Dec 7, 2011

Chai Tea Spiced Cider

Chai Tea Spiced Cider

Apple cider is one of my favorite winter drinks, not just because it’s tasty, but because like its seasonality. It is something that I only drink in the winder and I like it served piping hot. While there are many different brands of apple cider (and ways to make your own spiced cider), you don’t really get the variety of flavor with cider that you get with tea. Combining tea and cider seemed like an easy way to combine two of my favorite drinks into one new one that is perfect for a cold day.

This Chai Tea Spiced Cider is simply chai tea that is steeped in apple cider, as opposed to water. The spicy tea gives a lot of flavor – and a subtle tea note – to the sweet apple juice, and the combination of hot cider and spices is ideal for taking the chill off. It’s good enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up on the menu board at a few coffee shops. Using cider that is already spiced will yield an even spicier drink, though plain apple cider works perfectly with the chai tea. You can use any tea brand that you like and loose leaf works just as well as bagged tea. I use loose leaf for a larger batch, but will often use bagged tea for convenience when making just one cup.
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Dec 5, 2011

Starbucks K-Cups House Blend and French Roast, reviewed

Starbucks K Cups

As more and more brands come out with K-cups for Keurig coffee makers, there has been a huge increase in the quality of the coffee pods. That means that I actually look forward to trying new brands these days, where once I just hoped to get something that was tolerable (as opposed to good).

A new entry into the K-cup market is Starbucks and they have put several of their most popular blends – House, French Roast, Breakfast Blend, Pike Place, Cafe Verona and Sumatra – into these single-serve sizes to appeal to K-Cup users. I was hoping that they would do as good a job getting the flavors of their coffee into the K Cups as they had done with Via and I was pretty pleased with the results after trying both the House Blend and the French Roast.

The French Roast is dark and smokey, with an almost minerally note to it. It actually tastes more like the espresso roast to me, when compared to regular Starbucks brewed beans, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The darkness of the roast is definitely the best thing about the French Roast because so many k-cup brands (although they call their products “extra dark”) just don’t make their coffee strong enough. I end up stepping down the size of my brew to get a more flavorful cup of coffee (or just one that doesn’t taste watery) and you definitely don’t have to do that with the French Roast. If you like your coffee with cream and sugar, it will hold up to that well, too.

The House Blend was bright and smooth, with a little less character than the French Roast, but very well balanced. This one worked well at both my large and medium Keurig settings and stayed consistently good. Again, when I compared it to similar “medium” roasts from other brands, this one was fuller flavored and tasted a lot fresher than some of my comparisons (Caribou Coffee, for instance).

The downside here is that the Starbucks K Cups are more expensive than some other K cup brands and – of course – are more expensive than getting whole bean or ground coffee. The upside is that you get convenience for that price and get the same flavor as you do from the ground coffee that you can also buy at the market. And that means that these will go on my list of K-cups that I’d buy again.

Nov 29, 2011

SpillNot Mug Holder

SpillNot Mug

Have you ever wanted to grab your coffee cub and swing it around, watching in awe as your coffee defies gravity and impresses your friends? Neither have I, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed by the SpillNot Mug Holder. This thing is designed to hold your mug and allow you to transport it easily without spilling a drop, wither you’re walking across your office or running to catch a bus.

The mug holder works because the flexible handle has enough give to it to eliminate the lateral force that causes coffee to slosh over the side of a mug when you are walking (or otherwise moving forward) with it. This means that, unless you trip and fall, you’re not going to end up with coffee drops all over your pants and shirt if you’re using it. The flashier side of this tool is that you can use it to do tricks, flipping and twirling your mug without spilling a drop, and it is a pretty impressive office party trick if you put a little practice into it first.

Now, since I basically have a coffee machine at my desk, this mug holder isn’t going to save me from spilling coffee all over my laptop. If your office is on the otherĀ  side of the building from your breakroom, however, and you’re as prone to sloshing too-full cups of coffee all over your hands when you are walking (been there, even when my coffee cup has a lid!!) , you just might want to consider it as a stocking stuffer this holiday.

Nov 21, 2011

Starbucks Reserve Aged Sumatra Lot No. 593, reviewed

Starbucks Reserve Aged Sumatra Lot No. 593

My favorite coffee from Starbucks was a limited edition Aged Sumatra that was released back in 2008 (wow – time flies!). It was rich, smooth, dark and complex in the most perfect and memorable way. I like Sumatran coffee in general, but this was a real showstopper. As a result, I was very excited to see a new Starbucks Reserve at my local store, the Aged Sumatra Lot No. 593. This coffee is unique because it is one single lot of coffee. Much like wine from a single vineyard, it has its own quality and character that is different from similar coffees. With wine, when you work with a single vineyard, you can really learn the qualities that make that piece of earth unique (terroir) and it is no different from coffee – except that we don’t often see coffee treated like wine.

The coffee was dark and smooth, with a earthy, woodsy quality at its core. It had a slight sweetness and hints of anise, as well as a subtle cocoa note to it that rounded out all of those other flavors. It was absolutely nothing like that long-lost Aged Sumatra that I liked (except for the deep earthiness that I tend to find in most good Sumatran coffees), but it was excellent nonetheless. I also tried this coffee iced and it worked quite well, making a very rich cup of iced coffee that was both dark and satisfying, though I noted that some of the lighter anise notes were less noticeable over ice.

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