I have never tried psychedelic drugs, but I imagine the experience is a lot like drinking a Starbucks Frappuccino. Strange sensations, unnatural colors, increased heart rate, heightened emotions, paranoia: It’s all there in that plastic cup, the three or four times a year the brand introduces one of its Instagrammable, limited-time offer frapps.
What a grande strange trip the latest iteration is, then. Fifty years after Woodstock, the Tie-Dye Frappuccino is here to remind you that the idealism of the 1960s is dead.
This is the dawning of the age of Frappquarius: a pale yellow drink with streaks of green and pink throughout, and a whipped cream topping sprinkled with pink, purple and blue. The colors come from natural sources — beet, turmeric and spirulina — which is a pretty hippie recipe, Starbucks. Press materials don’t identify the flavor, but I’d describe it as artificial banana and disenchantment, with a touch of peach. It looks like a Grateful Dead T-shirt that took a few spins through a Vitamix with some Laffy Taffy and magic markers, but only for the first three minutes after it’s handed to you. After that, all the colors settle to the bottom, and it evens out to a pale shade of yellow with a layer of pink-gray sludge at the bottom. It coats your mouth and tongue with a viscous film of sugar and has an aftertaste that lingers like sour milk.
Tie-dye enjoyed a brief revival during the ’90s, and just like all things from that era, it’s back in fashion. Harper’s Bazaar reports that designers including Prada, Proenza Schouler and Stella McCartney have put tie-dye on the runway recently, and called it — cringe — the “year’s most woke trend.” Some may be attributing it to the new counterculture.
“In the Trump era when right-wing politics is so loud, I think tie-dye can be viewed as a peaceful, but defiant protest against conservatives,” R13 fashion designer Chris Leba told the magazine.
If splotchy rainbow dresses and a banana milkshake are the state of the resistance, the resistance sure is in trouble.
Instead of referencing politics or the ’60s, Starbucks’s promotional materials are all about nostalgia for summer camp and childhood crafts. The company is so eager to avoid its previous political minefields that it released a rainbow drink 10 days after Pride ended. “Turn on, tune in, drop out” has become, “Buy it, sip it, ‘gram it.”
And the baristas are feeling dazed and confused. Like the Unicorn Frappuccino: The drink is time-consuming to prepare and makes the baristas’ jobs harder. They’re tweeting about their displeasure. “Please, be nice to your barista when this stupid Tie-Dye Frappuccino comes out,” one wrote. “It’s going to be a pain to make, and it is not going to look exactly like it does in the ads.”
Mystic crystal revelation / and the mind’s true liberation: The Tie-Dye Frapp is the same as all of the ones that have come before it, and all of the Frapps yet to come. It may look like electric Kool-Aid, but it fails the test.
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