Gen-Z has turned a ‘hot girl summer’ cold. First, it was Facebook, then it was skinny jeans, and now it’s hot coffee being tossed out. The younger generation has canceled the ritual of a piping hot cup of joe in favor of cold brew or an icy refresher, any time of day. A recent report revealed that 75 percent of drinks sold at Starbucks are cold beverages. Curious to taste what everyone else was loving, we headed over to Starbucks to taste all these best-selling drinks and see if they held up to scrutiny when made with dairy-free milk alternatives.
Evidence of the iced coffee craze is everywhere on social media, with TikTok stars like Charli D’Amelio partnering with Dunkin to craft their own signature cold beverages. Starbucks is on board with the trend thanks to a recent survey that found customers between the ages of 13 and 30 want a cold drink, and don’t think twice about hot ones.
To check out the hype, I grabbed my roommate Robin and headed over to the quaint Starbucks nestled on a bustling corner in Southampton (hence the noise in the video) and taste-tested the five most popular summer iced drinks, which included three coffee drinks made dairy-free and two naturally vegan refreshers. Read more for the full review and watch the video below.
The 5 Best Iced Starbucks Drinks, Made Dairy-Free
Iced Oat Milk Caramel Macchiato
First up we tried the iced caramel macchiato with oat milk – a creamy, milky, sweet, espresso-lite treat to enjoy if you’re not a big fan of the taste of coffee beans. There is actual caramel sauce dripping down the sides of the plastic cup. Robin rated this drink a three out of ten because it tasted more like caramel milk, and if she’s going to order an espresso-based drink she wants emphasis on the coffee taste, not the milk. She advises ordering this drink with an extra shot of espresso.
Strawberry Açai Refresher
Next was the strawberry açai refresher which ended up being a home run. To Robin’s surprise, this fruity one was her favorite, which says a lot coming from a coffee connoisseur. The taste was fruity, not artificial, and felt “truly refreshing,” perfect to sip on the beach or in the sun. Another plus was the whole strawberries floating on the top of the drink. Robin rated this a nine out of ten and is planning to order a venti next time.
Signature Cold Brew
The classic cold brew checked all the boxes of what you would expect a strong, pure cold brew would taste like. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, this drink may not be your first choice since it can lead to jitters later on in the day. But if you happen to love the taste of rich, powerful coffee, a cold brew should be your go-to order. The cold brew receives a six out of ten for its practicality, but Robin noted it wasn’t the best she’s ever tasted. Some might say it’s not the cold brew to blame, but the princess behind it.
Shaken Oat Milk Espresso
Next was the shaken espresso with oat milk and a request for no sugar added. Robin still thought this one was too sweet so anyone who steers clear of a sugar rush, pass on this one for the classic cold brew. The hints of oat and sugar left a lingering aftertaste. Robin rated the shaken espresso with oat milk a four out of ten for being too sweet, so maybe going sugar-free completely would have been the move instead. However, if she was in the mood for something sweet, she would rate this drink a seven out of ten. Two ratings are better than one!
Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refresher
Last but not least was the second refresher made with strawberries, açai, and lemonade. This was Robin’s least favorite of the two refreshers and she described the taste of lemons as “artificial,” but when you’re in need of a sweet refreshment on a hot summer day, this drink would suffice. Robin rated this drink a three out of ten for its candy-like flavor and would recommend the strawberry açai refresher over this one with lemonade.
For more taste-test and plant-based product reviews, check out our column.