in the Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso?

So what is this drink, really? The ordering screen in the Starbucks app gives some indication. Basically, it’s a blonde espresso (Starbucks’ lighter espresso roast), shaken up with ice, oat milk, and a new “Toasted Vanilla Syrup.”

I took a look at the official ingredient list for the drink. The syrup is made with sugar instead of corn syrup, which is good. Otherwise, it’s oat milk, flavoring, coffee, and some preservatives and vitamins that make up the drink. There are three espresso shots in a Grande size, so it’s definitely got a nice dose of caffeine. 

The drink has only 140 calories, so it’s probably a pretty good bet if you’re looking for something lower-calorie than a Frappuccino or even a latte (especially if you get yours made with whole milk).

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How does the new drink taste?

I shared my first impressions of the new Iced Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso in a YouTube video.

Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed by it. Again, I love the OG oatmilk shaken espresso that Starbucks makes with brown sugar. Oatmilk is naturally less creamy than cow’s milk, and has a toasty, nutty flavor. The brown sugar feels like it complements that, adding some much-needed depth to the drink that’s lost when you leave out the dairy milk.

To me, the vanilla flavor in the Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso felt too thin and surface-level. It felt like the drink was just flavored like vanilla, rather than the vanilla flavor integrating with the other flavors in it.

I felt like I could be drinking an iced espresso with a bit of vanilla extract thrown in, versus with the brown sugar version of the drink, where it feels like the sugar adds depth, sweetness, and caramel notes. I also didn’t taste the “toasted” element to the vanilla–again, it just felt like Starbcucks’ normal vanilla syrup.

Still, the drink is definitely refreshing, and there’s the caffeine kick to enjoy. I can see why it’s more of a Spring drink, versus the deep toastiness of the OG shaken espresso, which feels more suited to cold winters. Some people seem to really enjoy it, based on early reviews. It’s also cool that it’s officially vegan and approved by PETA.

Check out the new drink, and see if you like it, or if you agree with me about the flavor. You can get it at many Starbucks locations around the Bay Area. Heads up, though–when I looked, some didn’t have it in stock. Maybe they haven’t gotten the new syrup yet. You can check in the Starbucks app to see if your local Starbucks has it.

You can also follow my recipe to make your own (better!) version at home.

Either way, let me know in the comments below.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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