You might have noticed a change in the pastry case at your local Starbucks over the past few weeks. In an effort to cut costs while increasing overall quality, Starbucks has completely changed the way that they do their pastries. Previously, Starbucks used a variety of regional bakeries to stock their stores. This meant that you could find different types of pastries in different areas, according to what was popular there, and that the ingredients that went into the items varied widely.
Starting today, Starbucks is using fewer bakeries, each of which will produce and ship more items. This consolidation also allowed Starbucks to tinker with its recipes and refocus on slightly healthier options with all natural ingredients. They cut out corn syrup from their Marshmallow Dream Bars, eliminated the artificial flavorings from berry muffins and real egg whites are making an appearance in a heart-healthy breakfast sandwich. Starbucks says that its new options have “15 percent fewer calories, 5 percent less fat and 8 percent less saturated fat” than previous items.
Time Out Chicago has done a taste test of the newest items on the menu, if you want to see how they stack up. Not all of these items may be available in your region, but some are nationwide.
I have to say that the summer promo drink at Seattle’s Best has a great name: Chocolate Coffee Crunch Javakula. Chocolate, coffee and some kind of crunchy element is a combination used in all kinds of great chocolates, from truffles to candy bars to chocolate chip coffee ice cream. This drink starts with cold-brewed coffee, chocolate syrup and espresso syrup. Espresso beans are blended in to add some crunch and a little bit of an extra caffeine boost.
The drink works well, if you like chocolate-covered espresso beans. It has a great coffee flavor and is smooth and rich-tasting, when you’re not crunching a little bit of coffee bean. I really like the element that the beans add to the drinks, but I also know people who don’t like the crunch of a coffee bean, so if you fall into that category, I’d have to urge you to give this one a miss. If not, it’s a great mix of coffee and chocolate, emphasis on the coffee, and a refreshing drink for summer.
Hands down, the new Nescafé Dolce Gusto from Krups is one of the cutest single-serve espresso machines on the market. Available in three different colors, they all basically look like little round birds perched on your countertop. The black model reminds me of a penguin. Cuteness aside, these are pod espresso machines and, like most, they do tend to put convenience over the coffee. The pods – called capsules, as they have a new design – are good quality and will brew a much larger cup of coffee than many other pod machines, and the resulting coffee will not taste as watered down as others (a big problem, I’ve found). This is because of an unusual feature of the machine: it is not fully automated. There is a lever at the top that allows you to adjust the water flow, so that you can control the temperature of the drink – hot water or cold – as well as the strength, by adding more or less water. This is a nice feature when you compare it to many pod machines that turn out very watered down cups.
The capsules are not bad, but there is one that stands out from the rest. The Cappuccino Ice flavor is a cold, sweet, frothy drink that comes out of the machine perfectly mixed and ready to drink. This is made possible by the cold water control wand. This was, hands down, the best flavor I tried and good enough that I’d want to drink it again and again.
The newest Zagat ratings are out, and Starbucks ended up with the Number 1 Best Coffee ranking in the Fast Food and Quick Refreshment category and the No. 1 Most Popular Quick Refreshment Chain overall. Its competitors included Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, just to name a few of the 28 establishments that also fill that category.
Zagat’s ratings are not done by food professionals, but are compiled from user-submitted reviews of the restaurants and eateries that they regularly (or irregularly, if they’re bad) visit. This makes the Zagat reviews significant because they offer companies some insight into how the consumers are enjoying their products.