Starbucks' New Energy Drinks Have Us Buzzing (But Only Because Of The Caffeine)

While the short-lived and controversial run of Panera's Charged Lemonades may have been a cautionary tale to some, it seems to have spurred inspiration in other brands. Back in February Dunkin' added Sparkd' Energy drinks to its menu, and now Starbucks has just debuted energy-packed drinks. Today, June 25, the chain put out the Melon Burst Iced Energy and Tropical Citrus Iced Energy. A third energy offering, the Frozen Tropical Citrus Iced Energy with Strawberry Puree, is a limited-time app exclusive and was not sampled for this taste test.

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Per Starbucks, the Melon Burst Iced Energy and the Tropical Citrus Iced Energy contain 180 milligrams and 205 milligrams of caffeine, respectively. The brand compares these caffeine levels to that of a Grande Starbucks cold brew, which has 205 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, a small Dunkin' Sparkd' Energy drink contains 96 milligrams of caffeine and Panera's Charged Lemonades ranged from a low of 260 milligrams to a high of 390 milligrams. Starbucks' new energy drinks are both sugar-free and low in calories — the Tropical Citrus comes in at 5 calories, while the Melon Burst contains 10. Each one costs $5.75 at my local Starbucks, though prices may vary depending on location.

Maybe fast food chains believe they can do better than Panera, or maybe they simply view energy drinks as the next growth market. Whatever the case may be, Starbucks has chosen to join the fray. I tasted these iced beverages, and the caffeine got my heart pumping, but the flavor wasn't anything special.

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How the Starbucks energy drinks taste

Before getting into the actual taste of the drinks, there are a couple of interesting quirks to be noted about the beverages. For one, the "energy" portion of the drink appears to come from a can. While at Starbucks, I could see the barista pour a can of some premixed, sparkling drink into the cups and then add in tea, which gave each drink its color.

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Per Starbucks, the Melon Burst drink is a mix of melon and cucumber with Passion Tango tea while the Tropical Citrus drink contains passionfruit and citrus mixed with mint green tea. The Melon Burst has the strongest fruit flavor of the two, with melon actually being detectable in each sip. The Tropical Citrus, on the other hand, doesn't have any real discernable flavor to it apart from the immediately evident carbonation that hits you when you drink any energy drink.

The two tea-filled offerings are like a combination of a LaCroix and pretty much any other fruit-flavored energy drink on the market. Neither has a uniquely wonderful flavor, but they're also not the worst items Starbucks has ever launched. It should also be noted that the drinks are only available in a Venti size. The kind barista let me know that I could not order a Grande of either drink. I wasn't planning on drinking 24 fluid ounces of tea and caffeine today, but here I am anyway.

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Are Starbucks energy drinks worth the buzz?

At my local Target, I can buy a 12-pack of sugar-free Red Bull drinks for $22.99. Each 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine and costs just shy of $2. Meanwhile, the Melon Burst Iced Energy, at 24 ounces, contains 180 milligrams of caffeine for $5.75. I'm not one for numbers, but I'd rather drink two small Red Bull cans to get about the same caffeine intake as a whole Venti drink. Plus, rather than be hit with one big jolt of caffeine, I could pace out my intake throughout the day to avoid a heavy crash.

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Overall the drinks do their job by waking you with crisp and fresh flavors. However, with the requirement for the drinks to be Venti-sized, I'm not sure they're truly worth their price in comparison to other energy drinks on the market. They're not bad though, and if you don't mind chugging a giant drink to get your energy up, then these could be the morning pep you need.

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