Nov 24, 2014

Cranberry Bliss White Chocolate Mocha

Homemade Cranberry Bliss White Chocolate Mocha

Starbucks’ seasonal drinks, like the Pumpkin Spice Latte, are something that many Starbucks fans look forward to all year long. In addition to the old standbys, the company releases new drinks every season. Those drinks also vary by region and by country. This means that if you follow Starbucks news, you’ll often see reports of drinks that are not – or are not yet – available in your area. When I heard that Starbucks was introducing a Cranberry Bliss White Mocha inspired by its extremely popular seasonal Cranberry Bliss Bars, I immediately wanted to try one. Unfortunately, they are only available in Japan for now and it would take a pretty pricey plane ticket to put one in my hand tonight.

So, instead of heading to the airport, I headed into my kitchen to create a homemade Cranberry Bliss White Chocolate Mocha that we all can enjoy. The mocha is made with real white chocolate and a homemade cranberry syrup for a drink that is sweet and creamy, with a hint of tart berry flavor that really captures the holiday spirit.

The cranberry syrup is made with just cranberry juice and sugar. It may seem like quite a bit of sugar at first, but the proportions are very similar to simple syrup, which is commonly used to sweeten coffee drinks. I used 100% cranberry juice and highly recommend seeking out the same type of just for the best cranberry flavor. The syrup will keep in your refrigerator, in a covered container, for at least two weeks. Continue reading »

Nov 19, 2014

Starbucks Guatamala Laguna de Ayarza Single Origin K-Cups, reviewed

Starbucks Guatamala Laguna de Ayarza Single Origin K-Cups, reviewed

In addition to the Rwanda Rift Valley Single Origin K-Cups I picked up a few days ago, I also bought a box of another Starbucks Single Origin product, the Guatamala Laguna de Ayarza Single Origin K-Cups. Like the Rwanda cups, these cost a few dollars more than your average k-cup, but they are sold in a larger package and, of course, offer a more unique flavor for the discerning coffee drinker who is looking to improve his or her Keurig experience.

Laguna de Ayarza is a crater lake in Guatamala that was formed as the result of a huge volcanic eruption roughly 20,000 years ago. The eruption is significant because it spread ash and rock for many miles, a layer that gradually transformed into rich volcanic soil that is excellent for growing coffee. This coffee is a medium-bodied medium-roast coffee. It has a very mild aroma, with a hint of nuttiness to it. That nuttiness transitions to the taste of the coffee and builds quickly into a smooth, bright citrus flavor, which slowly fades into a nutty, chocolaty finish. Although you might get the impression that this is a very “rich” coffee from reading the tasting notes on the box, it really has a fairly light body overall and, while it does have a very pleasant complexity to it, I found the Rwanda Rift Valley to be the “richer” of these two single origin options. Still, it is a good cup of coffee that is very smooth and easy to drink, with a pleasantly long finish that allows those citrus and cocoa notes to linger on your palate. .

Nov 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte

Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte

Salted caramel tastes delicious all year round, but I find that it works its way into more drinks as the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler. When we’re cold, having a cup of something warm and comforting to drink is a great way to treat yourself – and caramel is always a treat. There are lots of salted caramel coffee drinks out there, but you don’t see it paired with tea quite as often. The smooth, buttery sweetness of caramel is a great match for many different kinds of tea and it makes an amazing Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte.

This easy to make tea drink uses prepared salted caramel sauce as its main sweetener. I used a salted caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s, but there are many brands out there to choose from these days. The important thing, when choosing a caramel sauce, is that you pick one with high quality ingredients (real sugar, vanilla, salt and milk/cream/butter), since quality ingredients are going to give you a better tasting caramel. To make the drink, simply brew up a strong cup of your favorite chai tea and stir in a couple of tablespoons of caramel sauce. The salt in the caramel is going to keep the drink from tasting too sweet, so you’ll taste more of the buttery richness of the sauce than its sweetness. It’s a great way to tame the spice in some more aggressive chai teas. I topped mine with a little bit of steamed milk, but there is no reason that you couldn’t dress up this drink with a dollop of whipped cream, if you wanted to make it a bit more indulgent!
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Nov 11, 2014

Starbucks Rwanda Rift Valley Single Origin K-Cups, reviewed

Starbucks Rwanda Rift Valley Single Origin K-Cups, reviewed

It was only a matter of time before we started to see better quality k-cups available for sale, since Keurigs are one of the most popular ways to brew up a quick cup of coffee out there. In spite of their popularity, the last several years have had very poor k-cup options, and it is only much more recently that we have seen decent coffees packaged in k-cup formats on a regular basis. One new offering that raises the bar is from Starbucks, and their new Rwanda Rift Valley Single Origin K-Cups. These were initially released a few weeks ago, however I hadn’t noticed them in stores until more recently. Unlike some of the Starbucks seasonal k-cups, these are available in grocery stores and at places like Target.

I always enjoy a single origin coffee because it gives you a real opportunity to pick up unique flavor elements that you won’t always get in a blend, and this Rift Valley coffee is no exception. It’s a very smooth medium-roast coffee with a mild aroma. When you taste it, you’ll immediately pick up on bittersweet cocoa notes and dry earth. There is a very faint hint of orange-citrus, but it is dominated by the strong dark chocolate flavors. It has a medium-long finish that is just as smooth as the first sip. For a coffee that is brewed in the Keurig, it has a very well-defined flavor profile and is just a very good cup of coffee overall. I look forward to trying more of the single-origin releases – and to seeing k-cups continue to improve!

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