Confession: I’ve covered nearly every Starbucks secret menu item for Uproxx — from the rainbow-colored drinks to the puppuccino, to the oatmeal latte — but I’ve never tried them for myself. The reason? I hate inconveniencing baristas. I don’t want to be that person. You know, the person who orders the non-fat-half-caf-soy-latte-with-three-pumps-of-toffee-nut-syrup (“But make sure you put them in after everything else, so the flavor can really seep down into it”).
Me, I’m simple. Give me a tall flat white, and I’ll be on my merry way. Until I found out about banana milk coffee. And I knew I had to get Starbucks to try and make it for me.
First, the deets on the drink: banana milk coffee, called “the next pumpkin spice latte” in a bold pronouncement by Eater, is a drink created by Brooklyn’s J+B Design & Cafe manager, Fumio Tashiro. Blending milk with bananas isn’t exactly a new thing — vegans laud the technique as a cheap, nutrient-packed alternative to other non-dairy milks. But Tashiro is the first to pour that banana milk — which he makes using a scant cup of milk, a bit of simple syrup, and an entire banana — over coffee.
And that coffee is, specifically, cold-brew coffee. Tashiro uses a special wholesale brand of New Orleans-style coffee and brews it Japanese-style over ice. Topped with the banana milk, the beverage turns into a creamy, milkshake-like beverage that Eater promised wouldn’t taste explicitly like bananas.
I’m a sucker for new tastes, so I was all about trying out this banana milk coffee. Unfortunately, I don’t live anywhere near New York, so the next best thing was to set aside my petty anxiety about being one of “those people” and take it to Starbucks to see if I could finally invent that missing Yellow Drink.
As it turns out, inventing a secret menu item is not nearly as painful as I’d expected. I made sure to hit the store up in the mid-afternoon, when I knew they’d be slow, and immediately apologized to the barista for being so difficult before ordering a cold brew with milk and simple syrup, with a banana blended in.
“Can you do that for me?” I asked, holding my breath and giving her my most winning smile.
The barista blinked. “Yeah. No problem. What kind of milk do you want?” Two minutes later, I picked up my Starbucks-made banana milk coffee.
And how did it compare? Well, I’ve obviously never had Tashiro’s banana milk coffee, so I can’t say for certain, but I do believe the Starbucks version was slightly inferior. For one, the banana wasn’t all blended in, so the drink was just a little bit chunky. Also, not to be petty or anything, but after taking the tiniest sip to sample the flavor, I walked my drink home to photograph it — and lost about a third of the volume of the drink as the banana part separated from the coffee.
All quibbles aside, though, the drink was actually really good. Maybe a little sweet — I’m not sure I would add the syrup next time, because the banana adds enough sweetness already — but filling, and a whole lot healthier than any one of Starbucks’ other sugar-packed drinks.
Bonus content: I liked the idea of banana milk coffee so much that I decided to try making it at home. Here’s the thing. I attend a workout class in the very early morning, and am always looking for a breakfast that’s the perfect trifecta of quick, satisfying, and not so heavy that it will make me hurl halfway through my hour at the gym. Banana milk coffee, I realized, had a lot of potential, with the nourishment from the banana and milk, and the early-morning caffeine pick-up from the coffee.
Since I wasn’t about to go to Starbucks every morning and ask for a banana milk coffee (and besides, are they even open at 5 a.m.?), I decided to try and whip up a glass of it at home. I started by blending up a banana with a scant cup of whole milk, plus a drizzle of simple syrup for accuracy. Then I followed Serious Eats’ instructions for Japanese-style iced coffee. Finally, I put it all together. The whole thing took no more than five minutes to create.
And the results: a drink that turned out to be about fifty times better than Starbucks’ version. (Sorry, Starbucks.) I think the problem was that I hadn’t asked the barista to blend the milk with the banana before pouring it over the cold-brew — she just blended everything together. My at-home version, though, was incredibly creamy and frothy with no banana chunks. Again — it was a bit sweet for my liking, and I’ll have to tweak the coffee-to-banana milk ratio, but I’m 100% sold. This is my workout drink.
What’s next? Well, in order for banana milk coffee to legitimately make it as a Starbucks secret menu item, I have to convince you all to start ordering it. So go out! Order! It’s not yellow, but banana peels are yellow, so can’t we just call it the #YellowDrink? I can promise you that it’s delicious, and that telling your barista to do something as crazy as blend a banana into your drink isn’t as painful as it sounds.