If you asked me what my favorite coffee shop is, I’d promptly reply Dutch Bros. But in the three years I’ve gone, I’ve never had coffee.
Dutch Bros is a privately owned drive-thru coffee chain in only seven states that offers coffees, sodas (a Dutch Bros canned, flavorless soda), frosts (essentially a flavored milkshake), rebels (a Dutch Bros-branded energy drink), smoothies, freezes (blended coffees) and lemonades.
When you pull up to the drive-thru, you’re met with a menu filled with these types of drinks — but no flavors. You’re expected to know the flavor you want ahead of time — look up the combinations and flavors online, create your own drink or simply ask a friend who’s a regular, like me.
My go-to is a large, extra-thick, hand-blended James Dean Rebel. A James Dean consists of equal parts strawberry, peach and coconut.
This has been my standard order for a year, but I’ve always suspected there was something better on the menu I didn’t know about.
Seniors Mehdi Lacombe, Abby LaComb, Lia Kaufman and I — all Dutch Bros lovers — wanted to put my theory to the test.
With this in mind, we headed to Dutch Bros (4625 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael) and asked the employees for 15 randomly flavored drinks.
Marmalade Iced Soda: 4 stars
If you love grapefruit, the Marmalade Soda is your drink.
The marmalade flavor had strawberry, orange and grapefruit, but grapefruit was the only taste we could detect.
This wasn’t a bad thing, however.
“It was shocking,” Lia said. “At first I thought I didn’t like it, but the blend of fruity flavors really brought it home for me.”
This soda in particular was not overly sweet, something hard to come by at Dutch Bros.
Tropical Iced Soda: 1 star
Some (crazy) people enjoy the taste of cough syrup. Only they should drink the Tropical Iced Soda.
The mix of passion fruit, coconut and blue raspberry tasted like candy with a coconut aftertaste. We couldn’t stomach it.
“If you have coconut shampoo, this is what it tastes like,” Abby said.
Also, how is blue raspberry considered “tropical”?
The best part of this drink was its color: bright blue, like the waters off a Hawaiian island.
Double Rainbow Soda: 2 stars
As with the tropical soda, the coconut in this drink was overpowering; it also contained strawberry and peach, but the only lasting taste was coconut.
Essentially a milder version of the tropical soda, the Double Rainbow tasted of candy peach rings without a ton of sugar.
There was no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
Blackberry OPP Blended Rebel: 4.5 stars
“The citrus just hit me!” Mehdi said.
And Mehdi was right. This blend of orange, passion fruit, pomegranate and blackberry was as sweet, fruity and citrusy as can be.
“If you could taste Lush, this is what it would taste like,” Mehdi added.
While a soap taste was undeniable, the fruity-flavor blend was just right.
We became obsessed with this drink and kept sipping all afternoon; Mehdi was even converted to ordering the Blackberry OPP Rebel instead of the James Dean Rebel as his regular drink.
Orangesicle Blended Rebel: 4.5 stars
The Orangesicle Blended Rebel reminded us of our childhoods, sitting out in the warm Californian (or French, in Mehdi’s case) sunlight licking an orange popsicle.
The Rebel’s only flavor was orange; the citrus was even more powerful than in the OPP. Abby described it as frozen, sweet, popsicle-y orange juice — something we could all relate to.
Missing, however, was the cream flavor found in a creamsicle’s center. The Orangesicle had vanilla flavoring, but we couldn’t taste it.
Oil Spill Blended Rebel: 3.5 stars
With a hint of blackberry and a sour aftertaste, this sweet and fruity Rebel washed over our taste buds as slickly as an oil spill.
True to its name, this brown, blended drink looked like an oil spill on asphalt.
Despite the drink’s unappetizing name and color, Abby described a wave of flavors thanks to the mix of blue raspberry and red raspberry flavoring, going from neutral to sour to sweet in one taste.
However, you could taste only the Rebel in this drink, which we didn’t mind. We later realized there was a lot worse.
Sweet Sunrise Frost: 4 stars
Go-Gurt was one of my favorite snacks as a child. I mean, who doesn’t love yogurt in a squeezable package?
