People always act so dumbfounded when you claim to have never tasted a popular food. Case in point: Last year I tried a hot cinnamon roll for the first time, and everyone on the internet immediately called bullshit. I’m not sure what to tell those incredulous commenters—I didn’t grow up on hot cinnamon rolls, and I’ve never been to a Cinnabon. It’s impossible for everyone to have eaten everything there is to eat, so yeah, despite my full-time gig as a food writer, there are just some popular foods I’ll never taste before I die. I thought one of those things would be a Starbucks Frappuccino. I was wrong.
How does one never try a Frappuccino? For starters, my hometown didn’t have a Starbucks. There simply weren’t many coffee shops around in the late ’90s and early ’00s when I was a teenager. New Castle, Pennsylvania still doesn’t have a Starbucks. Why is that? Because we have Sheetz, a one-stop shop for breakfast sandwiches, hoagies, salads, fried food, and coffee. Back home, our coffee culture revolves around gas stations. Crude oil and caffeine, baby. I was indoctrinated in gas station culture, replete with shitty cappuccino machines and free single-serving flavored coffee creamers, not baristas and Frappuccinos. That, friends, is the glaring difference between rural areas and the suburbs.
Starbucks is associated with a bustling, consumerist suburban culture. According to Starbucks’ store locator, the nearest Starbucks to New Castle is in Poland, Ohio. That’s about a half hour drive. What’s near Poland? The mall, of course.
But now I live in the big city (wow!), where I can hit three different Starbucks in my neighborhood alone. So, with a little courage, I decided to buck up and try my first Frappuccino.
The Frappuccino first debuted at Starbucks in 1995. This is crazy to me, because I never even set foot in a Starbucks until 2011, when I was 26. I wanted to keep it simple to start, so I began with the original two Fraps that started it all: Mocha and Coffee.
The Mocha Frappuccino is frivolous in all of the ways that I expect from something called a Frappuccino. Its domed plastic cup encases a generous helping of whipped cream, and I’ll be honest, this thing looked really good.
The taste, however, is that of a freezer-burned Fudgsicle. I wanted this to taste more like coffee, not a melted ice cream novelty sitting on the dashboard of a sun-baked truck. The Mocha Frappuccino sucks. It’s a shitty milkshake, and I would much rather drink coffee from my mechanic’s waiting area. I want my Sheetz back immediately.
For some reason, the Coffee Frappuccino was much more refreshing and straightforward. It lacks any synthetic syrup flavor, which I find to be very off-putting whenever it’s detectable in other Starbucks drinks. This is just coffee, milk, ice, and a basic sugar syrup, and it clocks in at 230 calories for a grande, which seems reasonable. I’m not trying to ingest 500 calories’ worth of coffee treat first thing in the morning.
I really enjoyed the Coffee Frappuccino’s small crunches of ice, plus the smooth fattiness of the milk and coffee blend. This is a delightful frozen drink that tastes like coffee-flavored ice cream. I dig it. I get it.
But because I consumed this Frappuccino so fast, I am now absolutely cruising at 11 a.m. I mean, I sucked down this entire thing in like seven minutes and now I’m traveling through space and time like Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar. I’ve got full-on dog zoomies. My adrenal glands are bobsledding, and if you find out that my heart exploded and I’m dead by the time this article comes out, don’t be surprised.
It’s now exceedingly clear to me why suburban teenagers like getting loaded on Starbucks Frappuccinos. In fact, I think that will be the Frappuccino’s lasting impression: Ingesting this sugary, caffeinated nonsense makes me feel oddly youthful.
Would I order the Coffee Frappuccino again? Well, I did, in fact, mutter “Oh no, I like it” as I drove home in my truck. But I can do just fine without it. Caffeine from the gas station will do just fine.