Dunkin' And Starbucks Have Dramatically Different Interpretations Of Spring

The Dunkin' spring menu is suspiciously indulgent, but Starbucks continues to invest in lighter plant-based drinks.

Inside you there are two wolves. One craves thick, syrupy-sweet indulgence no matter the weather. The other prowls in search of lighter, plant-based tastes. Now that coffee chain spring menus are sprouting up left and right, you can satisfy both wolves. The question is: What counts as a "spring" flavor, anyway? To find out, let's explore two chains with dramatically different approaches to warm-weather drinks: Dunkin' and Starbucks.

Dunkin’ 2022 spring menu

The Dunkin' spring menu debuts today, according to a press release sent to The Takeout today. The standout item is the brand's new Shamrock Macchiato, which "layers bold, smooth espresso atop rich and creamy Irish Creme flavor, with notes of sweet cream and vanilla that capture the unmistakable flavor profile of Irish whiskey." 

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Also, uh, did we mention it's green?

Yeah, this thing is green as hell. (See left.) The brand writes that the drink's "bright green hue" lends itself to a "festive and seasonal drink [that] captures the experience of spring with every sip."

Couple things. First, while I totally get the seasonal tie-in, "rich and creamy Irish Creme" doesn't necessarily make me think of the brighter days ahead. It makes me think of attempting to read Ulysses somewhere on a dreary moor. If the drink had been made with a more herbal flavor—matcha, perhaps—I could see it. But as of now, simply adding a green drink does not a spring menu make.

Dunkin's two other new coffee items lean into a similarly rich, indulgent vibe. First, the Dunkin' Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew combines "slow-steeped, ultra-smooth cold brew and rich salted caramel flavor" and is "topped with creamy, velvety smooth Salted Caramel Cold Foam." Second, the new Dunkin' Salted Caramel Signature Latte "delivers a decadent mix of salty and sweet in every sip," featuring "rich espresso with creamy milk and salted caramel flavor, topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle and a dusting of cinnamon sugar."

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They both sound awesome—but, hoo boy, are they decadent. These are not spring sippers; these are winter sippers! These are cozy sippers to enjoy by a roaring fire and are wholly inappropriate for spring behavior; i.e. splashing around feeding ducks in one's wellies. For a more traditional spring approach, we must look to Starbucks.

Starbucks 2022 spring menu

Starbucks hasn't yet confirmed details of its 2022 spring menu; however, Taste of Home cites food blogger @markie_devo leaked news of the brand's newest offering: the Iced Toasted Vanilla Oatmilk Shaken Espresso. This one is decidedly more spring-forward, ditching the heavy, syrupy caramel for softer notes of vanilla and oat milk. There's no intense caramel drizzle; no dusting of cinnamon sugar. The shaken drink is relatively light; more importantly, it's dairy-free.

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This is a pattern for Starbucks. Last year, Starbucks' spring release focused on plant-based beverages and food, leaning into a new line of non-dairy iced shaken espresso drinks. To me, those feel more like spring. Spring is a time to shake off the heaviness of winter. It's a time to throw your windows open and proclaim, "Hello, world; I'm out of Lactaid!" Ultimately, spring is the time of the Second Wolf—the one that skirts heavy indulgence in pursuit of something a bit lighter.

Of course, it's all a matter of personal preference. If there are two wolves inside of you, which one will you seek to please this spring? Are you going heavy with Dunkin' regardless of the season, or are you veering lighter with Starbucks?

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Of course, there's always a third wolf to think about—the wolf that craves the Shamrock Shake. But that's another matter entirely.

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