Coffee Rookie Guide: What Is a Frappuccino?

Is there anything that quenches the thirst like a cold Frappuccino on a hot summer day? We doubt it. This delicious drink feels like ambrosia that the Gods sent directly to us to help us quash the heat threatening to incinerate us. But, while we’re enjoying our creamy, mouthwatering beverage, some of us might wonder — what is a Frappuccino anyway?

The mighty Frappuccino is the staple drink of the most famous coffee place on earth — Starbucks. But, not many know that it actually makes up for around 20% of their entire profit! Yes, with almost 40 different beverages on the menu (not counting the secret menu), Starbucks still earns 5.5 out of its 27 billion dollars of profit from Frappuccino alone! That’s not really such a surprise, considering that there are over 36,000 possible Frappuccino flavors.

So, to say that this drink is popular would be an understatement of the century. We all drink it (some more often than others), but not many of us know what exactly a Frappuccino is.

What Is a Frappuccino?

Although most people think that a Frappuccino is similar to the Grecian Frappe, they are quite mistaken. Similar in nature but utterly different in style, the Frape and the Frappuccino are like two different sides of the same coin (two delicious sides, if we may add).

We can see many different versions of both of these beverages all over the world. However, they share a resemblance in name only. The New England Frappe, for example, that originated in Boston, doesn’t even have any coffee in it. It seems like the Bostonians don’t like coffee or tea. Let’s just hope they don’t throw a Boston coffee party and throw the coffee beans into the harbor since they don’t need them for the Frappes.

We kid, but the New England Frappe tastes nothing like the Frappuccino. It contains no coffee, usually has added flavors, and overall resembles a milkshake more than it does a coffee drink. So why did we spend all this time telling you about it? Because the Boston Frappe with a shot of cappuccino is the answer to the question of what a Frappuccino is.

So, Is it a Frappe With a Twist?

To make a standard Frappe, we need some instant coffee or shots of espresso, granulated sugar, water, and ice. We can also add regular or evaporated milk. The trick is to put everything into a shaker and shake-shake-shake our hearts out. The resulting foamy deliciousness is a Frappe.

As mentioned, the original Frappe is shaken. The Boston Frappe is also shaken, but Bostonians make it very sweet and rich in flavor. They add a lot of milk, syrups, and flavored ice cream. They mix all of that together and shake the beverage well before serving it.

Since the Frappuccino is a Boston Frappe with a shot of cappuccino, then we suppose that it actually is a frappe with a twist (if you consider the Boston Frappe to be a real Frappe, since it doesn’t have any coffee). However, there is one significant difference here that makes the question of what is a Frappuccino entirely legitimate — Frappuccinos are blended.

Then Is it a Watered-Down Version of a Cappuccino?

Since a Frappe doesn’t have to have milk, we see why some people may think this. However, Frappuccino is anything but watery. Of course, when it comes to differences between an original cappuccino and a Frappuccino, there are plenty.

For starters, a cappuccino is always served hot. It’s a hot coffee-based beverage. This is non-negotiable — a cold cappuccino just means the service sucks, and your waiter forgot about you. A Frappuccino, as we know, is a cold drink, with ice, cream, and ice cream or other sweets (like syrups) blended straight into it.

Furthermore, a Frappuccino doesn’t have to have coffee in it. There are many different flavors of Frappuccinos. All of them are icy and delicious, but not all have the magic bean in it. A cappuccino, on the other hand, has a fresh espresso shot base. If there’s no coffee, there’s no cappuccino. What’s more, no matter where we order a cappuccino, we’ll always get the same drink. Cappuccino has a precise recipe, unlike the Frappuccino, which can vary in add-ons.

Where Can I Get a True Frappuccino?

We can, of course, make frappuccino-like drinks by ourselves. However, a true Frappuccino can only come from Starbucks. Yes, it may sound pretentious, but Starbucks owns the trademark for both the name and the recipe. Therefore, a real Frappuccino can only come from there.

So, Did Starbucks Invent the Frappuccino?

No, Starbucks didn’t invent the Frappuccino. But they bought the rights to it, marketed it, and made it the success that it is today. So, the answer to the question of what a Frappuccino is, we can honestly say it’s a poster child for successful branding.

Back in 1992, a small coffee shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, decided to do something different that summer. They rallied the troops (probably a few people) and started handing out coupons around the Harvard campus. These offered a delicious, cold frappuccino to everyone who came around the artisan coffee shop, Coffee Connection. People came, tasted it, and shouted for more. Everybody loved the frappuccino!

Not long after that, Starbucks managers caught wind of the new drink’s popularity and decided to test out these new blended coffee drinks in their stores. 1993 proved to be a successful year for such drinks, and 1994 was even better. That’s when Starbucks officially bought Coffee Connection and the ownership of the Frappuccino. Then all they had to do is market it into a billion-dollar money maker it is today.

The Frappuccino Today

Although it only had four ingredients back in 1992 (espresso, sugar, milk, and ice), when Starbucks got their hands on it, they added eight more flavors. Then, in 2011, they cut those down, and now a Starbucks Frappuccino has sugar, water, flavoring, a dash of salt, some citric acid, xanthan gum, and potassium sorbate. Try recreating that at home! No wonder that Frappuccinos can have up to 700 calories.

As mentioned, there are over 36,000 different flavors of the mighty Frappuccino. Everyone has their favorites, but some will always be iconic. From strawberry and cream, vanilla bean, green tea, to unicorn Frappuccinos and the Crystal Ball Frappuccino — these are just some of the flavors of today’s Frappuccino.

A Few Parting Words

What can we say, Starbucks really does it best. When it comes to blended coffee drinks packed with sugar (and delight), there’s no better one than Frappuccino. Although it was a mystery for a long time, now we finally have the answer to the question — what is a frappuccino?