I’m a big fan of the high quality Art of Tea iced teas. They offer great flavor, bags that are large enough to make a generous pitcher of tea and very clear instructions on how to ensure that the tea turns out perfectly. The Art of Tea Passionfruit Jasmine Iced Tea is a flavor that jumped out at me immediately, since I’m a fan of anything that includes passionfruit. This tea is a blend of black and green tea with jasmine flowers, not jasmine tea. The flowers give the tea a very delicate, sweet floral scent that blends well with the floral notes of passionfruit. It’s slightly sweet on its own, but the flavors pop even more when you add a little bit of sugar to the mix. Since the flavors are delicate, this is once iced tea that might lose its refreshing essence if you over-sweeten it. One package makes enough for four 2-quart pitchers of tea, which should be plenty to get you through two or three hot weekends this summer!
A black forest cake is made with layers of kirsch-spiked chocolate cake, cherries and wehipped cream. It’s a delicious flavor combination, and pops up in desserts besides cake from time to time. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf chain, based in Southern California, has long had a Black Forest Ice Blended drink on their menu and it is one of their best sellers. Their version is made with a mocha base, maraschino cherries and chocolate-covered espresso beans. It’s easy to recreate this favorite at home if you have a jar of cherries and a blender, and I often do when I want to treat myself!
I usually have a jar of maraschino cherries in my fridge for garnishing cocktails, but if you don’t have any you can substitute sweet black cherries, either jarred, fresh or frozen. The flavor is a little bit more natural when you use them, although the maraschinos are “traditional” in this type of drink. I recommend leaving out the chocolate covered espresso beans unless you have a powerful blender, like a Blendtec (which is what I use). A low-power blender will probably just leave chunks of the beans in your drink that won’t fit easily through a straw. That said, if you feel like your blender is up to the challenge, go for it because they add a nice bit of texture to the drink.
When Starbucks was expanding on the East Coast, they learned that coffee drinkers on that side of the continent mostly preferred lighter roast coffees. Mild, buttery light roasts were being poured at popular chains like Dunkin Donuts and that is what consumers were familiar with. As Dunkin Donuts starts their westward push towards the Pacific, they are also finding that they need to change their coffee options to bring in a new group of customers. Dunkin Donuts launched their first hot dark roast coffee – the first in the brand’s 64 year history – last week at a store in Modesto, California and will be rolling it out nationwide this month.
“The company says its food scientists spent several years trying to develop a dark roast that would be bold but lack the bitterness often associated with dark roasts. ‘It provides an alternative choice for our current users as well as new users who wanted a bolder flavor than Dunkin’ original,’ [said] John Costello, Dunkin’ Brands’ president of global marketing and innovation.”
I tend to prefer dark roast coffees, especially when the mass-produced light roasts lack a lot of the depth that you get from premium light roast coffees, and this change would probably prompt me to get a cup of coffee at Dunkin (if and when one opens in my neighborhood) if I’m there, but only time will tell if consumers will respond by switching from McDonalds, Starbucks or their other coffee brand-of-choices to the new Dunkin’ roast.
Coconut water has been growing in popularity over the past couple of years to the point where I see it just about everywhere. The first offerings were plain coconut water, with advertising that usually promoted how great for hydration the water was. These days, there are many more flavored options of coconut water – including coffee-flavored options, like Coco Cafe. This is a line of coconut water cafe lattes, boxed drinks that are intended to be tasty, give you a little caffeine boost and help hydrate you. I was hesitant about this combination, but I couldn’t resist giving Coco Cafe Vanilla a try to see how it tasted.
The drink is definitely refreshing and it captures the flavors of coffee, milk, vanilla and coconut water, more or less in that order. The very first sip will remind you of a canned Starbucks coffee drink, with smooth espresso and dairy flavors, combined with a nice hint of sweetness. The vanilla is a little bit more subtle, though it is present, and there is a lingering hint of coconut water flavor. It’s definitely a unique drink, and I’d have to say that it’s a pretty good one, especially if you’re a fan of coconut water in the first place. I didn’t think that I would enjoy it, but I ended up drinking one quickly and wanting another! It contains as much caffeine as one shot of espresso (120mg), which is enough to perk you up in the morning if you want to sip one of these on your commute or down one after a workout at the gym. I think that a regular iced latte would bet a better choice if you’re looking for a drink to savor and sip slowly, but the Coco Cafe is so refreshing that it is a great option when you are on the to.