May 3, 2013

Starbucks Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino, reviewed

Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino

The caramel sauce that Starbucks uses to finish off drinks like the caramel macchiato is addicitive, and one of the most popular requests in caramel drinks is for extra caramel (or even extra, extra, extra caramel). The newest seasonal offering from Starbucks is the Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino, a drink designed for the people who like to ask for extra caramel in their frappuccinos. I’m partially kidding, because the drink doesn’t really use all that much extra caramel, but there is some extra in there and it has a lot of caramel flavor, so it should definitely do the trick for caramel fans.

The Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino is a caramel frappuccino that has caramel sauce blended right into it (the usual caramel frappuccino doesn’t). It is poured into a cup that is lined with a generous drizzle of “dark caramel sauce,” and topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle and crunchy caramel topping.

It sounds over-the-top – and it is, but in a good way. The drink has a really good caramel flavor and, thanks to the burnt sugar notes in the “dark caramel” sauce, it has a flavor that is reminiscent of dulce de leche or creme brulee, and the crunchy toffee-like bits on top are absurdly addicting. It’s sweet, but you can still taste the coffee in there, so it actually has a pretty nice balance of flavors and will hit the spot when you want something sweet and cold on a hot day.

May 1, 2013

Smuckers launches Life is Good coffee

Life is Good Coffee

Coffee always makes a day look a little bit sunnier, but a new line of coffee from JM Smuckers – makers of Folgers, Millstone, and Dunkin’ Donuts packaged coffees – literally says “life is good” on the packaging. The new coffee is an extension of the popular Life is Good lifestyle brand, better known for their clothing products bearing their logo, and its first UTZ certified sustainable coffee. UTZ promotes more environmentally friendly farming methods, as well as improved working conditions for farmers and their families. Smuckers is one of the largest coffee buyers in the world and moving towards farmer-friendly coffee potentially could have a big impact for both small and large coffee growing operations.

The new Life is Good coffee line is being launched with five flavors: Light Hearted light roast; Happy Medium medium roast; Dark & Daring dark roast; S’more to Love s’mores-flavored coffee; and Banana Bread Bliss banana-bread-flavored coffee. 10% of the net proceeds from the sale of the coffees will go to the nonprofit Life is Good Kids Foundation.

Apr 27, 2013

Latte art at a new level, from Kazuki Yamamoto

Cat Latte

Many baristas – both home baristas and pro baristas – have struggled to master the art of latte art, getting the perfect microfoam to allow you to create beautiful, rippling designs on the top of your lattes and cappuccinos. I know that I gave myself a huge pat on the back the first time I pulled off a perfect heart (and cried a little inside when I completely missed the mark on the next four or five after that one good one), but as happy as I am with my own progress, the bar for latte art is being raised every day. Kazuki Yamamoto is someone who is taking the bar far out of reach for most of us with some truly amazing and very creative coffee creations.

The milk foam kitty pictured above is my own personal favorite, but the collection of Peanuts characters gives you a little more insight into just how detailed his works can get. For more, check out his Twitter feed, which is updated regularly with all kinds of impressive art – including portraits in coffee of everyone from anime characters to world leaders.

Peanuts Gang Lattes

Apr 25, 2013

Pay it forward with Suspended Coffee

French PRess

“Suspended coffee” is a concept that is catching on across the European Union. The term refers to when one customer pays for two cups of coffee – one for him/her and one for someone less fortunate who might come through the cafe later in the day. It’s doing a good deed for someone you don’t know, and it’s not a new concept. The tradition has been around in Naples for more than 100 years.

Caffè sospeso, as it is know in Italian, was a tradition that marked the generosity of the Italians, but it waned in popularity during World War II and after the reconstruction. It got to the point where coffees were only shared during the Christmas season and not the rest of the year. But the past few years have seen an upsurge in the trend in Italy and other EU countries, and more and more people are taking part. There is even a movement to start suspended coffee at Starbucks, which just illustrates how much interest there is in such a program. Time will tell if it does catch on at the coffee giant – and if we end up seeing it at US cafes.

This does remind me of a social experiment that Jonathan Stark did some time back, where he loaded up a Starbucks card and put the code online, so people could use and recharge it at will. There were times when it was empty, but in the overall scheme of things there were just as many people who added to the crowd-funded card as those who used it to get drinks. Going global with the suspended coffee movement would test the system, but perhaps this small-scale experiment is a good illustration that things might work out in the long run.

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