REVIEW: International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee Light

International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee Light

International Delight’s Iced Coffee regularly finds its way into my cart because last year it found its way into my heart after I gave it a positive review.

But every so often, when I place a half gallon carton in my cart, I think to myself, “Suck it, Starbucks!” and “All that cream and sugar is probably making me chubby…All right, chubbier.”

I don’t know if it’s because International Delight has seen me naked, but they now have light versions of their mocha and vanilla iced coffees.

Like the non-light version, International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee Light is made with 100 percent premium Arabica coffee beans. However, it has 1/3 fewer calories and 39 percent less sugar than their regular iced coffee.

Why does it have fewer calories and sugar?

Magic!!!

Actually, it’s because of the popular artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

So it’s not magic. It’s science!!!

Although International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee uses artificial sweeteners, it still has the same 2.5 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat the original has. It also has 56 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving, which is two milligrams less than their regular iced coffee.

While pouring International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee Light into a glass, I noticed it was much thinner than the non-light version, which I think is thick enough that it makes me feel like I’m drinking melted ice cream.

If you’re one of those people who tried the original International Delight Iced Coffee and thought to yourself, “Hey! I’d like a lot more coffee with my cream and sugar!”, then your internal voice will say the same thing about the light version as the combination of coffee, cream, and carrageenan goes down your throat. There’s enough dairy and sweetener to mask the coffee’s bitterness and to almost make a Starbucks Frappuccino blush.

International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee Light Closeup

However, the difference in flavor between the light and regular versions is similar to the difference between Pepsi and Diet Pepsi (or Coke and Diet Coke for you Pepsi haters or RC Cola and Diet RC Cola for you people fortunate to have RC Cola on your store shelves); you instantly know you’re drinking the light version. The artificial sweeteners were noticeable once the coffee hit my tongue and right through to the aftertaste. Unlike the coffee’s bitterness, no amount of dairy could cover that. As for the vanilla flavor, it was mild, but made the coffee taste marshmallow-ish.

As a regular International Delight Iced Coffee drinker, it’s nice to have a lighter version. Even though the artificial sweeteners created a significant difference in flavor, as a regular diet soda drinker, I didn’t mind it. So it looks like I’ll be putting International Delight Iced Coffee Light into my cart, instead of the regular stuff, and only thinking to myself, “Suck it, Starbucks!”

(Nutrition Facts – 8 ounces – 100 calories, 25 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 10% calcium, and 4% iron.)

Item: International Delight Vanilla Iced Coffee Light
Purchased Price: $3.99 (on sale)
Size: Half gallon
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Still creamy and sweet enough to cover the coffee’s bitterness. Vanilla has a marshmallow-ish-ness to it. Fewer calories and less sugar than regular International Delight Iced Coffee. Contains 56 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.
Cons: Artificial sweeteners were noticeable. Thinner than the regular stuff. Trying to spell carrageenan. Using marshmallow-ish-ness. Coffee snobs will turn their noses up at this. Me being naked.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Coffee K-Cup Pack

Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Coffee K-Cup Pack

Fall is my favorite season. What’s not to love? The air turns cool but isn’t freezing yet; the leaves change colors and make great crunchy noises as you tramp through them; Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner; college football starts and so do the baseball playoffs. (Okay, probably not for my team this year, but shut up.) And alongside all that, pumpkins begin their annual 2 1/2 months of relevance. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin ale… it’s all terrific. And this year, I got really excited when I heard that Dunkin’ Donuts was releasing pumpkin coffee for use with Keurigs.

In case anyone is as clueless as I was until recently, a Keurig is a type of coffee maker that brews java quickly. You load it with small containers called K-Cups and through dark sorcery (allegedly), it spits out a cup of coffee a minute later. I got one for my wife for our last anniversary, and I’m convinced it’s her favorite thing I’ve ever bought her. Mind you, I have at various times given her an engagement ring, a Coach purse, diamond earrings, and two children. Pretty sure this still tops the list.

What’s surprising is just how much I was looking forward to DD’s pumpkin coffee, since I usually find coffee disgusting, or at best acceptable with loads of milk and sugar. But… pumpkin! Pumpkin makes it all better, right? That’s the operating theory, anyway: pumpkin and the spices, which sounds like either a Motown group or a Saturday morning cartoon. Don’t pretend you wouldn’t watch it.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the packaging, but it’s both eye-catching and visually appealing. The multicolored leaf pattern and orange and brown hues draw attention without overwhelming you, and I like that there’s only one picture of a pumpkin on the entire box. There’s no need to overload you with PUMPKIN! After all, pumpkin sells itself.

Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Coffee K-Cup Pack Closeup

After spending 30 seconds to brew a cup, I took a whiff and was pleased with the results. What you’re going to smell is mostly nutmeg with just a little bit of cinnamon. (Those seem to be the only spices included; they’re the only ones mentioned on the back of the box, anyway.) Beyond that it’s the usual coffee smell. Apparently this is Arabica coffee and I’m sure that means something to some of you, who are no doubt rolling your eyes right now at this idiot java novice, but to me it just smells like coffee. Still, that’s not a bad thing — coffee always smells better than it tastes.

…which, unfortunately, remains the case. Maybe it’s my fault: it’s pumpkin coffee, not pumpkin pie coffee. It isn’t magic. Nor is it bad, really — again, I’m not a coffee guy, but with milk and sugar it’s stupendously tolerable. You can’t fault coffee for being, you know… coffee. But what I CAN fault it for, and will, is not having nearly enough pumpkin in there. It’s pumpkin coffee, so you should be able to taste at least a little hint of pumpkin, right?

Apparently not, because what you’re drinking is nutmeg & cinnamon coffee. Those are good spices, yes, and they combine for a pleasant aftertaste. As a result, it’s hard to be too disappointed because, after all: it tastes good, with rich flavor and a sweet taste that lingers after the sip. By coffee standards, anyway. But it’s a bit like biting down into a bacon cheeseburger and only tasting the burger and cheese. You *like* cheeseburger, so technically that’s okay, but… where’s my bacon, dammit? The wife tells me in most flavored coffees, it just smells like whatever the flavor is and your nose kind of fills in the taste. I guess I can buy that, but since I can taste the spices, shouldn’t I be able to taste the pumpkin?

I think that’s my final word on DD’s latest seasonal offer. Nice aroma, looks appealing, enjoyable taste as far as it goes. But if they decide to bring it back next year, I hope they consider upping the pumpkin content, or they might as well just call this “fall blend” instead of “pumpkin coffee.” For those of you who elect to try some, I don’t think you’ll regret buying it. But still — where’s my bacon?!

(Nutrition Facts – N/A. I know strange, right?)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Coffee K-Cup Pack
Purchased Price: $11.99
Size: 14 K-Cups
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fall is basically the best season. Has a nice, rich aroma. Package is one scarecrow away from the perfect autumn image. (Mostly) nutmeg and (some) cinnamon make for a very pleasing aftertaste. Buying your wife the perfect gift. Works out to less than $1 a cup, which is pretty good. Man, if they did pumpkin mocha, how awesome would that be?
Cons: Surprising lack of pumpkin, considering the name. Does flavored coffee really not usually taste like that flavor? That’s stupid. Spices can’t totally mask the fact that deep down, it still tastes like coffee.

REVIEW: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice

I always feel a little depressed once Labor Day passes, as I can’t wear white pants anymore. But other people generally have a lot to rejoice over: there’s football and tailgates, every food and drink gets flavored with pumpkin, and I can’t wear white pants anymore.

Right on cue, Starbucks has re-released their seasonal Pumpkin Spice Lattes. This year, they’re providing an extra treat in the form of the new limited edition Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew. I love the Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (PSLs for those of us who really love Starbucks and also really love obnoxious acronyms), but have never tried any other VIA flavors before, so I’m in pretty much the exact demographic Starbucks is hoping will try their new Pumpkin Spice VIA and get hooked on their instant coffee offerings.

We’re approaching the section of my reviews where I like to offer an explanation of the preparation process. Not that this ever gets too complicated (“Step 1, buy ice cream. Step 2, eat ice cream. Step 3… um, go slow or you might get a headache”), but explaining the steps for preparing instant coffee feels particularly silly when Starbucks dedicates precisely 15 words to explaining it. I heated 8 fluid ounces of 1% milk. I poured packet into cup. I added hot milk. I stirred and enjoyed.

Here’s the precisely 15-word version of my review: for instant coffee, it was perfectly fine, but it just didn’t have enough pumpkin flavor.

