A Starbucks sign (L) and a Starbucks drink (R).


‘This just feels wrong’: Viral TikTok reviewing Starbucks ‘coffee popping pearls’ sparks debate (updated)

‘I prefer to keep my love for Starbucks and love for boba separate.’


Braden Bjella

Internet Culture

Update 6:23pm CT, Dec. 21: A Starbucks spokesperson tells the Daily Dot that the drinks are real, noting via email: “We can confirm that Starbucks is conducting a limited test of two beverages made with coffee pearls at a two Starbucks stores for a limited time this winter.” Our original report is below.

A TikTok showing an alleged new boba-like product from Starbucks has gone viral, sparking debate from coffee snobs and bubble tea fanatics alike.


(an “in the dark” ended up being a cold brew based drink) #starbucks #boba

♬ in the dark – Bring Me The Horizon

The video shows a sign at a Starbucks advertising “popping coffee pearls,” available either as part of a cold brew drink called In the Dark or an iced chai latte. TikTok user Kirby (@kirbyssister), a Starbucks employee who originally posted the video, gave the product a mediocre review, dubbing the coffee boba simply “OK.” 

But what are these so-called coffee popping pearls? Besides reviews like this one on TikTok, there’s very little actual information about the product floating around on the internet. As one commenter wrote, “I work for corporate and I didnt even know.”

According to Kirby, the drink add-ins appear to be small, coffee-filled popping boba that are—according to @kirbyssister—“salty-sweet” and “awkward to drink.”

This isn’t the first time that Starbucks is debuting a boba-like coffee product. Similar products have turned up in Starbucks locations all over the world in the past several years.

For example, the official Facebook page for Starbucks Mexico shared a video advertising coffee spheres in June. The official Instagram for Starbucks in Malaysia began posting about coffee spheres as far back as 2019.

Writing from Singapore, one blogger detailed their positive experience with Starbucks’ coffee spheres. “The spheres—which I’d been very curious about—took me by surprise,” the blogger wrote. “Those seemingly boba-like pearls are Brazilian coffee spheres that actually burst into liquid coffee when bitten into. This meant that I literally had bursts of coffee in every sip. It’s an ingenious addition to the buttery caramel concoction!”

Another blogger in the Philippines shared this enthusiasm. “Starbucks nailed it!” the writer said. The blogger later gave the spheres a dazzling 4.8 out of 5 stars review.

But some commenters on TikTok are less enthusiastic about Starbucks’ new popping pearls.

“As a lover of both starbucks & boba, this just feels wrong,” one commenter wrote.

“I prefer to keep my love for Starbucks and love for boba separate,” another said.

Others are approaching the new Starbucks offering with an open mind.

“I kind of hated it at first but I kind of love it now,” explained one commenter. “I hope it becomes a thing.”

Starbucks did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

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