ShopSmart is a magazine put out by Consumer Reports that presents an easy-to-reference guide to your favorite products. They always have great content, but when they set out to identify the best mocha iced coffee drinks in a recent issue (Aug/Sept 2014), I skipped everything else in the magazine and went straight for that page. The tasters at the magazine reviewed 8 different options and picked out the top five. Their top pick was Starbucks Discoveries Caffe Mocha. I really enjoyed the caramel macchiato version of the Starbucks Discoveries line, so I’m not surprised that it took top billing. The tasters said that it was the closest to homemade (or cafe-made) iced mocah, with a “nice blend of coffee, milk and cocoa flavors, with a touch of sweetness.” Compared to individually bottled drinks, the Starbucks Discoveries drink was very reasonably priced (less than half of some of the bottled drinks, per serving), but the International Delight Iced Coffee Sweet & Creamy Mocha was a little bit less expensive and was awarded the best “Bargain Buy,” for price-conscious shoppers that are looking for a milder coffee drink.
The other top drinks included the classic bottled Starbucks Mocha, Frappuccino, which had a good balance of coffee and sweetness, with a mild chocolate flavor, and Illy Issimo Mochaccino, which has a stronger coffee note than some of the other options. Across the board, the tasters did not care for any of the “light” or nondairy coffee drinks (the nondairy drinks really should have their own taste test!), though the Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light was their top choice from that grouping.
Trader Joe’s can be a great place to pick up some premium teas at a very reasonable price. Their tea selection, especially their seasonal offerings, always has a few innovative blends that are absolutely delicious. One of their newest teas is Trader Joe’s Coconut Green Tea, a light and refreshing tea for the summer. It is also a loose leaf tea, which is a departure from the usual bagged teas that the store carries. The tea is packed in a colorful metal tin to keep it fresh until you’re ready to brew it.
The tea has a green tea base, accented with coconut, lemongrass and ginger. Since the coconut graphic is so prominent on the container, I expected to get a strong coconut flavor from my first cup, but found that coconut blended nicely with the other flavors instead of dominating them. You get more coconut in the nose of the tea than in the body. The tea has a nice balance of green tea, citrus and spice. It’s mildly sweet and very well-blended, so no one element stands out over the rest- which isn’t a bad thing, as it makes for a subtle and very enjoyable cup of tea. I found that this tea was pleasant when brewed hot with no sweeteners, but its natural sweetness came out a bit more once sugar was added. It was also great when brewed at double or triple strength and served over ice.
Fizzio is the name for the new line of all natural sodas that Starbucks has begun rolling out to some of their stores this week. There are quite a few Starbucks customers who are looking for non-coffee and tea drinks to go with their afternoon snacks, and sodas are just another alternative to smoothies and the creme-based Frappuccinos – not to mention that they’re an alternative to regular Refreshers and tea lemonades for customers who just like a little carbonation! The sodas are made one at a time in a machine that is similar to a SodaStream, with specialty syrups and are available in three flavors: Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale.
I’m a big fan of ginger beer and ginger ale in general because they are generally very refreshing, so that was the first soda I decided to try. It was delicious, with a strong ginger spice and a nice sweetness. I felt that it seemed a bit less sweet than many regular ginger ales, which pushes it go the ginger beer side of the spectrum for me – and that is a good thing. I’ll definitely be putting on my “to-order” list any time I’m looking for a refreshing, fizzy drink to go with a salty snack, even though I know that I’ll still be sticking to coffee most of the time.
Starbucks is rolling out their summer menu this week, and two delicious shaken ice tea lemonades are on the menu: Peach Green Tea Lemonade and Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade. The Peach Tea Lemonade debuted last summer, while the blackberry is new for this year. Thanks to a promo for registered Starbucks card holders, I was able to get my hands on both tea lemonades before they hit the main menu. The Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade is made with a blackberry syrup, which turns the drink an intense berry color. Unlike the Berry Hibiscus Refresher, which also uses blackberries, there are no chunks of berry floating around in this drink to plug up your straw as you sip.
The blackberry tea lemonade has a green tea base, which is a good way to showcase the berry flavors without overpowering them with a black tea base. It is not too sweet – in fact, I would say it is slightly less sweet than the peach tea lemonade – but has the distinct flavor of juicy berries to it, which makes it satisfying and refreshing. One thing that the drink does not have, however, is any hint of mint. I expected to be able to taste a bit of mint in a drink with “mojito” in the name, but berries definitely dominated. I’m not positive (yet), but this drink is made with Teavana tea and Tevana makes a Blackberry Mojito Tea that could very well serve as the base for this drink. Despite the fact that there really is no mint flavor, the drink is a great alternative to some of the other iced tea lemonades and is a fantastic drink for a summer afternoon.