There was just a slight whiff of pumpkin scent, both when I had only the content of the packet in the cup and after I stirred in the milk. Instant coffee always tastes indescribable, but noticeably off, and the Pumpkin Spice VIA offering was no different. In a blind taste test, I could have guessed that this was meant to be pumpkin-flavored coffee, but it definitely didn’t compare to the rich, distinctive flavor of a PSL. On the plus side, I thought the amount of sugar in the VIA packet was appropriate; I often find real PSLs to be too sweet.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice Closeup

Again, I’ve never sampled any other VIA flavors, but from reading our past reviews I gleaned that the instructions on other varieties recommend mixing with water, so I tried it that way, too. I actually found that adding mostly hot water and just an ounce or so of milk allowed the zest of the spices to shine through better.

Compared to other instant coffee, these Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew packets are good, but they don’t compare to actual Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Also, at more than one dollar per packet, they’re kind of pricey for instant coffee. Still, in hopes of drinking pumpkin spice beverages and wearing white pants at the same time, I’ll stock up on a couple boxes and stash them away for those long months between Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 packet/unprepared – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew
Purchased Price: $6.95
Size: 5 packets
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Easy to prepare. Does smell and taste of pumpkin. Appropriately sweet. Tastes better with mostly water. Real Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Football and tailgates. Pumpkin flavors are back.
Cons: Pumpkin flavor not strong enough. Instant coffee always tastes a little off. Kind of pricey. Unnecessary acronyms. I can’t wear white pants anymore.

NEWS: Arizona Beverages Honors a New York Yankee With A Beverage That Probably Won’t Sell Well in Boston

The Mighty Joe

I know three things about Joe DiMaggio. He was a New York Yankee, he had a 56-game hitting streak, and was once married to Marilyn Monroe. And that’s without looking at his Wikipedia page.

Recently, I learned something new about Mr. DiMaggio. He’ll soon have a canned coffee beverage called Joltin’ Joe from Arizona Beverages, makers of Arnold Palmer’s half & half and Jack Nicklaus’ Golden Bear lemonade.

Joltin’ Joe is a carbonated, all-natural beverage made with espresso coffee. An 8-ounce serving has 80 milligrams of caffeine and 50 calories. It’s sweetened using RebA – a natural sweetener derived from the stevia leaf. Joltin’ Joe will be available in 16-ounce cans that highlight his 56-game hitting streak.

The espresso drink will be available in New York metro area in mid-September and will continue to roll out nationally throughout the year.

NEWS: Get Ready to Hoard Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew Packets Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Fans

Starbucks Pumpkin?

Update: Click here to read our Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice review

There are many people out there who wish the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte was available year round. Heck, I’m pretty sure if some of them could control the weather they would maintain fall/winter weather year round if it meant they could enjoy their beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte throughout the year.

Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte is returning September 4, but this year it’s also bringing Pumpkin Spice Starbucks VIA Ready Brew packs with it. So if you have enough cupboard space, you can stockpile those puppies like you were preparing for shadows to be seen on Groundhog Day.

Each Pumpkin Spice Starbucks VIA Ready Brew box comes with five single serve packets, much like other Starbucks VIA products. Each packet contains an Arabica instant coffee blend with natural flavors and cane sugar. Just add hot milk and, after you’ve stirred it, you’ll have yourself a Pumpkin Spice Latte to enjoy and laugh with as you think of all those poor souls braving horrible weather conditions in order to get their own Pumpkin Spice Latte from a Starbucks.

Much like the original Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Pumpkin Spice Starbucks VIA Ready Brew will be available for a limited time.

Source: Starbucks Melody

REVIEW: Limited Edition Starbucks Cookies & Cream Frappuccino Coffee Drink

Limited Edition Starbucks Cookies & Cream Frappuccino

It’s easy to make fun of Starbucks, what with their high prices, stupid names (I refuse to call their drinks anything but small, medium, and large), and crushing pervasiveness.  I used to go once or twice a year, when some demon urge came over me to get a vanilla iced whatsit thingamajig, but since (shockingly) there’s not one in my area with a drive-thru, and with the unveiling and continuing expansion of McDonald’s McCafe line of premium coffees, clown beats mermaid every time.  I realize I’m just trading one giant evil company for another, but at least at McDonald’s I don’t have to leave my car.  Or learn Italian.

So, I stick my nose up at Starbucks, out-douching the douches standing in line for their soy half-caf god-knows-what, pretending I’m better than them because I don’t kowtow to The Man.  I put my pre-ground packaged coffee in my coffeemaker every night, and every morning it is waiting for me when I wake up.  I like my coffee like I like my- oh, forget it.  I drink it black.  That’s all.

