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Is Starbucks selling color changing cups?

Starbucks is known for its seasonal cup designs that customers eagerly anticipate each holiday season. This year, there have been rumors swirling that Starbucks may release color changing cups. While Starbucks has not officially confirmed this, there are some clues that point to the possibility of color changing cups making an appearance at Starbucks in 2022.

Evidence of Color Changing Cups

In recent years, Starbucks has made their holiday cups interactive. In 2019, they released reusable red cups with patterns that transformed into gift wrappers when heated with a hot drink. In 2020, the cups had tear-away sleeves revealing wintery scenes. And in 2021, the cups had glitter and confetti designs. So Starbucks has already been experimenting with making their cups more dynamic.

There have also been patents filed by Starbucks that show they are interested in color changing technology. In 2021, Starbucks filed a patent for a cup that changes color when filled with hot liquid. The patent describes thermochromic ink technology that would react to the heat and change the appearance of the cup.

Another clue is that color changing cups have already appeared at other coffee chains. Last holiday season, 7-Eleven released color changing cups that transformed when filled with a hot drink. So the technology is clearly already in use for holiday coffee cups.

Rumors About the Color Changing Cups

On social media and blogs, there have been various rumors about Starbucks possible color changing cups this holiday season. Some key rumors include:

  • The cups will change from green to red when filled with a hot drink
  • The cups will have thermochromic ink that reveals winter scenes
  • The color changing effect will be triggered by heat from the hot drink
  • The cups may change back to the original color once the drink cools down

While these describe possibilities, none of the details have been confirmed by Starbucks yet. But it does seem likely that if they release color changing cups, it will involve the cup changing based on the temperature from the hot drink.

When Will Starbucks Release the Cups?

Starbucks holiday cups are normally launched at the beginning of November. Last year, the holiday cup designs were revealed on November 4th. If Starbucks does have color changing cup designs ready for this year, they would likely be launched on a similar timeline in early November 2022.

Some sources have speculated the cups could launch specifically on November 3, 2022. But Starbucks has not confirmed an exact date yet. Given that it’s already early September at the time of writing, November is just two months away. So Starbucks fans won’t have to wait too much longer to find out if the color changing cup rumors are true.

What Types of Color Changing Effects Could the Cups Have?

If Starbucks does release color changing holiday cups, what types of designs and effects could they have? Here are some possibilities:

  • Standard Starbucks green to red: The cup could change from the signature Starbucks green to red when filled with a hot drink. This seems like the most likely option based on the rumors.
  • Revealing winter scenes: The thermochromic ink could reveal wintery designs, characters, or scenes when heated. For example, it could show falling snow, snowmen, reindeer, or other seasonal images.
  • Colorful patterns or designs: The cups could have colorful patterns, snowflakes, trees, or other designs that get revealed in different colors with heat.
  • Photos transforming into drawings: An interesting effect could be real life photos changing into cartoon drawings when heated up.
  • Disappearing ink effects: Some thermochromic inks disappear instead of changing color. So the cups could have designs that disappear when heated up to reveal an underlying layer.

These are just some of the creative possibilities if Starbucks utilizes color changing cup technology. The rumors make it sound like we may see the standard green to red effect, but Starbucks could certainly surprise customers with any number of designs.

Are the Color Changing Cups Reusable?

According to the rumors, the color changing cups will be reusable rather than the traditional disposable paper cups. Reusable holiday cups from Starbucks are usually made of plastic. This allows the color changing effect to last longer, as customers can trigger it again on subsequent coffee refills.

The cups are expected to be available for purchase for around $20, consistent with the price of reusable red cups in previous years. Reusable cups have been part of Starbucks holiday launches since 2019, as they aim to reduce single-use cup waste.

How Does the Thermochromic Ink Work?

Thermochromic ink is a heat-activated ink that changes color based on temperature. It contains colorants that react when heated up, shifting the ink to reveal a different color underneath. Here is an explanation of how it works:

  • Leuco dye molecules are colorless below the activation temperature.
  • When heated, the molecules spread apart allowing the color to be visible.
  • As the temperature drops, the molecules contract and become colorless again.

This reversible effect means the color change can be triggered repeatedly. For the Starbucks cups, the ink would be activated by the hot coffee causing the color shift. When the coffee cools down, it would gradually change back to the original color.

Thermochromic inks require careful formulation to align the activation temperature with the expected application. For coffee cups, the ink needs to activate shortly after hot coffee is added around 140–150°F.

Will Customers Be Excited About Color Changing Cups?

Starbucks fans and collectors get very enthusiastic about the holiday cups each year. There are unboxing videos, reviews, discussions, and even secondary market sales for the limited edition reusable cups. Starbucks loyalists try to collect all the annual releases. Adding a color changing effect would provide a fresh, interactive element that customers would be excited about.

Some key reasons color changing cups may appeal to Starbucks fans:

  • It’s a fun, interactive novelty that adds excitement to the Starbucks holiday experience.
  • Seeing the cup change colors when filled makes drinking the coffee more enjoyable.
  • The reusable cups become keepsakes and unique collectibles for fans each holiday season.
  • Customers enjoy sharing photos and videos of the color change process on social media.

While some may see it as a gimmick, many devoted Starbucks customers would find the color changing cups highly appealing. The novelty and customizability also has strong gift potential. Overall, it seems likely to be a popular release if Starbucks adds this technology.

Will Supply Chain Issues Impact Availability?

One potential challenge Starbucks could face is getting enough color changing cups produced to meet customer demand. Global supply chain disruptions continue to pose issues for many manufacturers. Starbucks has struggled with shortages of items like paper cups and coffee sleeves over the past two years of the pandemic.

Item Shortage Details
Paper cups In June 2020, some locations ran out of paper cups due to supplier shutdowns.
Coffee sleeves In 2021, many locations ran out of sleeves due to supply chain problems.

Custom color changing cups are more complex to produce than standard disposable cups. This could make supply chain issues more likely if high demand outpaces production capacity. However, Starbucks has a whole year to prepare the holiday launch. So they likely started production very early to allow time for any delays or shortages.

Starbucks also has significant experience managing supply chains. For example, when cup shortages occurred in 2020, they rapidly found alternative suppliers to resolve the problem. So while distribution challenges are possible, Starbucks likely has plans in place to ensure enough inventory.

Are Color Changing Cups Bad for the Environment?

Some environmental advocates have criticized Starbucks’ reusable holiday cups for generating unnecessary waste. Customers often purchase the cups for collecting or gifts but never actually use them. Producing disposable paper cups still generates less waste overall compared to mass production of reusable cups that never get reused. The color changing cups in particular would require more material and inks that contain chemicals.

However, Starbucks has been working to increase sustainability across their operations. They aim to reduce waste from single-use cups by promoting reusables. Having the holiday cups be reusable rather than disposable is aligned with their environmental goals. The color changing ink technology also continues to improve in terms of less toxic formulations.

Starbucks also noted most customers do reuse the holiday cups based on surveys. Only an estimated 15-20% purchased the cups solely as collectors items. So while there is still waste, increasing reuse is an improvement. Having desired collectibles that encourage reuse rather than single-use purchases can ultimately benefit their sustainability efforts.


While Starbucks has not confirmed official plans yet, there are strong signs color changing cups could make an appearance this holiday season. This novel technology would provide an interactive element customers would find exciting. Despite potential supply chain and environmental challenges, color changing cups seem likely to be a hit if Starbucks rolls them out in their typical November timeframe. Starbucks fans will be eagerly awaiting the official announcement to see if the rumors prove true!