I love hearing good news about coffee – and not necessarily that Starbucks Tribute Blend is back in stock or that my local coffee shop is going to be lowering their prices on my favorite drinks. This time, the good news is that a new study has linked coffee addiction to a lower risk of prostate cancer in men. Average coffee consumption for a regular coffee drinker is about 2 cups a day. The Harvard-based study showed that men who drank at least 6 cups of coffee a day – three times the average “normal” amount, but only around a half of a pot – showed a noticeably reduced risk for prostate cancer than other men in the study.
The results were not attributed to caffeine, but instead to the “biologically active compounds [in coffee], including caffeine and phenolic acids that have potent antioxidant activity.” In short, getting a big boost of the antioxidents that can be found in coffee can be very good for your health. This isn’t going to take the place of other antioxident-rich foods, of course, and it doesn’t mean that a venti Frappuccino is going to make you healthier. It does, however, mean that you don’t need to feel one bit of guilt going back for an extra cup (or two) of black or lightly sweetened coffee from the break room at work.
Flavored coffees aren’t usually the first coffee that I look for when I’m looking to stock up on beans. Often, flavored coffees are made with bean blends that don’t pay a lot of attention to the flavor profile of the beans themselves (or not much attention to it, certainly) and count on the added flavor to dominate the brew. This isn’t to say that all flavored coffees are bad, just that you can get away with more than you can when you’re tasting the beans themselves. Starbucks Natural Fusions are flavored coffees from Starbucks made with all natural flavors. The Fusions come pre-ground and are sold in grocery stores, rather than at Starbucks locations, and they are available in Cinnamon, Vanilla and Caramel.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tried them, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors came through – with no artificial overtones – in the brewed coffee. The Vanilla is made with ground vanilla beans that lend a subtle vanilla flavor and lend a smoothness to the coffee that makes it go quite well with milk. The Caramel is flavored with butter, licorice orange peel, ground cinnamon and nutmeg and, while it has a bit of spice to it, it also captures a light and buttery toasted-sugar flavor that a lot of flavored coffees miss (or just over-do to the point where they get a funky aftertaste). My favorite was the Cinnamon, and my preference is probably influenced by the fact that I will sometimes add a sprinkle of ground cinnamon to my coffee when I want to spice it up a bit (often at coffee shops when they have just so-so coffee). The Cinnamon is flavored with cinnamon, dried orange peel, nutmeg and sarsaparilla root. It has a definite, but not aggressive, cinnamon flavor and makes a great base for cappuccinos.
Overall, I know that in all honesty I will always choose something like Tribute Blend over a flavored coffee, but these coffees are quite good and I really did enjoy them. They are definitely the way to go if you are looking for a flavored coffee because of the all-natural flavoring and the smooth overall flavors. I would also definitely put them on the shopping list when I’m entertaining and need to brew up several big batches of coffee because I have a feeling that they’ll be real crowd pleasers!
I would like to say that I’m always able to relax at my kitchen table or at my desk while I’m drinking my coffee, but the truth is that, like just about everybody else out there, I am often drinking coffee while engaging in some other activity. They make travel mugs for commuters and other active coffee drinkers, and now I’ve seen the Knee/Lap Mug, which is intended for those whose “other activity” is a little more sedentary. The mug comes in two formats: an over the knee model and on the lap version. The knee mug has a base the curves up in an inverted arc, which will sit snugly over the curve of your leg and offer much more stability than a flat-bottomed glass. The lap mug has a pointed base that sits comfortably between your legs. It does make a difference when you just want to kick back on the couch and work on a crossword puzzle without having to reach over to the table every few minutes to grab your mug!
When it comes to making coffee drinks, I tend to recommend using good quality cocoa powder or the best chocolate that you can find. This ensures that you get the most flavorful result in your drink. It also tends to excludes certain types of chocolates – such as chocolate chips. In the past, chocolate chips were frequently made with non-chocolate ingredients, including vegetable shortening and additional emulsifiers that helped the chips stay smooth and hold their shape while in the oven. These days, more companies are using real chocolate – which is typically comprised of ingredients like cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla – to make their chocolate chips and leaving the rest of the stuff out. May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day and I couldn’t think of a better way to recognize chocolate chips than by putting them in a coffee drink – and serving it with a few homemade chocolate chip cookies!
This Chocolate Chip Mocha is made with chocolate chips. I used Nestle Tollhouse Dark Chocolate Chips with good results. Simply pour very hot coffee over a generous amount of chocolate chips and stir until the chips are melted. Top of the cup with warmed or steamed milk, then finish with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with additional chocolate chips. I used mini chocolate chips for my garnish because they hold up on top of the whipped cream better than full-sized chips – although you can always stir in any chips that fall through the whipped cream and into your drink!
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