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The Panther Press

The Panther Press

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

It’s time for the annual Pather Press holiday drinks review!
Merritt Sellers

The Panther Press is back with our annual review of the Starbucks holiday drinks. This year there were new drinks and new foods, and a whole new Panther Press group! Our Panther Press team tried five different drinks and two foods from the Starbucks holiday menu, with five returning items and two new ones. The returning champions included the Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brûlée Latte, Chestnut Praline, Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte, and the Cranberry Bliss Bar. The rookies were the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai and Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop, which all of us were anxiously awaiting to try.  

As is tradition with the Panther Press we took our journalism class to Starbucks to test this year’s seasonal holiday drinks. This time, we made a location change and piled into vans to make a pilgrimage to the Marin Country Mart Starbucks. The store had a nice, friendly atmosphere with plenty of open seating and was most definitely bustling with people. Our cashier was friendly and efficient, getting the large order out quickly before we caught hypothermia outside. However one of the drinks came small so we had to switch it out, and the other came filled halfway, but overall we wholeheartedly enjoyed our time at this Starbucks. 

The drinks were definitely hit or miss but as a team, we enjoyed continuing a beloved holiday tradition. So, without further ado… our reviews of the Starbucks holiday drinks!


Chestnut Praline Latte

Average Rating: 3.4/10

Caroline Pirsch

Let me preface this by saying that I am neither a coffee fan nor a coffee drinker. My taste buds for Starbucks drinks are limited by whether I can actually taste the coffee. So, the stronger the sugar flavor, the better. Because of my coffee aversion, I was already apprehensive about the drink coming into trying the Chestnut Praline Latte. The drink was also half-filled and had minimal decoration compared to the others, with no sprinkles or drizzles aside from crushed pralines on the top.

Once I took a sip of the latte, my mouth was filled with the unpleasant taste of coffee-flavored sewage; however, there wasn’t any other distinct flavor besides purely coffee, especially not a holiday flavor. Starbucks claims that it has “flavors of caramelized chestnuts and spices” but the most holiday cheer that you can taste is a faint nutty flavor in the background.

Even worse than the initial taste of the drink, however, was the aftertaste. It was indescribable but undeniably terrible, with the nutty flavor twisting into something much more disgusting. Within minutes of my first sip, I was dumping the rest of the Chestnut Latte into the handily close trash can. 

Starbucks may have attempted to memorialize the taste of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” yet this drink made me the Scrooge of the season. The average may have been around a 3/10, yet the Chestnut Praline Latte was undeniably a 1/10 for me, and I wouldn’t try it again.


Caramel Brulée Latte (Not Iced)

Average Rating: 7.5/10

Aarya Chowdhry  

Alice Wang       

Have you ever intentionally worn sunglasses to drink coffee? 

Well, you might just have to if you wish to experience the multi-layered sweet and salty joy of drinking Starbucks’s Caramel Brulée Latte. 

Most people would not open the top cover of a coffee before they drink it, but for this drink, not opening the coffee cover would be a sin. As soon as you take the top lid off, a bright foam of floating vanilla meets your gaze, complemented by Brulée topping that feels oddly stress relieving to chew on and blinds you as you dare to peek at its beauty.  

As soon as your hands touch the steaming cup, you are sent into a rainy afternoon, sitting by your window sill, sipping away the gray and cold around you.

Before we start though, we must caution those who prefer a stronger coffee flavor because this drink is sweet, and you are most definitely not going to like it. It has a richer caramel flavor than the syrup used in other drinks, which would be wonderful if you like the heavy taste of caramel and the sweet butteriness of warm milk. 

However, despite the fact that the smell of the hot Caramel Brulée Latte had more milkiness in it than caramel or coffee, the concoction of coffee and caramel made up for it. 

Although both of us felt there was room for improvement, given that this latte was honestly less festive compared to the other holiday drinks, drinking it was like running into a warm, sweet sunset at the end of a rom-com, straight into our happily ever after.

Unfortunately, our happily ever after came to an end with the drink but the caramel aftertaste made sure that we remained in that same state of happiness for the rest of our day.


