Los Angeles-area residents are very familiar with the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf brand, a chain of coffee shops that was started here in So Cal. You probably also know that their menu is not the same as Starbucks’ menu, despite the fact that they are both coffee shops. They call their drinks different things (Ice Blended vs. Frappuccino) and have different sizes (regular vs grande), but many of the drinks are similar. The Starbucks Caramel Macchiato is one extremely popular drink that Coffee Bean has never had a variation of on their menu – until recently. This year, Coffee Bean launched a line of Latte Macchiatos that are more-or-less the same as Starbucks popular macchiato drinks: they’re heavy on the milk, made with flavored syrups and have shots of espresso added at the end.
I enjoy Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiatos and was surprised that it took Coffee Bean so long to put them on their menu. I didn’t waste much time in trying them out and decided to start with the Vanilla Bean. It is made with a syrup that is PACKED with crushed vanilla beans – more on that in a minute. You can see from the photo above that the barista at the Coffee Bean I went to did not make the drink properly. He put the syrup and espresso together in the bottom of the glass and topped it off with milk (and a crazy amount of foam). Long story short, I had it remade and it came out the same way. I decided just to go with it even though the drink looked nothing like the picture. Perhaps you can’t tell in a paper cup, but you certainly can in the clear glass!
The Caramel Flan Latte is the newest seasonal addition to Starbucks’ menu. The drink is inspired by flan, a delicious custard and caramel dessert. It is aimed at fans of caramel frappuccinos and Caramel Brulee Lattes, according the the baristas at one of my local Starbucks stores. I love flan, especially the dark, bittersweet caramel sauce that tops it, so I thought that this was an interesting idea for a drink. Flans tend not to be too sweet and I was hoping that the drink would have a good caramel flavor without an intense sweetness, even though the baristas did tell me that it was on the sweet side.
I was pleasantly surprised by the latte, as it wasn’t as sweet as I expected it to be. It had a smooth caramel flavor that wasn’t overwhelming and didn’t completely overshadow the espresso in the drink. It was topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of dark caramel sauce that definitely had that bittersweet, dark caramel flavor as opposed to the rich butteriness of the regular caramel sauce. The whipped cream is supposed to be a caramel whipped cream, but I opted for regular whipped cream since I thought that the extra layer of caramel might just be too much for me. The drink is also available as a frappuccino, if you prefer your caramel cold.
I was a fan, but as with most caramel drinks, I wouldn’t mind having this one with an extra shot of espresso to make the coffee flavor of the drink stand out just a little bit more. That said, I’ll definitely think about ordering another Caramel Flan Latte when I’m in the mood for something sweet.
Pumpkin spice lattes are a staple at Starbucks in the fall, but they’re so popular that almost everyone is trying to put one out there to grab the attention of pumpkin spice fans. McDonalds has just introduced a Pumpkin Spice Latte to their menu, a drink that will be offered for a limited time during the fall. I admit that I was curious and made a mental note to pick one up the next time I was driving by a McDonald’s and felt like having a cup of coffee.
When I finally got around to trying one a few days ago, I found that the drink captured the idea of pumpkin spice very well, and that it had a nice spiciness where I could easily taste cinnamon and cloves. I expected it to be very sweet, but the pumpkin spice syrup didn’t cover up the flavor of the coffee. Surprisingly, I actually thought it was less sweet than the Starbucks version – although it is also slightly less spicy than the Starbucks PSL and definitely isn’t quite as rich seeming, either.
Overall, I liked it and would definitely drive through to get one again. It is less filling than the Starbucks version (probably because it has slightly fewer calories and less fat) and will definitely hit the spot when I want to warm up with a little spice on a cool fall day.
This week, Starbucks launched their newest Refresher drink, a Valencia Orange Refresher. I remember that years ago, Starbucks had a Valencia Orange syrup that was used in mocha drinks as a staple in their stores. When I first heard about the new Refresher, I wondered if it meant that the Valencia orange syrup would be making a comeback. It doesn’t. The Refresher is made with a orange juice and green coffee extract concentrate (much like the other Refreshers), so it isn’t ideal for making mochas. It is, however, a very refreshing addition to the Refreshers lineup.
The drink has a strong sweet-tart orange flavor that reminds me a little bit of Tang – but in a good way. It has a little more punch to it than the lime refresher and isn’t quite as sweet as the hibiscus, putting it right in the middle as a drink that is both sweet and refreshing. I can attest to the fact that it is a great drink to have after a workout and I am definitely a fan. You can’t combine this with mocha, but you can combine the Refreshers base with their iced teas and Valencia Orange goes very well with Passion and Green tea if you’re looking for a little variety.