Feb 19, 2014

Trader Joe’s Coffee á Cocoa, reviewed

Trader Joe's Coffee á Cocoa

Coffee and chocolate go together very well because they share many of the same flavors – from notes of nuts and berries at first taste to a citrusy or smoky lingering finish. The two are often combined in sweetened coffee drinks, but it is rare to see them together when no sweetening elements are involved. Trader Joe’s Coffee á Cocoa is an exception that immediately caught my interest (and my eye, since I love the packaging). It’s a new product from TJ’s and is made with a blend of arabica coffee and unsweetened cocoa. It is not sweetened in any way and it is definitely not a mocha or hot chocolate type of product. The idea behind the product is to infuse some of the richer notes from the chocolate into the coffee, creating a coffee with a unique flavor profile – not an alternative to a perfectly made mocha latte.

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Feb 17, 2014

NBC has Secret Starbucks in Sochi

Sochi Starbucks

The Olympics are heavily sponsored by large companies, which get exclusive rights to adertise and distribute their products in return for all the cash that they put up. Coca Cola is the largest beverage sponsor of the Olympic games, but McDonald’s McCafe coffee is the primary source of hot coffee in Sochi for olympic team members and journalists because Coke allowed them the rights to sell hot coffee there. The roughly 11,000 media who have descended upon Sochi can get their joe from McDonald’s, vending machines or concession stands that serve nonbranded brew. The only ones who haven’t been partaking are the NBC news team and their supporting staff. NBC has erected the Sochi Starbucks in its cordoned-off area of the Olympic media center. Baristas serve the free java 24-hours-a-day to the roughly 2,500 people NBC says it sent here. The rotating crew is made up of some 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia, who are flown in, set up with accommodations in Sochi, and paid their regular wages while they’re manning the shop. The Sochi Starbucks serves espresso and chai tea latte drinks, but doesn’t serve black coffee or any of Starbucks’ other signature drinks.

NBC staffers say that their Starbucks, which is not open, is a “supplementary facility” and is being used as a morale booster for their team, but it is creating a stir because staffers have been spotted carrying around the green and white Starbucks cups – displaying the Starbucks branding in what should be Starbucks-free areas, since the coffee giant is not a sponsor of the games.

Coca Cola and McDonalds have reportedly said that they are not concerned with this private, pop-up Starbucks because it doesn’t represent a big threat to their branding at the games, but the news media – many of whom apparently have pretty strong Starbucks addictions – have really made this into a big issue and turned those green and white Starbucks cups into a prized status symbol (at least amount journalists) at the games.

Feb 15, 2014

Leftover Chocolate Truffle Mocha

Leftover Chocolate Truffle Mocha

There really is no such thing as a leftover chocolate truffle, because those indulgent chocolate treats are just too delicious to turn down. But there are times when you might find that you have more truffles than you can eat (in one sitting, anyway) on hand, such as after Valentine’s Day or after a big candy sale at your favorite store. Those excess chocolate truffles are the perfect base to use for a delicious Leftover Chocolate Truffle Mocha. The chocolate in the truffles easily melts with hot coffee, adding a lot of chocolate flavor and a little bit of sweetness to a decadent coffee drink that can be enjoyed with or without truffles on the side.

You can use either chocolate covered chocolate truffles or the cocoa-dusted variety to make this drink. The most important thing is that they should be high quality truffles – the kind have a velvety smooth melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more – because a great chocolate truffle is going to make for a great coffee drink. If you are using the chocolate covered truffles, you may need to give them a little extra time in the coffee so that they can melt completely before stirring them in. As always, adjust this recipe to your own tastes by using more truffles (for a thicker, “drinking chocolate” feel) or by adding a little extra sugar to sweeten it up if your truffles are an intense, dark chocolate to start out with. There is no wrong way to make it because it will always taste so right when you drink it.
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Feb 13, 2014

Starbucks Blonde Aria and Bright Sky Blends, reviewed

Starbucks Aria and Bright Sky Blonde K Cups

Starbucks recently released two new Blonde Roast coffees to their popular light roast lineup, Aria Blend and Bright Sky Blend. Both are available as preground coffees for the supermarket and they’re also available as K-Cups. Judging by the K-cup collections that I see, and the fact that Starbucks is releasing extra light roasts, I get the impression that the Blonde Roasts are growing in popularity with consumers. For me, the Blonde Roast coffees are very mild. I know plenty of people who absolutely love them because they prefer a more subtle cup of coffee, but I usually prefer the darker roasts, so when I make a Blonde k-cup (or other light roast k-cup), I usually use the small or medium setting on my Keurig to get a more intense flavor from the coffe.

Bright Sky has a light, nutty flavor that reminds me of toasted mixed nuts. There are definitely hints of peanut (although there are no peanuts, so not to worry!) in the coffee. The nutty flavor is smooth and a bit buttery, and it has a pleasantly long finish to it. Aria doesn’t have that nuttiness. Instead, it has a hint of citrus and cocoa to it. It has a cleaner, quicker finish than the Bright Sky, and is a little bit more refreshing.

Of the two, I definitely prefer the Bright Sky, because I like the longer finish and slightly more complex flavor profile. Both are mild, approachable and easy to drink – and as is the case with many light roast K-cups, you can easily adjust the strength by using different brew sizes on your Keurig to make the same coffee work for coffee drinkers with different tastes.

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