Peppermint Mocha

Average rating: 7/10 

Sharifa Hunarwar

Hannah Silber

The Peppermint Mocha felt like a cozy, comforting blend of light coffee and velvety milk with a hint of peppermint and chocolate. It looked like a very cozy drink with a pile of whipped cream on top and a bunch of dark chocolate flakes. 

When I took that first sip, it reminded me of the hot chocolate I usually enjoy every Friday during morning breaks at San Domenico. To me, the slight touch of mint added another layer of refreshing liveliness to the drink. 

If you are someone who prefers milder drinks than dark coffee, peppermint mocha is the drink for you. It is the perfect combination of caffeine and rich chocolate, not very strong or bitter, but combined the warmth of the holidays with a satisfying caffeine boost. While the flavors were delicious and refreshing, I thought a bit more peppermint could make it even better: a dream drink. Nevertheless, I would personally give this seasonal treat an 8/10 for its overall taste.


Iced Gingerbread OatMilk Chai

Average rating: 7.4/10

Coda Swaim 

I’m all for cozy nights: the rain pitter-pattering against the roof, candles glowing and good book bed-side. Now, imagine all that in a Starbucks holiday drink. That’s the Iced Gingerbread Oat Milk Chai.

I gave this drink a 9 out of 10 because it has everything you could possibly need. One sip and you are overwhelmed with the combination of creamy oat milk, infused with chai spices, gingerbread flavored syrup, cinnamon, and sprinkles of pumpkin spice. 

This Starbucks drink was nearly perfect and smelled good as well. Memories of making gingerbread houses with my family and friends was what this holiday drink brought to mind. One thing for sure is that it will be missed from the time Christmas is over until it’s Christmas time again.

Although I loved this holiday drink, Charles Yuan had a completely different opinion.  

Charles Yuan

Regretfully, the Iced Gingerbread Oatmil Latte was a very disappointing experience. Personally, I would only give it a dismal 1/10 rating: one point to this drink just because it’s Starbucks. 

My dislike of gingerbread and cinnamon made it an unpleasant experience for me. There was an awkward spiciness from the cinnamon, which overpowered the gingerbread flavor. In addition, the chai, which was supposed to be the highlight, was disappointingly weak.

The beverage was like an ill-composed symphony where the flavors clashed instead of harmonized. I don’t like gingerbread, so it was jarring and unwelcoming. Further, the taste was exacerbated by cinnamon’s spiciness, not the welcoming kind, but rather an overpowering presence that drowned out the gingerbread’s subtleties. The chai, promised to be the maestro of this ensemble, turned out to be disappointingly muted, like a faint melody barely heard over a cacophony of spices. For my palate, the drink wasn’t a harmonious mix, but rather a dissonant one.


Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte

Average rating: 3.4/10

Kylie Hellyer

I wish I could say this drink was as sweet and exciting as the holidays, but its flavorless taste reminded me more of the Grinch than Santa. The name of Iced Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte sounds like a delicious treat, but don’t be fooled: the “holiday drink” tasted like a typical bitter coffee with an overpowering taste of almond milk, nothing like the sugar cookie it is supposed to portray.

If you are looking for a boring watered down coffee similar to a long day at school or a mundane 7 to 9 job, this bland coffee is for you. To be blunt, the after taste reminded me of expired medicine. The sickly sweet film clung to my tongue and didn’t leave like a child attached to a new toy.

My favorite part (the only part I liked) of the holiday drink was the red and green sprinkles on the top embedded in fluffy white foam. I wish the flavor matched the beautiful Christmas decor. 

I rated the uninspired drink only 4/10. If you are hoping for a Starbucks drink to give you the warmth, comfort, and joy of the holidays, I recommend trying the Peppermint Mocha.

Merritt Sellers

Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop

Average rating: 7.4/10

Larkin Bowie

The Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop may look like an ordinary Cake Pop at first glance, but don’t skip this delicious treat, because it offers more than you expect. The outside of the Cake Pop was a hard frosting, which some said was too hard to bite into. It had peppermint pieces on top, which provided a contrast between a minty flavor and sweetness. 

Once you finally get through the hard outside of the cake pop, you are met with a gooey inside. 

The inside was the best part, it was fudgy and reminded me of a brownie, but better. The distinction between the dense outside and soft inside was a great contrast. Each contradicting flavor and texture created an amazing experience, making each bite a bit different. 

