Food

Review of Starbucks Chocolate Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks has been busy this Spring, dropping all kinds of new drinks including their popular Iced Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso (try saying that five times fast.)

This week, they launched another new drink, the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew. I stopped by the Starbucks in Lafayette, California to grab the new drink (it’s surprisingly hard to find at many Starbucks locations, suggesting that it’s popular) and tried it out.

A Mashup of Many Concepts

The Chocolate Cream Cold Brew mashes up several things that Starbucks has developed over the last few years. The biggest one is their “cream” concept. Their cream drinks include a thick layer of dense, cold, flavored cream that sits on top of the drink.

This isn’t like the whipped cream you’d find on top of a Frappuccino–it’s much thicker, denser, sweeter and less milky. I think of it as very much like the cream you find on top of many bubble teas, except applied to coffee instead of tea. The best comparison I can think of in the normal world of non-drink-enthusiasts is to Cool Whip, although Starbucks’ foams feel even thicker and a bit less processed than that particular whipped topping, and they appear to include a lot more cream, based on the ingredient list for the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew.

Flavored cream atop the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew

Starbucks has built quite a few variations on these cream drinks, from vanilla sweet cream to Irish cream flavors. The Chocolate Cream Cold Brew takes their creams in a yummy new direction with the addition of chocolate flavor. It’s much subtler than in a mocha–the chocolate is definitely there, but the creaminess of the topping comes through more strongly.

Starbucks has also been launching a lot of vanilla-flavored drinks, and the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew (despite its ‘chocolate’ moniker) integrates vanilla as well. There’s vanilla syrup mixed into the chocolate cream, and the cold brew coffee is flavored and sweetened with vanilla syrup as well.

The final concept that Starbucks works in here is their trends towards more cold brew drinks. Cold brew is wildly popular these days because it’s smoother than drip coffee and has less acidity, making it the perfect complement to a dense, sweet cream topping. It’s also often more caffeinated than drip coffee. And because it’s brewed with no heat, it’s cool and refreshing without being watered down. That makes it a great base for Summer-y drinks.

By combining cold brew, a cream topping, and vanilla notes, the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew definitely aligns with Starbcucks’ other new releases. Very on-trend!

Also a Throwback

There’s one ingredient in the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew that surprised me, and that I thought was an awesome counterpoint to its other trendy ingredients. The chocolate cream atop the drink includes malt flavoring. That means it’s actually not a Chocolate Cream, but more of a Chocolate Malt Cream.

Malt flavoring has been included in milkshakes for decades. You can probably remember drinking a chocolate malt as a kid, or munching on malted milkballs. The addition of malt (even if it’s not specifically called out in the drink’s name) is a really cool throwback. Malt is a fermented ingredient that also adds lots of toasty, complex notes and depth of flavor, which gives the cream on this drink an extra dimension beyond the often-artificial taste of chocolate syrups.

Putting it Together

The combination of all these elements is delicious. The Chocolate Cream Cold Brew is visually lovely, with vanilla-flavored sweet cold brew coffee topped with a swirling, 1/2 to 1 inch thick mound of chocolate cream. When you first get the drink, you’ll notice the foam slowly mixing with the coffee below at its boundaries. It’s a dramatic effect and makes for a nice visual.

Foam starts to blend into the drink when you first get it at the cafe

As you sip the drink, you get the sweetness and smoothness of the vanilla-flavored iced coffee, but with each sip you also get a little taste of the chocolate cream sitting on top. The cream is dense enough to remain in place for essentially the entire time you drink your Chocolate Cream Cold Brew, unlike whipped cream that tends to deflate fairly quickly. That means that each sip captures all of the drink’s sweet, creamy, chocolaty, toasty flavors.

Unlike Starbuck’s recent plant-based offerings, this is definitely a decadent drink. It doesn’t suffer from any of the thinness of flavor that I identified in the Iced Toasted Vanilla Shaken Espresso. At the same time, it’s not as sweet and decadent as the Frappuccino, which is basically just a milkshake by another name.

That makes the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew a great drink to sip when you’re looking for something sweet and invigorating that’s definitely a bit of a treat, but you don’t want something as sweet and dessert-y as a frap. I can definitely see grabbing on of these and drinking it on a Summer stroll around town or on a Summer road trip.

Overall, I love the new drink. I’ll definitely be getting more Chocolate Cream Cold Brews this Summer.

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.

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