Coconut water has been growing in popularity over the past couple of years to the point where I see it just about everywhere. The first offerings were plain coconut water, with advertising that usually promoted how great for hydration the water was. These days, there are many more flavored options of coconut water – including coffee-flavored options, like Coco Cafe. This is a line of coconut water cafe lattes, boxed drinks that are intended to be tasty, give you a little caffeine boost and help hydrate you. I was hesitant about this combination, but I couldn’t resist giving Coco Cafe Vanilla a try to see how it tasted.
The drink is definitely refreshing and it captures the flavors of coffee, milk, vanilla and coconut water, more or less in that order. The very first sip will remind you of a canned Starbucks coffee drink, with smooth espresso and dairy flavors, combined with a nice hint of sweetness. The vanilla is a little bit more subtle, though it is present, and there is a lingering hint of coconut water flavor. It’s definitely a unique drink, and I’d have to say that it’s a pretty good one, especially if you’re a fan of coconut water in the first place. I didn’t think that I would enjoy it, but I ended up drinking one quickly and wanting another! It contains as much caffeine as one shot of espresso (120mg), which is enough to perk you up in the morning if you want to sip one of these on your commute or down one after a workout at the gym. I think that a regular iced latte would bet a better choice if you’re looking for a drink to savor and sip slowly, but the Coco Cafe is so refreshing that it is a great option when you are on the to.
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.
Mexican chocolate drinks are always some of my favorites. Mexican chocolate is a coarsely ground, bittersweet chocolate that is flavored with cinnamon or other spices to give it a subtly spicy kick and temper the richness of the chocolate. It can be used in many forms, but because it has a strong chocolate taste, it blends exceptionally well with coffee and milk. I often use Mexican chocolates such as Ibarra and Nestle’s Abeulita to make Mexican chocolate coffee drinks, but you can make one much more easily with Coffee-Mate’s Abuelita Mexican Chocolate Creamer, which I picked up at my local grocery store this week. I’m not always a fan of artificially-flavored chocolate creamers and products, but I couldn’t resist the appeal of the Mexican chocolate.
The creamer really surprised me and exceeded my expectations because it tasted like Mexican hot chocolate – or, more accurately, like chocolate milk – straight out of the bottle. It tasted like cream, cinnamon and spice, and while there was a distinct cocoa note to it, it did not taste artificially chocolaty. A splash of it was enough to give my coffee a nice sweetness and a good Mexican chocolate flavor. It was even better when I added a little whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon to the drink. It wasn’t as rich as using real chocolate to make a mocha, of course, but this is a great choice for the chocolate-lover looking for a quick and easy way to spice up their morning or afternoon coffee.
Keurigs can be used for making a variety of drinks, including coffee, hot chocolate and tea, but the machine is generally used for making the basics – black coffee, plain tea – and not for making fancier coffee drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos. This is because the machine doesn’t have the water pressure necessary to steam milk to a frothy consistency, though the water will get hot enough to dissolve the powdered milk found in some hot chocolate and mocha mixes. The Gevalia Kaffe Mocha Latte caught my eye because it promised to create a mocha with foam on top – and that made me curious enough to order a package to give it a try.