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.
I’m not usually one to put creamer in my coffee, but every once in a while I like to sweeten things up and creamer is an easy way to get the job done. I happen to be a fan of Girl Scout Cookies and was intrigued when I heard that Coffee-Mate had teamed up with the Scouts to offer cookie-flavored creamers. When they launched last year, I initially had trouble finding them, but eventually found and tried their Coconut and Caramel Creamer (Samoas-flavor), which turned out to be pretty good. This year, I noticed that these creamers were a lot more widely available in my area, so I decided to give the Thin Mints flavor a try.
I initially thought that this would be a chocolate-flavored creamer with a hint of mint, but it is a mint-flavored creamer with a hint of chocolate. I am not a fan of artificial chocolate flavoring, so this turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. The creamer had a cool mint flavor that didn’t overwhelm the coffee and was only slightly sweet when compared to some other creamer flavors. It only had a hint of chocolate to it, just enough to evoke the cookie. If you wanted more chocolate flavor, it would be best to add some to a mug of hot chocolate or to a mocha.
Mint flavored coffee isn’t going to be my new favorite coffee drink, but the creamer was pretty close to its target and really reminded me of the cookie. I liked it best in iced coffee, rather than hot coffee, since the mint seemed very refreshing over ice. Overall, it was a nice change of pace from usual, even though I didn’t like it quite as much as my Homemade Thin Mint Frappuccino.