I haven’t been getting Frappuccinos lately because the past few weeks have been so hot and so humid that I have stuck to more refreshing drinks, like Refreshers and iced teas at Starbucks. Frappuccinos are a little bit more like dessert, as far as I’m concerned, and I prefer to have them when I can enjoy them – not because I have to suck them down quickly to cool off! The other day, I glanced at the Frappuccino menu and noticed that there was a new option on the menu: a Caffe Espresso Frappuccino. As luck would have it, I was in the mood for a blended drink and I was armed with my camera, so I ordered on to give it a try.
The Caffe Espresso Frappuccino is essentially a coffee frappuccino that is topped with coffee/espresso flavored whipped cream and a drizzle of sweet espresso syrup. These may sound like small additions, but they turn a relatively plain drink into something delicious. The Caffe Espresso tastes a lot like tiramisu. I attributed this both to the caramel-like syrup and to the cloud of whipped cream, which really seemed to lighten up the texture of the drink in addition to boosting the coffee flavor. I wouldn’t mind topping off more frappuccinos with this combination and think it would be a great way to temper the sweetness of a caramel frappuccino or boost the coffee flavor of a mocha.
Coffee-Mate’s Abuelita Coffee Creamer really exceeded my expectations the first time I tried it. I’m a big fan of the original Abuelita Mexican Chocolate products and the creamer actually mananged to deliver that spicy chocolate taste with any artificial chocolate flavor. I was so encouraged by its success that I decided to try the Coffee-Mate La Lechera Dulce de Leche when I spotted it in my local grocery store. This product is another spinoff from Nestle’s lineup of Mexican inspired products and it is flavored with dulce de leche, the addictive and rich milk caramel that is made from sweetened condensed milk.
Dulce de leche itself can be dissolved in coffee, but you really need to add milk or cream to your coffee to get its flavor to stand out. With the creamer, you are ready to sweeten your coffee without using multiple ingredients. The creamer really nailed the flavor of dulce de leche, with a nice balance of sweetness and caramel flavor. Adding just a bit of creamer was enough to give my coffee a mild sweetness, while a generous pour turned a glass of iced coffee into something that tasted like it was made at a coffee house. Like the Abuelita creamer, this one didn’t disappoint and it is definitely worth a try if you’re a lover of dulce de leche and are looking for an easy way to incorporate it into your daily routine.
Iced tea is typically brewed simply by making double or triple strength iced tea and pouring it over ice to chill and dilute it. This isn’t a bad way of making iced tea, but I love it when tea companies make iced tea bags specifically for iced tea. It’s convenient not to have to worry about the ratio of tea to water – especially when you’re making a large batch – and they also usually produce flavors that are more iced tea-friendly than hot teas, using more fruits and fewer heavy spices. Art of Tea does a great job with their iced teas, packaging them in large, pitcher-friendly bags that are perfect for brewing up iced tea for a crowd. They also come with easy to follow instructions that ensure your tea will turn out perfectly every time.
The Art of Tea’s Hibiscus Cooler Iced Tea is one of my new favorite iced tea flavors. It’s made from hibiscus, guayusa, lemongrass, stevia leaves and natural flavors – all organic ingredients – and turns a fantastic pink hue when brewed. It tastes floral and fruity, almost like it has juice in it in addition to the other ingredients! As a fan of jamaica – a hibiscus agua fresca that you can find at most Mexican restaurants – I know that hibiscus has a slightly bitter note to it. It is subtle in the tea, but it adds some nice complexity to the tea and also gives you a little bit of room to add some sugar. I added about a third of a cup of sugar to my tea and found that added some nice sweetness without taking away from how refreshing the tea was on its own. The box contains four large tea bags, which is enough to make four 2-quart pitchers of iced tea. That’s enough to have two for summertime entertaining and two for yourself for later!
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.