We Tried Starbucks' New Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai And It Is A Sugar Bomb

Halloween is over, and you know what that means? Pumpkin spice is out and holiday flavors are in. At this point, it's safe to say that Starbucks has cornered the market on seasonal coffee flavors. Sure, other companies release lines for each season, too, but few go as all-in as Starbucks does. This year sees the return of several holiday classics to the chain's menu, with one new addition: the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte. This drink pairs classic holiday gingerbread flavor with warm, spicy chai.

Of course, each warm beverage is served in one of the loved and oftentimes heavily debated Starbucks red cups. As a bonus, Starbucks has released a delightful holiday design for its iced beverage containers, a nice touch since there are several cold holiday flavors on this year's menu. For many of us, cold weather is not enough to keep us from our iced coffee.

With so much pomp and circumstance surrounding the release of the Starbucks holiday menu and cups, we had to see how this new menu item stacks up to everything else. Let's see if this drink will become a new holiday tradition.

What makes the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai so festive?

Exact information regarding the components of the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte is not available online as of this writing. So we did what anyone would do when faced with a new beverage: we asked our neighborhood baristas about it. They helpfully obliged and gave insight into the components of the drink.

The Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte comes two ways: hot and iced. You may think that the drinks are identical except for the temperature, but there is a difference. Both start with the same base: oat milk, chai syrup, gingerbread syrup, and a sprinkle of spiced topping. The difference is that hot beverage requires the barista to stream the milk first, a step that gives the drink a foamy top. Since this is not possible with an iced drink, the iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte is topped with an oat milk froth. This is similar to the foam atop other iced beverages but keeps the drink dairy-free. 

As they come, neither the hot nor cold beverages have coffee in them. Instead, they are tea-based drinks that still contain caffeine, though not as much as coffee-based ones. You can add a shot of espresso to the drink if you choose.

How to get your sips

If we have you convinced that you want to try this latte, good news: as of November 2nd, the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte is in Starbucks stores across the United States. This is not-so-coincidentally the same day the holiday cups dropped, so you can get the whole holiday experience. 

Until it all disappears, that is. Part of what makes the holidays so magical is that they only come once a year, and the same goes for holiday beverages at Starbucks, which are only available for a limited time. While an exact end date has not been announced as of this writing, if history is any indication, we expect to bid these drinks goodbye shortly after the New Year.

When you get the Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte, be prepared to spend a pretty penny. The hot version of the drink cost us $5.95 for a grande, the default size when ordering on the app. Meanwhile, the Iced version cost even more, coming in at $6.25 in our area. With holiday cheer comes holiday pricing.

How is it different from other Starbucks drinks?

The Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte brings a new interpretation to the chai latte scene. Starbucks has a chai latte all year round, but this one is different thanks to the addition of gingerbread syrup. The thing is, chai is already a combination of black tea and spices. The gingerbread syrup just adds more spices to the mix. While this means the flavors meld well, we also worry that they will become redundant as you finish your drink.

From a holiday perspective, the main difference between holiday beverages and regular ones is usually just a matter of syrups and toppings. In this particular case, one additional ingredient that sets the iced gingerbread latte: the oat milk froth. This is good because there is also a regular coffee-based gingerbread latte on the Starbucks holiday menu. We appreciate that this drink brings more to the table than its hot counterpart.

What's the nutritional content?

The iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte doesn't just cost more; it also has more calories, fat, and carbs than the hot version. Weirdly, though, the hot version of the drink contains more sugar with 54 grams in a grande, compared to 45 grams of sugar in the iced version. Even by holiday standards, that is a lot of sugar, more than what's in treats like the Cranberry Bliss Bar and the Gingerbread Loaf.

Starbucks lattes are not known for being all that healthy, but part of the high sugar content of the gingerbread beverages likely comes from a double helping of syrups. While the base of a traditional latte consists of espresso, the base of Starbucks chai beverages is basically a spiced tea syrup. Here that is added to the gingerbread-flavored syrup and leads to a whole lot of sugar going into just one cup. You get a comparable dose from another holiday classic at Starbucks, the Peppermint Hot Chocolate, which has 56 grams of sugar and doses of both chocolate syrup and peppermint syrup. But hey, it is the holidays, a time for sweet treats and sugar-plum dreams, so you may be able to excuse this as an occasional treat.

Final verdict: Hope you like sugar

There is no getting past the fact that these drinks are sweet. But they would be great as a dirty chai made with a shot of espresso, which would at least help to cut some of that sugary experience. However, gingerbread is a sweet dessert, so Starbucks can almost get away with it.

What was especially striking was the difference in taste between the iced version and the hot version. The iced latte we received was far creamier due to the oat milk froth but it was also far less spiced. Between the froth and the cold nature of the drink, the gingerbread flavor began to fade away. The hot version, on the other hand, had more robust notes of black tea and gingerbread. Weirdly, the oat milk added to the gingerbread experience, as oat milk has a unique texture that helps to create the illusion of eating a cookie while drinking a cup of chai.

Additionally, the oat froth was sweet and creamy, offering a consistency closer to whipped cream than cold foam. It was also lighter than foam and fell into the drink a little faster. As a dairy-free option, it was great, but it would have been nice if Starbucks had incorporated some gingerbread flavor into the oat milk instead of letting it take over the iced drink.