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What colors are the color changing cups at Starbucks?

Starbucks releases new holiday cup designs each year that often feature festive colors and patterns. The coffee giant is well-known for its seasonal cups that customers eagerly anticipate every holiday season. In recent years, Starbucks has come out with color changing cups that transform when hot liquid is added.

The Science Behind Starbucks’ Color Changing Cups

Starbucks’ color changing cups utilize thermochromic ink, which contains leuco dye. Leuco dye molecules are colorless below a specific temperature threshold. When the temperature rises above that threshold, the dye molecules undergo a chemical reaction that causes them to change color.

For Starbucks’ holiday cups, the thermochromic ink is printed onto the cups. At room temperature, the cups appear white or creamy. When hot coffee or tea is added to the cup, the heat activates the leuco dye and causes it to change to reveal a colorful design or pattern.

As the cup cools down again, the thermochromic ink reverts to its original colorless state. This allows the cup to switch between two designs based on whether there is hot or cold liquid inside.

Starbucks’ Color Changing Cup Designs

Here are some of the color changing cup designs that Starbucks has released:

2015 “White Stripe” Cup

In 2015, Starbucks introduced a minimalist white cup with pale purple stripes. When a hot drink was added, the stripes transformed into bright green, blue, and pink.

Color Cold Hot
Base White White
Stripes Pale purple Green, blue, pink

2016 “White Dot” Cup

In 2016, Starbucks moved to a white cup with pale green dots. The dots changed to red and green when heated up.

Color Cold Hot
Base White White
Dots Pale green Red and green

2017 “White Stripe” Cup

Starbucks brought back a white cup with stripes in 2017. This time the stripes turned from pale pink to cranberry red.

Color Cold Hot
Base White White
Stripes Pale pink Cranberry red

2018 “Stargyle” Cup

In 2018, Starbucks switched to a festive “Stargyle” design against a green background. The stars changed from red to blue when heated up.

Color Cold Hot
Background Green Green
Stars Red Blue

Consumer Response

Overall, customers seem to enjoy Starbucks’ color changing cups and make a game out of revealing the hidden designs. The element of surprise and interactivity makes drinking a holiday beverage more fun.

Some people complain that the thermochromic ink fades over time with washing. Others note that the color change effect only works well with very hot drinks. Iced drinks may not cause enough of a temperature change to activate the leuco dye.

Nonetheless, the color changing cups have become a staple of Starbucks’ holiday promotions. Customers eagerly look forward to the unveiling of each year’s new design and seeing their cups transform before their eyes.


Starbucks has released some memorable color changing cup designs over the past several holiday seasons. The thermochromic ink allows the cups to switch between two different looks based on temperature. Customers seem to appreciate the whimsical novelty of cups that change color when filled with hot coffee or tea.

While reactions are mixed, the color changing cups have become ingrained into Starbucks’ annual holiday tradition. They add an element of surprise and interactivity to enjoying festive beverages from the coffee giant. Fans look forward to the big reveal every year of what the new color changing cup design will be.