There is nothing subtle about the new Starbucks Crystal Ball Frappuccino. This créme-based frappe is adorned with turquoise sprinkles and swirls, and topped with candy gems reminiscent of de-popped Pop-Rocks. The gems come in blue (foretells adventure), green (foretells luck), and purple (foretells… magic?), randomized for both you and the barista and only available from March 22-26th.
I had a very reasonable range of emotions before I first tried this strange frappe: The initial disgust at Starbucks attempt to pander to my need for spiritual fulfillment via multi-colored sprinkles; the self-conscious fear that I might actually enjoy the thing; and, finally, self-loathing that I could be so judgemental about something I’d never even tried. It was a wild ride.
In the end, I actually felt excited as I anticipated that first taste, excited to watch the walls of blind judgment crumble before me.
Then I tried the thing and the judgements all came rushing back. The Crystal Ball Frappuccino cannonballs onto your palate with a syrupy peach flavor, quickly followed by… I want to say, vanilla? Blueberry? That’s the thing about the Crystal Ball Frappuccino. Most of its notes enter your mind like you’re deciphering a code; one which is increasingly difficult to peel apart as your blood sugar spikes.
It’s chameleon-like — flavors constantly shifting and suggesting something else (all of them sugary) — a fitting trade-off given the theme. Although it tastes like someone melted a peach ring onto a confetti cupcake, I don’t believe children were the target audience for this one, and certainly not adults. I think it’s safe to say that Starbucks is going through its postmodern phase: No longer content with crafting beverages for people, Starbucks has instead decided to cut to the chase, and just make a beverage for our phones.
Because the Crystal Ball Frappuccino isn’t much fun to drink, but it’s great fun on Instagram. Whether appealing to the sugar-obsessed or giving health-snobs something to scoff at, Starbucks comes out on top by getting people to share and talk about their drinks. It’s a bold move to sacrifice flavor to please the algorithm Gods, but if anyone is going to do it, it’s going to be the same company that gave us last years’ viral Unicorn Frappe.