Whatever Happened To Starbucks' Chile Mocha?

Having been used in Mexican cuisine for centuries, chocolate and chili make for a match made directly in the center of Flavortown — think Mexican hot chocolate. In the mid-2010s, Starbucks set out to bring this punchy combo to its fans in caffeinated beverage form. "When we think about fall, often people think about warmth and spice, like cinnamon and apple pie," then-Starbucks senior product developer, Michelle Sundquist, said on the Starbucks website in 2016. "We decided to take that idea in a new direction with chocolate and a bit of heat." 

When devising the drink, the Starbucks team looked to the Mexican dish mole, as well as beloved Mexican spice-infused drinks like horchata and champurrado for inspiration while testing the heat levels present in a variety of peppers. Ancho chiles proved to be the pepper of preference, offering a sweet, fruity kick that perfectly complemented the espresso and chocolate notes while providing just the right amount of spicy heat to the drink. 

The Starbucks Chile Mocha launched in fall of 2016, offering a rich chocolate and espresso-based beverage enhanced with ancho and cayenne chile powder. Yet, the unique festive drink didn't last. While the popular Pumpkin Spice Latte continued to appear on Starbucks' autumnal menu, the spicier drink was phased out of stores just a year later.

Make your own Chile Mocha at home

Starbucks baristas made the Chile Mocha with espresso, steamed milk, cocoa, and cinnamon, and the drink was served crowned with whipped cream and a powdery garnish of ancho and cayenne chile pepper, cinnamon, paprika, sugar, and sea salt. It was an explosion of flavors with a caffeine — and spicy pepper — kick.

With its inclusion of many different spices, Starbucks designed the drink to appeal to fans of its seasonal mainstay, the Pumpkin Spice Latte. But it seems that it was no competition for the well-established fall favorite. Starbucks confirmed the news on X (formerly known as Twitter) in the fall of 2017, tweeting: "Chile Mocha isn't coming back this year, but we recommend trying the PSL [Pumpkin Spice Latte] or an Iced Salted Caramel Mocha." Though the Chile Mocha has unfortunately joined the ranks of discontinued Starbucks drinks, you probably have the ingredients to replicate the recipe for yourself in your spice collection at home.

If you'd prefer a colder version of the spicy beverage to enjoy during the warmer months, blend the ingredients into a makeshift Frappuccino or whip up a caffeine-free version by adding the drink's spices to your favorite hot chocolate recipe. Craving extra flavor in that plain latte or mocha? Add your own spices like paprika and cinnamon — and don't forget to sprinkle a touch of pepper powder to keep your palate perked. You can even add a dash of cayenne pepper to your brewed coffee for a similar kick!