If you’re a Go-Gurt lover like me, make sure to try the Sweet Sunrise Frost.
This milky blend of peach, passion fruit, orange and banana tasted like peach yogurt or ice cream.
The texture, however, threw many of us off. We were used to the fizziness of the soda or thickness of the blended Rebel, and the smooth, lacy texture of the frost took some getting used to.
Ocean Water Frost: .5 stars
After multiple curse words and screams of hatred, the four of us violently threw this frost into the garbage.
What would cause such a visceral reaction? Well, like the tropical soda, it had too much coconut.
Confusingly, the ocean water flavor consisted of lime, blue raspberry and coconut, tasting nothing like a drink you’d have at the sea.
Worse, the frost base did not meld well with the coconut flavoring, so the drink had the taste — and consistency — of coconut body lotion.
The drink even smelled like coconut, making us all gag.
Palm Tree Frost: 3 stars
We thought grapefruit and strawberry were the star flavors in this drink, but we were wildly off the mark.
Rather, the Palm Tree Frost contained equal parts pomegranate, passion fruit and lime — none of which we could identify.
It didn’t taste tropical at all, but the overall milky sweetness was still tasty, putting this drink up there with the Sweet Sunrise Frost.
Get a small, though, because the frost base is quite heavy.
Peppermint Bark Hot Mocha: 3.5 stars
With the perfect balance of sweetness and coffee, the Peppermint Bark Mocha was something we’d all order again, even though Mehdi and I hate coffee.
“If you go to Starbucks or Peet’s, a lot of times their mochas are overly sweet,” Abby said. “This one is very mild, which I like a lot.”
While the mocha itself was balanced, we were disappointed that the taste of coffee overpowered the peppermint.
Cookie Hot Mocha: 3.5 stars
The Cookie and Peppermint Bark Hot Mochas were indistinguishable, both tasting like a plain mocha.
We were initially excited about the cookie flavoring (white chocolate and chocolate macadamia nut), but as with the Peppermint Bark Mocha, these flavors were absent.
Don’t get me wrong — the coffee was smooth and sweet, perfect for a cold, early school morning. But the cookie flavoring just wasn’t there.
Golden Eagle Hot Mocha: 4 stars
“It literally tastes the same!” Mehdi and I shouted in unison.
While Mehdi and I aren’t coffee connoisseurs, we agreed all three of the mochas tasted the same.
Lia and Abby, on the other hand, liked the Golden Eagle Hot Mocha the most, saying they could taste both vanilla and caramel flavor blended with the sweet coffee.
The caramel drizzle was also a sweet surprise on the surface of the drink.
White Zombie Freeze: 4 stars
“Does it taste like flesh?” Lia joked as Mehdi took a sip.
Thankfully, the taste of flesh was absent; instead, the flavors of white chocolate and vanilla prevailed.
The coffee was also weaker in this freeze than in the others, bearing a strong similarity to the Golden Eagle Mocha, which contained white chocolate and caramel.
This was Abby and Lia’s favorite coffee drink of the day.
Dark Chocolate Caramel Freeze: 3.5 stars
Much like the mocha, the Dark Chocolate Caramel Freeze was the perfect balance of sweetness and coffee, with the dark chocolate flavor prevailing over the caramel.
Abby, comparing the drink to a sweet, frozen frappuccino, said it was better than Starbucks’.
Since it was cold outside, Lia preferred the hot mochas but said this slushy-like drink would be perfect as a summer’s day pick-me-up.
Sugar Cookie Freeze: 3 stars
Like the Cookie Hot Mocha, the Sugar Cookie Freeze contained almond roca, vanilla and white chocolate.
The almond and vanilla made this freeze sweeter than the Dark Chocolate Caramel Freeze, much to Abby and Lia’s chagrin.
Top Five Non-Coffee Drinks:
Blackberry OPP Blended Rebel
Marmalade Iced Soda
Orangesicle Iced Soda
Sweet Sunrise Frost
Oil Spill Blended Rebel
Top Two Coffee Drinks:
Golden Eagle Hot Mocha
White Zombie Freeze
—By Jack Christian
Originally published in the Jan. 15 edition of the Octagon, now including online-exclusive information.