Overall, I enjoyed the Peppermint Brownie cake pop, but given I enjoyed it a bit too much, it was gone within seconds. I will warn you, the texture of this cake pop is so thick that it will be hard to get out of your teeth, but it is so worth it.


Cranberry Bliss Bar 

Average Rating: 4.2/10

Delaney Whaley

At first sight, the Cranberry Bliss Bar looked to be a sweet Christmas delight. The white frosting on top of the bar looked like soft fresh snow, with a pop of color from the bits of cranberries. This treat was very appealing to the eye, and I was excited to try this festive looking delicacy. As I bit into the bar, I tasted the sweet flavor of the frosting, and then the even sweeter taste of the bar itself. Suddenly, a harsh pang of too much sweetness was left in my mouth. The moist, dense texture of the bar clashed with the soft, pillow-like texture of the frosting. 

This snack could be perfect for someone who has quite the sweet tooth, but personally, it was not for me. The group rated this a 4.2/10 while I rated it a measly 1/10. Overall I tend to enjoy most of Starbucks sweet treats, but this is one that I will most definitely pass on the next time. 


Merritt Sellers

We had some we loved, and a couple we loved a little less, but these drinks and treats left us with a taste of Christmas. High on giggles and caffeine, the class cleaned up the espresso cups we used to sample the coffee. As small droplets of rain made their way to the ground, we scurried back to the vans to avoid the California winter showers. It wasn’t snow, but it would suffice. 

Being with friends during our favorite class at a Starbucks was a fun way to spend our Thursday morning. For our seniors, who have been stressed out about college applications, it was a much needed stress relieving day; and for all of us, with our finals just around the corner, it was the perfect way to take a break and enjoy the festive holiday season.

With bare trees above us and wet leaves on the ground, even without snow and 18 days left, it felt like Christmas. 


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About the Contributors
Merritt Sellers
Merritt Sellers, Head Illustrator/Social Media Manager/Reporter
Merritt Sellers is a sophomore at San Domenico and a contributor of The Panther Press. She enjoys sailing, sewing, and art.
Coda Swaim
Coda Swaim, Reporter/Social Media Manager
Coda Swaim is a contributor of The Panther Press. Coda is a sophomore, who loves to play soccer and listening to music.
Delaney Whaley
Delaney Whaley, Sports Editor
Delaney is a sophomore at San Domenico School. She is a contributor of The Panther Press. She enjoys playing basketball, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.
Sharifa Hunarwar
Sharifa Hunarwar, Copy Editor
Sharifa Hunarwar is a senior at San Domencio School and a contributor to The Panther Press. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, music and mountain biking.
Larkin Bowie
Larkin Bowie, Review Editor
Larkin Bowie is a sophomore at San Domenico and a contributor to The Panther Press. She enjoys baking and hanging out with friends.
Caroline Pirsch
Caroline Pirsch, Editor-in-Chief
Caroline Pirsch is a senior at San Domenico and the co-editor-in-chief of The Panther Press. She loves theater, lacrosse, and hanging out with friends and family.
Hannah Silber
Hannah Silber, Editor-in-Chief
Hannah is a Senior at San Domenico and the co-editor-in-chief for The Panther Press. She enjoys spending time with friends, playing volleyball and reading.
Kylie Hellyer
Kylie Hellyer, News Editor
Kylie is a junior at San Domenico. She is a contributor of The Panther Press. She loves water polo, swimming, and hanging out with her friends.
Aarya Chowdhry
Aarya Chowdhry, Head Copy Editor
Hello! I am a senior at San Domenico School and a contributor to The Panther Press. I have a passion for learning and researching. I love writing about women's rights and social justice. Other than that, I am a fan of badminton, YAF novels and writing poetry!
Alice Wang
Alice Wang, Copy Editor
Alice Wang is a senior at San Domenico and a contributor for The Panther Press. She is an international student from China and loves traveling.
Charles Yuan
Charles Yuan, Arts and Ideas Editor
Charles Yuan is a senior at San Domenico School and the contributor for The Panther Press. He enjoys shopping and he is a big fan of Vogue.

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