Have you visited Starbucks lately? I’m there a lot, mainly because I have super slow satellite internet on the farm, so the high speed when I’m in town is nice. My weakness for a plain-whole milk-latte-with-whip is also a reason, but that’s another blog post.  And…another post should be on the fact that I get depressed every time I sit in the shop watching people, young and old, order drinks made completely of soy, nonfat “milk”, extra-extra-extra sweetener,   caramel,or whatever.  It’s so sad! At least my drink of choice is somewhat related to real food.

Are starbucks refreshers healthy?

Starbucks has recently introduced a new “energy” drink.  You wouldn’t believe how much they push this product.  Sitting in the shop for an hour, I watched every single customer being offered this “new awesome drink, derived from green coffee beans- so it doesn’t taste like coffee!”  They have coupons, samples, a full product line with related products, and beautiful store display to promote the drink.  There are beautifully crafted signs all over the store, using words like “natural” and “fresh”.  The product colors entice you with bright, summery pinks, oranges and greens.  You can purchase little cans of the drinks (in the store and at super markets, Targets, Walmarts, etc.) or order the barista version in the store.  In the store there’s a “very berry hibiscus” flavor and “cool lime”.  The barista version even includes a few little actual berries!  Sounds nice, right?

You get the feeling that these drinks are an light and uplifting alternative to the rest of the Starbucks menu.  Their marketing is great…people come out of the heat into the air-conditioned shop and see the bright, refreshing colors of a lemonade-like option instead of drab, brown coffee options.  But buyer…BEWARE!

“Refreshers” Canned

What is the “Refresher”? It seems to me that Starbucks has produced yet another processed energy drink.  In other words, a NON-FOOD product. Maybe it’s a little better than Monster or Red Bull, but how much better?

I guess you could say it’s better because it has some “natural” stuff in it- like ginseng, fruit juice, stevia instead of added sugar and “vitamins”.  For me, the amount of sugar turns me off, but that may not be so much of an issue for those looking for a little sweet treat.  (By the way, I did ask the employee how they made the barista version of the drink, and they said they have a base mix that they add water, ice and the berries to.  That’s all she could tell me.  You can conclude that the ingredients in the shop version are the same as the canned version…maybe even more concentrated.)

Ingredients List

Nutritional Facts

My problem with the Refreshers is mainly the fact that it is a caffeine-concentrated drink that is not being advertised as what it is.  Can you imagine how many moms probably think this is an innocent “natural” juice drink and give it to their little ones?  Yikes!  I also do not like the chemical additives and synthetic (chemical) vitamins- but I’ll leave that alone because it is what it is.

Starbucks does not clearly state how much caffeine is in the refresher drinks, except for the milligram amount of “Panax Ginseng” (which means pretty much nothing to most people). But if you know how to interpret the ingredients, you might have a better idea of what this stuff is actually made of.

The main “energy” ingredients are green coffee bean extract, ginseng root powder concentrate and synthetic B-vitamins. Sure, these things are “natural” (except the vitamins), but that doesn’t mean they are good for you.

Green coffee beans mean they are not roasted at all. The roasting process is what gives us the different depths of flavor in coffee roasted at different levels. The more you roast coffee beans, the LOWER the amount of caffeine.  So that means that if coffee is brewed at an even grind size, then dark roast or espresso roast actually has less caffeine than a mildly roasted bean.  So an unroasted bean will have the MOST caffeine! Turn that into an “extract”, and you have a lot of caffeine.

Next is the ginseng root powder extract and b-vitamins.  Both of these things could be considered nature’s energy boosters, but when concentrated, these components can cause sudden and extreme adrenal stimulation (artificial energy), which can be just as bad as a sudden load of caffeine.  What’s wrong with a sudden load of caffeine?  Well, it can stress the adrenal glands which causes irritability, stress, headaches, anxiety, shakiness, and many other symptoms.  A dependence on caffeine (or addiction) can lead to chronic adrenal fatigue and dysfunction, which can lead to weight gain and a myriad of other health problems.  You may not experience any of these symptoms, but if you can’t live without caffeine or energy boosters, then I believe you have a problem that will probably manifest as a more serious problem later.

So I say “Skip the Refresher!” Don’t even think about giving it to your kids! Sure, it’s probably a much better choice than the horrendous other drinks on the menu- mind-blowingly full of sugar, caffeine, and who knows what. But this is just a reminder to read ingredients and ASK what’s in something before you buy it.  If you’re going to get something at Starbucks, I do recommend getting something simple- like an iced passion tea (a deliciously fruity herbal tea) or a plain espresso/milk drink like a latte with no added syrup flavorings.  (Don’t forget, this option will still have a considerable amount of caffeine, but will actually have LESS caffeine than a full cup of plain coffee. You could go for decaf, but there is a lot of chemical processing involved to decaffeinate coffee beans. The fat from whole milk will offset the impact on the adrenal glands from the caffeine and small amount of sugar.) If you have to have the sweetener (which I highly suggest you retrain yourself to not need the sugar- I’ll tell you how to successfully do this in a future post), then ask for half a shot of the sweetener instead of the standard 2-3 shots they add. Don’t forget that all the sweeteners are syrups, made mainly of high fructose corn syrup and chemical “flavors”.

Have you been misled by the Starbucks Refreshers?

*Update: As of this writing, the Starbucks official website does not offer the nutritional information online for the barista version of the Refresher.