Yesterday was supposed to be a hot day, the first in a series of three or four we’re expecting this week. It seemed reasonable then, to declare the day a Starbucks day. I had grocery shopping to do, but I proposed to Cliff and Emma to come with me into town while Mac was at work, in order to escape the heat. Well, there we were, at Starbucks, I’m making out my grocery list and a storm blew in. It really blew in. The sky got dark, the wind whipped, there were flashes of lightening, rolls of thunder and more rain than we’ve seen over the last three weeks. It was pretty tame, no tornadoes or flooding, but when it was over the temp dropped down to 68 degrees and stayed there for a few hours, until the sun came back out and heated it up to about 80 degrees. No real need to be at Starbucks after all, but then, when do we really need to have a need to be there?
I’m trying to diet, in that I’m trying to make better choices in the foods that I love. I went to the counter and asked for a mocha Frappuccino, noticing that I could get it made with non fat milk. I felt very smug when the young man at the counter asked if I wanted the whip cream and I told him, “No.” I mentally patted myself on the back and felt slimmer for just making that choice. But wait, he’s got another choice for me. “Do you want that to be the light mocha Frappuccino?” Hmm… is there a way to make this indulgent treat not quite as indulgent? “What makes it light?” I ask.
The young man was fairly new. I’ve never noticed him there before, so I wasn’t surprised when his eyes got big at my question. “Well, you know, we have the coffee base and we have the cream base and we have the light base, which we use in our light drinks.” I tried to take pity on him and even considered going with the light base, as though his explanation of the different kinds of bases answered all my questions. Instead I decided I needed to be more specific. “What’s in the light base?” I was met with bewilderment. I went more specific, “Are there any artificial sweeteners in it? I don’t do artificial sweeteners.” He still looked like a deer in the headlights. “I’ll just go with the regular coffee base this time and I’ll look up the light base for next time.” I told him.
I did look it up, but, I’m still not sure what makes it light. According to Veggywood.com the light Frappuccino base from Starbucks contains, “Light Coffee Frappuccino Syrup (US version): Water, sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)Contains Milk & Gluten!”
Okay, water, gotcha. Sugar, yep, natural flavors and salt, okay. I even understand the citric acid. What is Erythritol, carageenan, zanthan gum? Looking them up now. Something must tell me what makes it light.
Erythritol: According to ehow.com, “Erythritol Sweetener is a sugar alcohol that is created by a process that involves fermenting glucose but is used as sugar and considered just as natural. ” It doesn’t raise insulin or plasma glucose so it’s safe for diabetics. It may cause “a possible laxative effect in adults and children, as with most sugar alcohols. ”
Carageenan: According to WiseGeek.com “Carrageenan is a product derived from certain types of red algae, a seaweed found throughout the coasts of North America and Europe. The product is most often used as a thickening agent in place of animal-based products like gelatin, which is extracted from animal bones. It is a common ingredient in many foods and gel-like products, and even has applications in biochemistry. Carrageenan is nearly identical to agar, another substance derived from several different species of red algae.” Okay, I don’t have a problem with sea weed, as long as I don’t have to look at it while sipping. The undulation of sea weed makes me nauseous.
Xanthan Gum: WiseGeek.com also tells us, “Despite its rather alien-sounding name, xanthan gum is as natural as any other fermented corn sugar polysaccharide. The name is derived from the strain of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacteria responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria form a slimy substance which acts as a natural stabilizer or thickener. It was developed when the United States Department of Agriculture ran a number of experiments involving bacteria and various sugars to develop a new thickening agent similar to corn starch or guar gum.” This one I’ll have to be really careful not to think about.
Maltodextrin: This, from FitSugar.com says, “It’ll settle your mind to know that this common additive is an easily digestible carbohydrate made from rice, corn, or potato starch (celiacs beware — it can also be derived from barley or wheat). It’s made by cooking down the starch, and then acid and/or enzymes break the starch down even further.” But wait, they go on to tell us, “Although maltodextrin is processed and it’s not the healthiest thing to put in our bodies, at least we know it’s made from real food, not some nasty chemicals.” Well, at least there’s that.
Potassium Sorbate: We read at Livingstrong.com “Potassium sorbate is salt of sorbic acid and is prepared by reacting sorbic acid with potassium hydroxide. It is a white or yellowish crystalline powder or granule. Potassium sorbate is soluble in water. Once dissolved in water, it produces sorbic acid. It is effective as a preservative up to a pH of 6.5. Its effectiveness falls off as pH is lowered. It is inexpensive to produce, shelf stable and easy to use as an ingredient in foods and other products requiring antimicrobial activity. “ It may also interest you to know it’s used in personal care items like shampoos and “the manufacture of lubricants and plasticizers” Hmm…
Reb A: From ChaCha.com (I’ll admit, I used this one because I like the name of the site) we find, “Reb A-75 is a natural sweetener. It is a mix of highly purified sweet glycosides isolated from the Stevia plant with a Rebaudioside A content of not less than 75%. This sweetener can be used in many applications and is 150 times sweeter than sugar.” And just what is Rebaudioside A? Why it’s “ a steviol glycoside derived from the herb Stevia Rebaudiana (bertoni). Rebaudioside A and stevioside (Fig. 1) are the two main steviol glycosides found in the S. Rebaudiana herb and are the two predominant derivatives used in highpotency sweeteners.” of course! I think that makes it natural.
All in all, it seems that the light base does not contain artificial sweeteners and since I don’t mind using Stevia, I’ll go ahead and make the switch to the light base. In fact, since the regular coffee base does contain artificial flavors, it seems the light base may be a better choice anyway. I did read that the bases used to contain high fructose corn syrup and it seems Starbucks has done away with that, and people who can’t do gluten were disappointed that the revamped light base now does contain gluten. The Stevia replaces some of the sugar in the regular coffee base and with mocha light Frappuccino coming in at 26 grams of sugar verses the regular mocha Frappuccino’s 60 grams, saving the sugars without going with an artificial sweetener seems to make sense. The potassium sorbate gives me pause, and some day when I make the switch to completely natural foods and drinks (you know, when I’m able to kick the Starbuck’s habit) this drink will be off my list of enjoyable coffee drinks.
Whatever your coffee base instincts are, enjoy your cuppa, be it hot, iced or frapped!