There’s a little secret I keep deep inside my fast-beating, over-caffeinated heart, however.  I love Starbucks’ bottled Frappuccinos.  I don’t buy them very often, because they are overpriced just like everything else Starbucks sells, but I love the little buggers, no matter what the flavor.

So when I heard that Starbucks had come out with Limited Edition Cookies & Cream bottled Frappuccinos, I nonchalantly offered to review them, then broke speed limits and ran red lights to get to the store.  Lo and behold, there they were, four little bottles in their cute yet sophisticated-looking carrying case.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen something claiming to be cookies & cream flavored look so adult.  There have been many times where I’ve refused to make eye contact with the cashier as they rang up something I’d bought to review, but this was not one of those times.  For once, I was not an obviously childless adult purchasing a single box of Kid Cuisine.  This is a Serious Drink for Adults, motherfucker.  Don’t judge me.

Oh, can you hang on a second?  I forgot to grab some gummy worms.  Okay, now you can judge me.

When I think cookies and cream, my mind generally gravitates towards Oreos, probably because you can’t throw a rock without hitting someplace that has an Oreo shake, sundae, or other Oreo-related product. Plus, they turned 100 this year – without doing any research, I’m going to assume that makes them the original cookie/cream combo.

While it’s not exactly fair to other cookie flavors, this means I expect my cookie flavor to be chocolatey and my cream part to be a cavity-inducing haven of sugary sweetness. Sorry, oatmeal raisin cookies – I guess you’ll have to wait for your own Frappuccino flavor. Don’t hold your breath. Your…cookie breath. If only morning breath could smell like cookie breath. Divorce rates would plummet.

Getting back on track, Starbucks Cookies & Cream Frappuccino sticks to the chocolate formula. “Shake well” is not just a suggestion; you can see a rather prominent layer of chocolate at the bottom of the bottle, and you have to shake the hell out of it to get it evenly distributed.

I should amend my use of the word “chocolate”. It’s actually “cocoa processed with alkali”, which makes me think of batteries but is much less ominous than it sounds. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just call it chocolate.

Limited Edition Starbucks Cookies & Cream Frappuccino Glass

As a Starbucks bottled Frappuccino, Cookies & Cream delivers. It’s smooth, sweet and creamy, with a high note of chocolate flavor that blends perfectly with the creaminess and isn’t overwhelming. The taste is similar to Hershey’s chocolate syrup, which is fine by me. The chocolate actually cuts some of the sweetness of the drink, which is chock full of sugar (real sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup).

While “Brewed Starbucks Coffee” is listed as the first ingredient, the coffee flavor is pretty subdued, showing up as more of an aftertaste, albeit a pleasant one. This is not unexpected, as Starbucks Frappuccinos are, at least to me, “the coffee drink for those who don’t really like the taste of coffee”.

Limited Edition Starbucks Cookies & Cream Frappuccino ranks high on my list of favorite Starbucks coffee drinks. Straight from the fridge, it’s cool, sweet, chocolatey, and refreshing. It doesn’t exactly scream “cookies & cream” flavor, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. I liked it so well, I went out and bought another four pack. I’m actually a little sad it’s a limited edition item.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Cookies & Cream Frappuccino, I realize that it’s not a drink for everyone. It doesn’t exactly taste like cookies, it’s loaded with sugar, and it’s no substitute for a real cup of coffee to wake you up and satisfy your morning caffeine cravings. It’s also, like every Starbucks item, on the expensive side for what it is. That said, if you’re a fan of sweet and creamy chilled drinks, and you enjoy the taste of coffee and chocolate together, you’ll be a fan of this drink in no time.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bottle (9.5 ounces) – 190 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 32 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 25% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Limited Edition Starbucks Cookies & Cream Frappuccino Coffee Drink
Price: $5.99
Size: 4 pack/9.5 ounce bottles
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Refreshing despite being so sweet. Not having to learn Italian to buy it. Chocolate and cream blend perfectly. Not having to be embarrassed to buy it OR have to stand in line with douches to get it. Coffee taste is subtle but delicious.
Cons: Expensive. Bad “I like my coffee like” jokes. Flavor doesn’t scream “cookies”. Morning breath never smells like cookie breath. Will not satisfy hardcore caffeine addicts.