When it comes to coffee chains, my allegiance runs more towards the antler than the mermaid. But my prey, the elusive Unicorn Frappuccino, came only from certain Starbuckian breeding grounds. My quest required me to brave the wilds of the east suburbs. I was willing. Thus I traversed traffic lights, streets with a speed limit of 45, and oddly designed parking lots to bring me to the required location.
At that point, I discovered that many other pilgrims had a similar idea, as the drive-through line could only be described as epic. I, however, was willing to take a step that they weren’t—parking my car and going inside to order!
“Have you had blueberry ice cream? It kind of tastes like that. It’s good!” The barista’s caffeine-powered response to my hesitant and slightly self-conscious order for the drink of the moment masked any judgment that may have passed through his brain. I suppressed the urge to scream “No, really, this isn’t my usual order! I’m a coffee drinker! This is just a required item for a quest! I’m one of you! One of youuuuuuuu!!!”
As soon as I claimed my prey from the counter of finished orders, I zipped to a table to shoot it (that is, photograph it), admiring the distinct pink and blue swirls. Tip: if you’re thinking about a quest of your own and want the perfect instagrammable shot, do it as soon as you can. It didn’t take long for the pink and blue colors to start diluting into more mottled tones. Just like a cosplayer at the end of a Saturday at CONvergence, things didn’t look as nice as they did at the start.
My desired object was in hand and photographed for posterity. It was time. I took a sip. It was good. What trickery was this, that it dare not be disgusting in flavor?! I couldn’t believe it, but the drink was much better than I expected it would be, even to the point of being describable as “tasty.” The barista was right; it did taste more like blueberry than the advertised mango. Personally, though, I would have said blueberry creamsicle over ice cream, but it’s a small thing to quibble over.
I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet things in the morning, but there’s a tanginess in the aftertaste that helps balance out the sweet fruitiness. My brain knew a great deal of sugar was in there (per the Starbucks website, there’s 59 grams of sugar in a grande), but it wasn’t as obvious to my palate as it could have been. In the land of artificially colored sweets, pastel pink and blue usually signify cotton candy (a.k.a. sugar that tastes like sugar), so it’s very likely my brain was expecting that it would be much, much sweeter than it actually was.
A few minutes in, I started to experience the taste change. The blue drizzle had finally brought the sour. The taste started quietly—only as the aftertaste I mentioned earlier—but as I continued, the flood of sour came pouring through my straw. On the heels of the sweetness, the sour was surprising but not unwelcome, though it did get close to overpowering. My taste buds started to cry for mercy, and I ended up mixing in the remaining whipped cream to swing the taste balance a little back towards the sweet side of the spectrum. I was reminded that while we think of unicorns as sparkly, magical ponies, they also have a historical reputation as very fierce animals—more like the sour than the sweet.
Officially, the lifespan of the Unicorn Frappuccino is only a few days. The wisdom passed on from a number of news outlets tell of the drink disappearing on the twenty-third of April. In reality, at least based on what I overheard from the baristas, it’s more likely to end when stores run out of the necessary ingredients. So if you want to go find your own magical drink, don’t put it off. The Starbucks I went to had plenty of heroes partaking in their own search for the mythical beast.
If you are considering a quest of your own, heed my advice. The Unicorn Frappuccino doesn’t have caffeine, but the post-drink sugar rush is a doozy. Looking back with the wisdom I have gained from my quest, I really wish I hadd set my eyes on a smaller prize—a tall instead of a grande. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to embark on my next journey of knowledge. I must figure out why the world appears to be vibrating.