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.
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.
Instant coffee has been around for a long time, but lately companies are trying to make it more appealing to consumers by making it a little easier to use. Namely, they’re packing it in single-serve portions that you can take to-go, in addition to the big shelf-stable jars of the stuff. This week, the Chicago Tribune held a taste test comparing Starbucks VIA Ready Brew stick packets with Nescafe Taster’s Choice packets. Starbucks VIA runs about 4 times the price of Nescafe, so seeing which came out on top could add up to big savings for consumers.
For the test, the two brands were compared with regular brewed coffee – Colombian, since both VIA and Tasters Choice use Colombian coffee. The brewed coffee was the most popular, but VIA was only a hair behind, while Tasters Choice trailed way down in the ratings in third. The VIA was close to fresh brewed and, because the crystals of it are so fine, it dissolves easily in hot and cold water, so you can use it for iced drinks, too.