The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a hugely popular seasonal offering at Starbucks, and many other coffee shops offer similar drinks during the fall and winter. All of these pumpkin spice drinks tend to be made with a thick pumpkin syrup that has the consistency of caramel sauce. I’ve experimented with coming up with a homemade version of this syrup, but have found that I get the best flavor when I simply add a dash of pumpkin pie spice – a mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg – to my coffee drinks and skip the actual pumpkin. To add back some of the richness lost by omitting the pumpkin syrup, I decided to add chocolate syrup to a drink the other day and created a Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The latte starts with a shot or two of espresso that is stirred together with some chocolate syrup and a generous pinch of pumpkin pie spice. You want to use enough spice to get the flavor, but not so much that you’ll have a block of it at the bottom of your cup. I steamed some chocolate milk and poured it on top of the drink (adding chocolate sauce to the hot milk will lose you a few bubbles, but will keep your steam wand clean), then finished the whole thing off with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a sprinkle of spice.
You can also make this with coffee and milk that has been heated in the microwave if you don’t have an espresso machine. Put the hot milk into a small bowl and beat it with a whisk for a minute or two to foam it up for a more latte-like effect. And, as always, feel free to increase the amount of chocolate to taste or to add some sugar to the espresso for a sweeter finished product.
For a coffee lover, Pocket Coffee is just about as good as it gets when it comes to chocolates. Pocket Coffee is a type of chocolate made by Ferrero, an Italian company that is better known in the US for their hazelnut filled Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The candies have a chocolate shell that surrounds a rich liquid espresso center that really delivers a caffeine punch. A very thin, crisp sugar shell keeps the espresso contained within the chocolate. I first heard about these on Candyblog, and spotted them myself in a local Cost Plus World Market a few months back. I’ve been buying them ever since.
The liquid center has a fantastic coffee flavor that I really like. The sugar that sweetened it gives it its syrupy consistency and seems to help it to blend well with the chocolate shell. It also adds an interesting textural element to the candy, which makes it seem a little more special. Overall? Pocket Coffee is delicious and probably one of the best coffee+chocolate combinations I’ve had – not to mention that it was one of the most unusual.
These candies do use real espresso and do contain caffeine. Apparently, 3 of these is about the equivalent of one shot of espresso. At that rate, I wouldn’t be using them for energy over regular coffee, but they are delicious and the added bonus of caffeine is not a bad thing to keep in mind when you are looking for a pick me up. I keep a small stash in my desk drawer just in case.
Pod coffee makers are more popular now than ever. They offer convenience, but the quality of the coffee offered with them is higher than it has ever been, making them more appealing to coffee lovers as well as convenience seekers. In the latest issue of Real Simple magazine, they asked the owner of a popular NYC cafe to test 29 models and see how they performed. Then, they narrowed the selection down to just five winners.
- Best for a full house: Keurig Special Edition Brewing System (which I have), which boasts one of the largest selections of coffee and the largest reservoir (48 oz), so you can brew multiple cups easily.
- Best Budget: Mr Coffee Single Serve, which is only able to brew one cup at a time, but is inexpensive and still offers many coffee options.
- Best for Small Spaces: Nespresso Pixie, which features a beautiful and sleek design and brews espresso, for those seeking a richer coffee. The coffee selection is limited, but high quality
- Best All Around: Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio took this category for being affordable, easy to use and offering the flexibility of brewing a few cups at a time. It’s cute, but the coffee selection is limited.
- Best Espresso: De’Longhi Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker EC279 brews quality espresso at the touch of a button, and even has a milk steamer so you can turn your shot into a latte. It’s very affordable compared to larger espresso machines, easy to use and offers a big espresso selection.
The other Starbucks Reserve coffee that I tried at the tasting event the other day was the Sumatra Tapanuli. Unlike the Kenya Tana River, this was not a coffee we tasted iced. Instead, we brewed it up in one of the largest french presses I’ve seen. To give you an idea of its size, our coffee master had to use both hands (and stand up for leverage) to push down the plunger!
Getting back to the coffee, I generally really enjoy Sumatran coffees. They have rich berry notes and a great depth of flavor without the light citrus overtones that you find in a lot of South American and some African coffees. The Starbucks Reserve Sumatra Tapanuli was no exception. This was a rich coffee and, while it didn’t have all of the berry notes that I might have expected to find, it had a really earthy and chocolatey flavor to it. The earthiness was very deep, like very wet potting soil (Starbucks suggests this is a “mushroomy” note). The chocolate was dark, bittersweet and did have hints of berry, but they were subtle. It was delicious, and worked well in the french press. We paired it with maple scones that toned down the dark intensity of the coffee, but I definitely wouldn’t mind pairing this with an intense chocolate dessert or a few pieces of salted caramel.