The best copycat Starbucks medicine ball recipe

There are a lot of drinks on the Starbucks secret menu that are worth ordering. There's the Purple Drink, the Banana Split Frappucino, the crave-worthy Butterbeer Frappuccino, and something called Liquid Cocaine that might be the most delicious way to get a jolt of energy. It's not often that a coffee chain becomes famous for an off-the-menu tea drink, though, and it's less frequent that creation would actually make its way onto the regular menu.

For years, Instagram has been going crazy about a Starbucks drink that might be able to keep you from getting sick during cold and flu season. At the very least, the Medicine Ball from Starbucks might make you feel better if you do come down with the dreaded cold! While it's on the menu now and you don't have to hope your barista is in-the-know enough to be able to create this once-secret concoction, you can also make this tasty treat in the comfort of your own home. Will it taste just as good? Read on to find out.

What is the Starbucks Medicine Ball?

Starbucks isn't exactly known for their tea recipes, but this Medicine Ball tea (also called Cold Buster) somehow reached cult status on Instagram. It's unclear whether an employee or a customer originally invented the drink. Still, somehow the combination of two types of tea, lemonade, and honey became a popular secret menu item for the coffee chain. The drink was soon all over Instagram with claims that it could "help ease the pain when feeling under the weather or having a sore throat."

The drink became so popular that a store manager posted on the Starbucks internal messaging system that his location's baristas were making more than 20 drinks a day (according to Fortune). After nearly 40 other managers responded that they were also selling large quantities of the drink, Starbucks decided to officially add it to the menu. They changed the name to Honey Citrus Mint Tea, but most Starbucks baristas will know what to make if you ask for a Medicine Ball.

Will the Starbucks Medicine Ball get you through cold and flu season?

The idea behind the Starbucks Medicine Ball is that it can help you get through cold and flu season unscathed. Does it work? Well, it does contain a few cold-busting ingredients. The most beneficial ingredient in Starbucks medicine ball is honey. A 2010 study showed that honey is just as effective as over-the-counter cough medicine in reducing cough symptoms and related discomfort. Honey also has antimicrobial properties, which may help your body fight off an oncoming virus. Combined with immune system-supporting green tea and lemonade (which supposedly contains immune-boosting vitamin C), and you should have a recipe for avoiding the common cold.

The biggest problem is that lemonade doesn't actually contain that much vitamin C. While Starbucks lemonade doesn't provide any vitamin information, we did find that Simply Lemonade contains zero vitamin C and Minute Maid only has 2 percent of the daily recommended value of 90 milligrams. Considering that Harvard Health found the human body requires at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C to reduce the risk of getting a cold, we don't think store-bought lemonade will help with cold symptoms. If you're really looking to increase your vitamin C intake, it would be better to make the lemonade from scratch. A single lemon can contain as much as 83 milligrams of vitamin C.

Even if Starbucks' Medicine Ball won't help you avoid a cold, it sure does seem to make you feel better while you're drinking one. Here's how you can make one without lining up at your local Starbucks.

Gather the ingredients to make a copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe

There are plenty of copycat recipes on the internet, but we thought we'd stop into our local Starbucks and try to get the recipe straight from the source. It turns out Starbucks' Medicine Ball is not that much of a secret — the barista told us everything we needed to know when we asked what was in the drink. It starts out with half hot water and half steamed lemonade. Since we ordered a Grande drink, we deduced the drink contained eight ounces of each liquid.

Then, they add one packet of honey (about one tablespoons) and two bags of tea. The Teavana Jade Citrus Mint contains green tea, spearmint, lemon verbena, and lemongrass, while the herbal Peach Tranquility tea contains chamomile, citrus, and sweet peach flavors. When the item was on the secret menu, it contained an optional pump of peppermint syrup, but now that it's an official staple, the barista told us they only add the peppermint if a customer specifically asks for it.

For the full list of ingredients and step-by-step brewing instructions, check out the directions at the bottom of this article.

What type of tea do you need for the copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe?

We wanted to create a super authentic version of the Starbucks Medicine Ball for our copycat recipe, so we ordered Starbucks-owned Teavana teas. The teas are more expensive than some options at the grocery store, but we like that they're 100 percent ethically sourced with the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) with safe, transparent, and humane working conditions. The teas are also produced using sustainable practices.

