Starbucks is kicking off its new line of "Refreshers" by giving away one free tall Refresher per customer at participating stores. (i.e. only the "real" Starbucks stores, not the kiosks inside grocery stores and other such locations.)
I stopped by my nearest Starbucks and picked up a Wild Berry Hibiscus Refresher (pictured above). I was originally going to go with the lime flavor, but the lure of hibiscus was too great to pass up. I love hibiscus in beverages (you usually find it in teas, both hot and iced) but it is somewhat rare to find it. Any chance I get, I am going to take it!
In addition to the ice and the drink, there were a few berries and a scattering of actual hibiscus flowers. I'm not sure if this actually affected the taste one way or another, but it did make for a nice presentation, and helped keep it from seeming like just a fancy soda.
But despite Starbucks' attempts to distance this product from anything as commonplace, as plebian as soda, that is pretty much what it is. They are making a big splash about Refreshers containing "green coffee extract," and I have to really hand it to the marketing team which came up with that one. "Green coffee extract" just means caffeine, since that's where we get caffeine: they wash it out of green coffee beans to create decaf coffee, the caffeine is captured and separated out for use in things like soda.
As for the taste, I found it very, well, refreshing. It was light and sweet, but not too cloying. The berry flavor dominated, with just a hint of the floral notes of hibiscus. Served with plenty of ice, it was a nice summer beverage. I'm not sure I would ever actually buy one, since I am a pretty big fan of coffee. (Why would I go to Starbucks and not buy coffee? The very idea is perplexing.)
I gather that Starbucks is trying to extend its brand by reaching out to non-coffee-drinkers. In that case, I think the Refresher is a reasonably tasty addition to their lineup. If you want something that is not coffee but has a mild caffeine kick, then you will definitely want to give this one a try.