We Tried Starbucks’ New Holiday Beverage — Here’s Everything You Need to Know About It

12/01/2015 at 03:07 PM ET

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Starbucks

What Is It: Starbucks’ New Holiday Spice Flat White

Who Tried It: Maria Yagoda, PEOPLE writer-reporter

Why We Did It: Because we’ll ingest anything that has the word “holiday” in it.

What is “holiday spice”?

The term evokes a sort of granular cheer: peppermint, cloves, the sound of Mariah Carey hitting the high notes, dreams, pajamas that cover your feet and snowflakes, all chopped up into a heady potpourri. In the case of Starbucks’ new holiday beverage, the Holiday Spice Flat White, I invested too much emotionally into what it could be, into the idea of a beverage that was The Holidays, wholly assuming the essence of a season.

RELATED: Your Comprehensive Guide to the Latest Holiday Flavored Foods

It wasn’t fair of me to expect that much of an espresso beverage, let alone anything or anyone, not even Santa. The drink, which is creamy and cautiously sweet, is indulgent, but does not taste like opening presents or getting eggnog drunk. It does taste like cinnamon, espresso and steamed milk, which is perfectly fine…just not magic.

First things first, a “flat white” is an espresso beverage founded in Australia in the 1980s that has recently gained traction in the States: two ristretto shots topped with a thin layer of steamed whole milk. Starbucks launched their flat white in early 2015, with the new variation HSFW first offered in stores on November 30th for the holiday season.

RELATED: Starbucks Unveils Toasted Graham Latte (and We Tried It)

“We were inspired by the practice of mulling cider, so we crafted our own holiday mulling spice blend of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, sugar and a touch of tangerine,” beverage director Michelle Sundquist said in a statement on the new beverage. “The spices and velvety milk perfectly complement Starbucks Christmas Blend Espresso Roast. The spices further develop in the warm milk and lightly enhance the flavor of the beverage. Because it’s so subtle, you don’t taste the holiday mulling spices until you take a couple sips. And then a touch of sweetness and the slightest note of tangerine flavor come through.”

RELATED: Critics Say Starbucks’ New Cups Are Another Volley in the “War Against Christmas”

As far as the claims of subtlety go, the drink is espresso-forward and not-too-sweet, but the gentle hand that sweetened it is clearly different than the one in charge of the cinnamon, which mutes the more compelling notes of ginger, nutmeg and clove. The tangerine, which coats back of the tongue, makes for a really nice, bright finish.

Expectations vs. reality aside, we could see ourselves sipping this beverage when we’re craving a jolt of energy…or the blood-sugar-reducing properties of cinnamon.

—Maria Yagoda, @mariayagoda

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Showing 12 comments

PCC on

Ever puke after getting eggnog drunk? Not a pleasant experience.

Anonymous on

Am I really looking at an effing article about a drink?!

Jenbascurt on

Just order a dirty chai tea latte. It is what gets me through this time of year

stee on

I tried the holiday flat white. It tastes like there is Tang in it. I thought it was just made with the holiday blend coffee. I didn’t know it had a “spice mix” added. The flavors all sunk to the bottom and it was very gritty.

SHJ on

Rooster Teeth out of Austin has a very funny Starbucks ad parody about the red cups.

Ruby O on

It was gross it tastes like they brewed coffee with cheap tea bags thrown in. The only reason I finished it was because I already paid for it and I work night shift. It had a gritty residue at the bottom. I was pretty disappointed since flat white is my favorite.

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