In addition to the Rwanda Rift Valley Single Origin K-Cups I picked up a few days ago, I also bought a box of another Starbucks Single Origin product, the Guatamala Laguna de Ayarza Single Origin K-Cups. Like the Rwanda cups, these cost a few dollars more than your average k-cup, but they are sold in a larger package and, of course, offer a more unique flavor for the discerning coffee drinker who is looking to improve his or her Keurig experience.
Laguna de Ayarza is a crater lake in Guatamala that was formed as the result of a huge volcanic eruption roughly 20,000 years ago. The eruption is significant because it spread ash and rock for many miles, a layer that gradually transformed into rich volcanic soil that is excellent for growing coffee. This coffee is a medium-bodied medium-roast coffee. It has a very mild aroma, with a hint of nuttiness to it. That nuttiness transitions to the taste of the coffee and builds quickly into a smooth, bright citrus flavor, which slowly fades into a nutty, chocolaty finish. Although you might get the impression that this is a very “rich” coffee from reading the tasting notes on the box, it really has a fairly light body overall and, while it does have a very pleasant complexity to it, I found the Rwanda Rift Valley to be the “richer” of these two single origin options. Still, it is a good cup of coffee that is very smooth and easy to drink, with a pleasantly long finish that allows those citrus and cocoa notes to linger on your palate. .
Salted caramel tastes delicious all year round, but I find that it works its way into more drinks as the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler. When we’re cold, having a cup of something warm and comforting to drink is a great way to treat yourself – and caramel is always a treat. There are lots of salted caramel coffee drinks out there, but you don’t see it paired with tea quite as often. The smooth, buttery sweetness of caramel is a great match for many different kinds of tea and it makes an amazing Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte.
This easy to make tea drink uses prepared salted caramel sauce as its main sweetener. I used a salted caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s, but there are many brands out there to choose from these days. The important thing, when choosing a caramel sauce, is that you pick one with high quality ingredients (real sugar, vanilla, salt and milk/cream/butter), since quality ingredients are going to give you a better tasting caramel. To make the drink, simply brew up a strong cup of your favorite chai tea and stir in a couple of tablespoons of caramel sauce. The salt in the caramel is going to keep the drink from tasting too sweet, so you’ll taste more of the buttery richness of the sauce than its sweetness. It’s a great way to tame the spice in some more aggressive chai teas. I topped mine with a little bit of steamed milk, but there is no reason that you couldn’t dress up this drink with a dollop of whipped cream, if you wanted to make it a bit more indulgent!
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It was only a matter of time before we started to see better quality k-cups available for sale, since Keurigs are one of the most popular ways to brew up a quick cup of coffee out there. In spite of their popularity, the last several years have had very poor k-cup options, and it is only much more recently that we have seen decent coffees packaged in k-cup formats on a regular basis. One new offering that raises the bar is from Starbucks, and their new Rwanda Rift Valley Single Origin K-Cups. These were initially released a few weeks ago, however I hadn’t noticed them in stores until more recently. Unlike some of the Starbucks seasonal k-cups, these are available in grocery stores and at places like Target.
I always enjoy a single origin coffee because it gives you a real opportunity to pick up unique flavor elements that you won’t always get in a blend, and this Rift Valley coffee is no exception. It’s a very smooth medium-roast coffee with a mild aroma. When you taste it, you’ll immediately pick up on bittersweet cocoa notes and dry earth. There is a very faint hint of orange-citrus, but it is dominated by the strong dark chocolate flavors. It has a medium-long finish that is just as smooth as the first sip. For a coffee that is brewed in the Keurig, it has a very well-defined flavor profile and is just a very good cup of coffee overall. I look forward to trying more of the single-origin releases – and to seeing k-cups continue to improve!
I have always enjoyed spending time in coffee shops, whether I’m visiting with friends, reading or doing a little work on my computer. Part of the reason I enjoy them is because being ni a coffee shop gives me very easy access to coffee. The other reason - and this might be because I spend so much time in coffee shops in the first place – is that I enjoy the general sounds of being in a coffee shop. It’s a mixture of people talking, milk steaming, espresso shots being pulled and coffee beans being ground. And it is a blend of sounds that I find very, very pleasant. There are plenty of times when I wish I were in a coffee shop instead of in an office next to any annoying coworking, or in my home office while my laundry is thumping around in the dryer, and lately I’ve been bringing coffee shop sounds into my home office to change the mood a bit and give me some familiar “white noise” to work to.
If you like the bustling atmosphere of a coffee shop and don’t feel like trekking out to your favorite location – perhaps the weather is too awful outside or you just don’t feel like changing out of your pajamas – try playing the above video while you work. It’s got 1 hour of coffee shop sounds that you can play any time. It’s not the only one on YouTube, so you can search around for something that sounds even more like your local favorite shop, but it’s a great one to start out with and I find that one hour of relaxing coffee sounds are all I need to kick start my work day. That, and a cup of coffee.