Friday April 21, 2017

This Toronto bakery was selling unicorn lattes long before Starbucks

The unicorn latte, left, has been available at Toronto's  CutiePie Cupcakes & Co. since last summer. Starbucks unveiled its popular unicorn frappucinno, right, this spring.

The unicorn latte, left, has been available at Toronto's CutiePie Cupcakes & Co. since last summer. Starbucks unveiled its popular unicorn frappucinno, right, this spring. (@cutiepiecupcakes_to, @starbucks/Instagram )

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When Starbucks unveiled its unicorn frappucinos to great fanfare this week, Toronto baker Melanie Abdilla was inundated with messages.

"I was pretty much bombarded by friends, colleagues, clients, everybody just sending me photos of it, like, 'Oh my God, look! They copied you!'" Abdilla told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Starbucks stops selling unicorn frappuccinos on Sunday, likely to the relief of its frazzled and food-colouring-stained employees. But if you've got a hankering for "unicorn magic," you can still head down to CutiePie Cupcakes & Co. in downtown Toronto.

Abdilla's Chinatown bakery has been making its own unicorn latte since last summer — and hers has yet to cause any baristas to have public meltdowns.

"I mean, we're pretty clean with it. Sometimes there's a splash of unicorn magic, I guess, that comes out, but we're OK with it."

Abdilla's colourful concoction was originally dubbed the "LattePie" — but its fans quickly rebranded it.

"People started coming in and would literally be like, 'Can I get that unicorn latte?'" she said. "It's really special, I think. We definitely took that on. We accepted it and now we call it that as well."

The shop has since adopted unicorn decor and a unicorn logo for the drink and it's unveiling unicorn ice cream next week.

"If you could just be here and see people's reactions when they come in, it really brightens their day. They love it. It's the idea of kind of the impossible or the unknown and magic and all that stuff," Abdilla said.

There are some key differences between Abdilla's colourful concoction and the ​coffee mega-chain's version.

Starbucks' colour-changing swirl — which one Washington Post reviewer said tastes like "sour birthday cake and shame" —  is made with a pink-tinted mango creme and blue sour syrup. 

CutiePie's latte has all the sweet without the sour, with pink and blue cotton candy and sprinkles. It also comes garnished with a whoopie pie, which Abdilla calls "the unicorn's horn."

"It's completely different, I think, the way it's made and the actual ingredients, but the look and the idea behind it and the magical unicorn influence, definitely, I see the resemblance," she said. 

But there are no hard feelings. In fact, she said, the Starbucks hype has boosted her sales. 

"It's pretty flattering," she said.