The Jade Citrus Mint tea is made with green tea, spearmint, lemon verbena, and lemongrass. It has a nice bright flavor and cool finish. You could try mixing together a green tea and a spearmint tea bag to get the same effect if you don't want to special order the Teavana brand. The Peach Tranquility tea, on the other hand, is harder to replicate. In addition to chamomile flowers, chamomile pollen, and peach, this tea contains several sweet ingredients like apple, rose hips, and candied pineapple. It's rounded out with licorice root and lemon verbena, giving it a delicate, tropical flavor with a lightly herbaceous finish. You can find several peach-flavored teas at the grocery store or specialty shops, but we have yet to find one that's as well-balanced as the Teavana tea.

Does it matter how you heat the lemonade for the copycat Starbucks medicine ball recipe?

Starbucks has the luxury of having all those espresso machines behind the counter. All they need to do to heat the lemonade is pour it into a metal jug and use the machine's steam wand to heat the liquid. It's piping hot in a matter of seconds! Most of us don't have steam wands at home, so what's the best way to heat up the lemonade for our copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe?

Starbucks employees on Reddit advise that steaming isn't an important factor in creating the flavors that go into the medicine ball. Using the steam wand is just a quick and easy way for them to heat the lemonade. So we tried heating it up in the microwave — as they suggested — and it turned out just fine. After a minute or two, the lemonade wasn't bubbling, but it was hot to the touch. When we added it to our boiling water, it came together to create the perfect temperature.

What is the perfect water temperature for brewing the Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe?

This one is a tricky one because the Starbucks Medicine Ball uses multiple types of teas. Their Peach Tranquility tea is an herbal tea made with chamomile and herbs. The Jade Citrus Mint tea is a green tea that contains spearmint. According to Extra Crispy, these two teas should be brewed at different temperatures. Green tea tastes best at lower water temperatures between 170 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid bringing out the tea's bitter flavor. Herbal teas have better extraction rates at hotter temperatures, between 208 to 212 degrees — the temperature of boiling water.

When it comes to making the most authentic copycat recipe, we're going to stick with the hotter temperatures. Threads on Reddit confirm that Starbucks does not use multiple water temperatures when brewing tea, so the original Starbucks Medicine Ball is likely brewed with close to boiling hot water. If you don't care about making your homemade tea taste exactly like Starbucks' version, you can brew the tea at a lower temperature and leave the peach tea in for a little bit longer than we advise in the recipe below.

How long do you steep the tea for the copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe?

When you get a cup of Medicine Ball tea at Starbucks, it's freshly steeped. That means they heat the water (and, in this case, lemonade) and add the tea bag right before they pop the top on and call your name. It's up to you to decide whether you want to remove the tea bags after a certain period of time.

Keep in mind that each type of tea has a different recommended steeping time. Green tea is usually steeped for two to four minutes, while herbal teas can steep for five minutes or longer. Teavana recommends two minutes for Jade Citrus Mint and five minutes for Peach Tranquility, so we started there for our copycat recipe. We thought two minutes was right for the green tea — it can taste bitter if it brews for much longer. When it came to the herbal peach tea, we didn't notice much of a difference if we removed the bag or left it in the entire time we drank the tea. Its flavor got a little stronger between the two- and five-minute mark, but not significantly.

How close did we get to the original Starbucks Medicine Ball?

We usually get pretty close with our copycat recipes, but we were surprised at how much more we enjoyed our homemade copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe as compared to the original. The Starbucks version was very sweet, and it had an almost medicinal quality about it. We're not sure if that was due to the brand of lemonade and honey they use, or some other factor like using the steam wand to heat the lemonade. Our homemade version was slightly tangier and less sweet, with a well-rounded balance of flavors.

Either way, you can't go wrong with drinking this tea if you're feeling under the weather. The warm, honeyed drink was soothing on our throat, and we loved the cooling properties of the spearmint. The lightly bitter green tea was perfectly balanced with sweetness from the honey and lemonade, and the tangy lemon and delightful peach flavors kept us coming back sip after sip. Sick or not, we wouldn't mind drinking this copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe every day!

Copycat Starbucks Medicine Ball recipe directions

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 1 Grande (16-ounce) serving

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces hot water
  • 8 ounces lemonade
  • 1 bag of Teavana Jade Citrus Mint tea
  • 1 bag of Teavana Peach Tranquility tea
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Pump of peppermint syrup (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large kettle, heat the water over high heat until it's just below boiling, between 205 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the lemonade in the microwave on high heat until it's steaming, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. In a large mug, combine the hot water and lemonade. Add the tea bags and honey and stir to combine.
  4. Brew the tea for 2 minutes before removing the Jade Citrus Mint tea bag. The tea is now ready to drink, although you can remove the Peach Tranquility tea bag after 5 minutes if you wish.