A cup of black tea contains roughly half the caffeine as a cup of black coffee. This means that people who aren’t looking for a lot of caffeine can rely on tea as a way to perk themselves up in the morning, but it also means that there are people who drink coffee just for that caffeine rush and might prefer to be drinking tea instead. I’m a fan of both coffee and tea, of course, but this is exactly why The Republic of Tea created a line of new HiCaf Teas so tea-lovers could get the pick-me-up they want without having to reach for a cup of coffee. The boose in caffeine comes from green tea extract, which is added to all of the teas in the lineup.
I recently tried the new HiCaf Caramel Black Tea and it is absolutely delicious. It has a very smooth, full bodied classic black tea flavor and just enough sweetness from the natural caramel flavor to take that slightly dry edge present in some black teas completely out of the picture. It has a hint of burnt sugar to it and it seems sweet enough on its own that I didn’t want to add any sugar to the hot tea. When served over ice, the tea was excellent with a little sugar added to boost those caramel notes and help them stand out more. I’m a fan and I’ll be trying the other teas in the line, as well.
It has been a little while since I’ve featured a new Starbucks Reserve coffee, and that is largely because I’ve been stuck in a Sumatra rut for a while. The Starbucks in my area seemed to have a lot more Aged Sumatra than in some past years, and it is so good when brewed in the Clover that I’ve found it difficult to resist when it is on the menu. It finally got phased out but, luckily enough for me, a new Sumatra coffee almost immediately took its place, Blue Batak.
The coffee is produced at high elevations by farmers from the indigenous Batak Tribe in Sumatra. The coffee is wet hulled after it is picked – a process unique to the area where the parchment (thin skin surrounding the beans) is removed before the beans have been dried, and the drying process is finished without the parchment. Most coffee is dried with the parchment in place and it comes off naturally or is removed as the coffee is further processed. This process gives the beans a unique flavor and a distinctive blue hue. Don’t open a bag and expect to see the color there, however. That blue color is in the raw coffee beans and by the time they are dried and roasted, they look a lot like other coffee beans. You can still taste their uniqueness when you brew them, however, and I’ve been told that this makes the coffee a bit polarizing for Sumatra fans.
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Coffee and chocolate go together very well because they share many of the same flavors – from notes of nuts and berries at first taste to a citrusy or smoky lingering finish. The two are often combined in sweetened coffee drinks, but it is rare to see them together when no sweetening elements are involved. Trader Joe’s Coffee á Cocoa is an exception that immediately caught my interest (and my eye, since I love the packaging). It’s a new product from TJ’s and is made with a blend of arabica coffee and unsweetened cocoa. It is not sweetened in any way and it is definitely not a mocha or hot chocolate type of product. The idea behind the product is to infuse some of the richer notes from the chocolate into the coffee, creating a coffee with a unique flavor profile – not an alternative to a perfectly made mocha latte.
Starbucks recently released two new Blonde Roast coffees to their popular light roast lineup, Aria Blend and Bright Sky Blend. Both are available as preground coffees for the supermarket and they’re also available as K-Cups. Judging by the K-cup collections that I see, and the fact that Starbucks is releasing extra light roasts, I get the impression that the Blonde Roasts are growing in popularity with consumers. For me, the Blonde Roast coffees are very mild. I know plenty of people who absolutely love them because they prefer a more subtle cup of coffee, but I usually prefer the darker roasts, so when I make a Blonde k-cup (or other light roast k-cup), I usually use the small or medium setting on my Keurig to get a more intense flavor from the coffe.
Bright Sky has a light, nutty flavor that reminds me of toasted mixed nuts. There are definitely hints of peanut (although there are no peanuts, so not to worry!) in the coffee. The nutty flavor is smooth and a bit buttery, and it has a pleasantly long finish to it. Aria doesn’t have that nuttiness. Instead, it has a hint of citrus and cocoa to it. It has a cleaner, quicker finish than the Bright Sky, and is a little bit more refreshing.
Of the two, I definitely prefer the Bright Sky, because I like the longer finish and slightly more complex flavor profile. Both are mild, approachable and easy to drink – and as is the case with many light roast K-cups, you can easily adjust the strength by using different brew sizes on your Keurig to make the same coffee work for coffee drinkers with different tastes.