Mar 9, 2013

NYC’s sugary drink rules impact coffee shops

DD Coffee Rules small

New York City’s ban on large-size sugary soft drinks goes into effect on Tuesday, the first such ban on the country. The city states that these new rules will help curb the obesity epidemic in the city (despite the fact that you can still buy and consume as many sodas as you could want from the grocery store), but many restaurant and cafe owners just see it as a big inconvenience – as well as consumers, because even though the new rules target soda, they also impact coffee drinkers.

Coffee shops, both neighborhood joints and large chains, will now be limited in how much sugar they can have in some of their large drinks. For drinks that contain more than 50% milk – such as lattes – sugar and syrups are just find in any amount. But cups of coffee larger than 16 ounces are affected. They can still be served as long as the barista/server adds no more than 3 to 5 packets of sugar before the drink is served. As a result, places that add the sugar to your coffee for you – like Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds – are no longer going to be able to sweeten your large drinks, though they will continue to sweeten the small ones. Starbucks doesn’t typically sweeten plain coffees for customers, but said that they will still add sugar for the customer regardless of the size of the drink if the customer asks. Large sized blended drinks, which are mostly made of ice and not milk, are also effected and some drinks will not be sold in large sizes or will be sold with the flavored syrup (i.e. the sugar) on the side and can pour it in themselves.

In an effort to clarify the new rules to NYC coffee-drinkers, Dunkin’ Donuts has published small fliers (click the picture above for a larger image) explaining what they can and cannot serve in the city. Other businesses are posting similar signage, though many are waiting to take action until they hear the results of some pending litigation against the city protesting the ban in the first place.

Mar 7, 2013

Starbucks launches new Hazelnut Macchiato

Starbucks Hazelnut Macchiato

We’re used to seeing seasonal drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte appear on Starbucks menus during the year, only to be phased out at the end of the season. Sometimes, it seems obvious that they’re meant to be seasonal, since most people don’t want Eggnog during the summer, but other times many of us miss the drinks when they’re gone (bring back Melon syrup!). It has been 16 years since Starbucks added a new core drink to their menu and this time their new drink is a permanent one: the Hazelnut Macchiato.

The Hazelnut Macchiato is very similar to the Caramel Macchiato and is made with vanilla syrup, steamed milk and espresso. It is topped with a rich hazelnut syrup that finishes things off with a sweet, nutty topping. It comes hot or iced as a macchiato, but you’ll also see a Hazelnut Frappuccino and a Hazelnut Latte as options on the menu if you want your hazelnut in a different format.

Mar 4, 2013

The Coffee Car gives new use to coffee grounds

Coffee Car

Coffee gets many of us going in the morning, but for a couple of engineers in the UK, it also gets their cars going. The Coffee Car is a car that runs on used coffee grounds. It is powered by a process called “gasification,” which converts carbon-containing substances – such as roasted coffee beans – into energy that powers the car. It is relatively clean energy, in spite of the puffs of smoke that arise from the car while it is in action, since it is reusing a product that might otherwise go to waste. That said, the car does take quite a lot of coffee to get going: it is said to travel about 55 miles on the power of a 22-pound sack of grounds.

The Coffee Car set a 65.5 mph Guinness World Record for the fastest coffee-powered car last month. Admittedly, it probably isn’t that competitive of a category, but still an impressive speed for something that is usually only considered to be a tasty beverage.

So, coffee grounds probably aren’t going to be the fuel of the future, largely because coffee is still a pretty pricey product and there wouldn’t be enough grounds to go around for huge numbers of drivers. But it is amazing to see how inventive people can be and how surprisingly versatile coffee can be!

Feb 26, 2013

West Java Indonesia Starbucks Reserve Coffee, reviewed

Starbucks Reserve Tasting

Starbucks released two new reserve coffees from Indonesia at the same time, and when I saw them both pop up on the menu board at my local store, I immediately wondered what the difference was. Fortunately, I was able to set up a little taste test so I could do a side by side comparison of Isla Flores Indonesia and West Java Indonesia.

West Java Indonesia delivered a big contrast to the Isla Flores Indonesia coffee, but since it comes from a completely different part of Indonesia and there is actually quite a bit of diversity between the various islands (and microclimates within the islands), I should have expected it. I knew that Iwould like it as soon as I smelled it. The coffee had unexpected sweetness to it that reminded me bit of hibiscus. When I tasted it, I found that the sweetness was tempered with herbal notes – but the coffee still had a rich earthiness and a very low acidity that made for a very smooth cup of coffee (in contrast to bright, high acidity coffees that I am more likely to associate with distinct herbal and grassy flavors). The sweetness came through again at the end and left me with a very clean finish. Definitely a fun, easy to drink coffee that I’ll have again.

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