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One Ingredient in Starbucks’ Chocolate Cream Cold Brew Makes All the Difference

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Earlier this month, Starbucks announced its drink of the summer: the new Chocolate Cream Cold Brew, sweetened with vanilla syrup and topped with a creamy chocolate cold foam. The drink debuted just as Chicago saw its first stretch of 75-degree days—perfect timing for me, a sweaty woman in search of a cooling caffeine buzz. The stakes were high: Could the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew satisfy my caffeine needs without sending me into a dizzying sugar coma? I hauled it to my neighborhood Starbucks to find out.

What’s in Starbucks Chocolate Cream Cold Brew?

Per a press release published on the company’s website, the new Starbucks Chocolate Cream Cold Brew features Starbucks signature cold brew, one pump of vanilla syrup, and a chocolate cream cold-foam topping “inspired by nostalgic summer moments.” Turns out, the cream is made with chocolate malt powder, which is meant to invoke the nostalgia factor.

“When creating this beverage, we wanted to bring our customers a drink that would transport them back to their favorite summer memories with each sip,” Rosalyn Batingan of the Starbucks beverage development team wrote in the release. “The classic combination of coffee and notes of chocolate, along with the malt flavor in the chocolate cream cold foam, are reminiscent of a chocolate malted milkshake or that last bit of melted chocolate ice cream on a warm summer day to recreate the sweet, creamy flavor of summers past.”

Malt powder in a coffee drink? That’s… an infuriatingly good idea.

How does it taste?

I could sing the praises of Starbucks’ various sweet cream cold brew drinks all day. The first sip of the brand’s Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew is really something, delivering a quick hit of smooth cold brew filtered through the lightly sweet froth. The Chocolate Cream Cold Brew was no exception.

I took a sip immediately after the barista prepared the drink and was met with a layer of confectionary fluff, which seemed thicker and creamier than the vanilla cold foam atop the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew. That’s probably due to the chocolate malt powder, which elevates the foam beyond the sometimes cloying sweetness of the vanilla sweet cream.

After that first sip, I walked home and let the foam settle into the drink. I love this part: little tendrils of foam (foam fingers?) intermingle with the iced coffee, adding just the right amount of cream to the already smooth, low-acidity brew. The resulting blend strikes the perfect balance for those who want something a little sweet, but might be put off by the sugar content of iced lattes or Frappuccinos.

I kept sipping and noticed that the chocolate flavor dissipated a bit as the foam settled into the drink. That’s fine—I wasn’t particularly excited about a sugary-sweet chocolate drink, anyway. Part of me expected chocolate milk or an iced mocha; instead, I was greeted with a more complex malted flavor, almost like a Cadbury Mini Egg.

Overall, the drink’s chocolate accents are subtle, made richer and deeper by the intermingled cold brew. For me, the drink offered just the right amount of sweetness. Take this observation with a grain of salt (literally), as I have a major sweet tooth and could eat dessert with every meal. My taste buds might be more accepting than yours. (Although I don’t ever sweeten my coffee, opting instead for a generous helping of half and half.)

I could definitely see myself drinking a Chocolate Cream Cold Brew on a weekday morning. It’s rich, but the chocolate flavor is subtle enough to add the drink to my morning routine. If you’re worried about it being too sweet for your taste, you can ask the barista to forgo the one pump of vanilla syrup.

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