Are you a Starbucks fan? If so, when was the last time that you stopped in to a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts to get a quick cup of coffee while you were out and about? A new study by CustomersDNA surveyed the coffee and breakfast buying habits of 15,000 fast food customers. The survey found that more than 50% of regular Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts customers regularly visit other businesses for their morning cup of joe, while just 29% of regular McDonalds customers venture to a Starbucks or Dunkin’ for a coffee. Starbucks still makes up most of its sales with coffee, while McDonald’s coffee sales only make up about 6% of its total.
Still, it is interesting to see these trends and think about what drives us to make our coffee choices. The owner of the company that conducted the study noted that Dunkin’ tended to have the cheapest price for coffee, while McDonalds was slightly more and Starbucks slightly more again, but said that the study didn’t ask consumers to identify what made them choose one business over another.
My theory? A combination of price, convenience and quality is going to drive most consumers. If you are looking for a specific type of coffee and don’t mind having to wait in line for a few minutes behind people ordering lattes, you might choose Starbucks. If you’re in a rush or just need a quick cup of coffee, you might drive through McDonalds for a cup (and their coffee is quite good) instead of stopping into another coffee shop. And yes, my theory is based on some real-world research – after all, that is often what I’ll do!
Starbucks is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and has rolled out a whole variety of new products this spring in celebration of that milestone. I was fortunate enough to attend the launch for the whole new lineup – both drinks and pastries – and got to try everything out just as they were released. The launch of these products actually marks the first time that Starbucks has done a global launch of new items, releasing everything to all of their stores world wide at the same time (although different areas/countries may have slightly different pastries according to local tastes).
The headliner is the Starbucks Tribute Blend, a bold coffee that is a post-roast blend of four different beans and is one of Starbucks best coffees to date. The blend includes aged Sumatra (my favorite), sun-dried Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Colombia beans. The coffees in the mix were chosen primarily for the way the combined into one well-balanced brew, but were also chosen because they represent the diversity of Starbucks coffee beans from different parts of the world.
Instant coffee has had a bad reputation of late, largely because the one-dimensional flavor is nothing compared to what you can get from a coffee shop. Fortunately, products like Starbucks Via are raising the bar for instant coffee and letting us take advantage of the convenience of a product like that without throwing flavor out the window. Still, there is nothing like a big cup of freshly brewed coffee, so it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve that will make that instant coffee seem gourmet when you’re using it and Sugar Savvy put together a list to get you started:
- Add cocoa - cocoa will introduce some complexity to a one-note coffee, and it will turn inexpensive instant coffee into an easy and inexpensive mocha with a little sugar and milk.
- Add spice – cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices will also add some complexity to instant coffee, and peppermint will really perk it up on a cold morning.
- Add ice – you can very easily control the strength of your coffee with instant, so making it extra strong and pouring it over ice will give you a very refreshing drink.
- Add milk – milk rounds out the sometimes papery flavors of instant coffee, especially if you don’t mind splurging on a little half and half instead of skim milk
- Add sweeteners – sugar might be the sweetener you reach for most, but brown sugar and maple syrup can make a cup of instant seem a lot more interesting.
And two more tips that I’ll add to the list:
- Add vanilla – if you drink your coffee with milk, add a small amount of vanilla extract to the milk. Vanilla extract doesn’t blend that well with coffee on its own, but the mellow notes of vanilla work really well when you’re already adding a splash of cream. Vanilla sugar and vanilla syrup are other great additions.
- Steam that milk – heat up your milk in a microwave and whisk it well with a small whisk (or stir very vigorously) to froth it up and give your drink a latte feel.
I use instant (Via) over ice all the time in the summer, making a very concentrated brew and pouring over a big cup of ice, then adding syrup and milk. What are your favorite ways to fix up instant coffee, or other coffees that are less-than-great to start out with?
Chicory is a type of bushy plant that has many culinary uses. The leaves of many types of chicory are used as salad greens, and the roots are dried and ground up for use as a coffee substitute. The root is commonly cultivated in parts of Southern Europe, where it is a readily available and inexpensive coffee substitute, but the most notable example of chicory for many Americans is the signature coffee of Cafe du Monde‘s chicory-spiked coffee so popular in New Orleans.
Just as many plants and herbs besides tea can be brewed like tea to become herbal tisanes, chicory brews similarly to coffee. It has waxed and waned in terms of popularity over the years, but enjoyed periods of great popularity during times of depression or when coffee was scarce. This was particularly true in the South after the Civil War, when it was used to bulk up existing coffee supplies. It became very popular in New Orleans even after regular coffee was widely available again and definitely has its fans – like the famous Cafe Du Monde – to this day. Chicory has a somewhat licorice-y flavor to it, although fans will often praise its smooth, chocolaty notes and the way that it rounds out a very strong cup of coffee (especially when accompanied by a plate of Cafe du Monde’s popular beignets).