Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – 2017 Holiday Blend

December is here! Yes, that does mean “Star Wars” but it also means there’s a plethora of tasty seasonal coffees lining the store shelves. Last year, I sampled and reviewed three different seasonal coffees. This year, the options are not very different. But Starbucks can always be relied on to provide some variation to the theme. Last year, they presented us with a FANTASTIC Holiday Blonde Roast. This year, we have a more traditional holiday-themed blend. So let’s dive right in…

This year’s offering is labeled as a medium roast with “sweet and maple notes”. However, to me, it seemed a tad darker than what I’d expect from a medium roasted coffee. It certainly smells very dark when brewing. Even in the cup it has a hint of bitterness that’d I’d come to expect from a dark roasted coffee. But… it’s not quite as strong. Very interesting.

It’s a very rich and flavorful coffee. But I don’t really detect any maple in the mix. Regardless, it is very satisfying. It’s perfect for a crisp winter morning. It almost has a “hearty” quality about it – very difficult to describe. If you enjoy bold and complex coffees, this will certainly be worth your time. But more casual drinkers might find this blend to be a bit much.

Personally, I found the coffee to be enjoyable and a welcome change of pace. But, I can’t say it’s one that gets me very excited.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  Maybe. This is a quality coffee. But it seemed aimed towards people who enjoy bold roasts or artisan-style coffees. I would not recommend putting this out in the office or at a holiday party. This is not a one-size-fits-all.

Nerd Fuel: Starbuck’s – Toasted Graham

Ok. I’m going to give Starbucks’ a chance to redeem themselves. While I was not a big  fan of their Pumpkin Spice Cafe Latte, I did enjoy their 2017 Fall Blend, and  last year’s Holiday Blonde Roast was simply amazing. For this review, I picked up a box of their new Toasted Graham coffee. Let’s see how it turned out.

First of all, this is a medium roast with natural flavors. It smells absolutely divine as it brews. The aroma of graham cracker and coffee beans together are simply out of this world. I immediately had high hopes for this coffee. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. This coffee has a rich, delicious flavor. The graham cracker taste is front and center, complimented by a nice honey/cinnamon finish. There’s no phony aftertaste. I was shocked by how good this coffee was, to be honest. Usually, when I pick up a flavored coffee, I go in expecting a chemical or overly syrupy taste. That’s not the case with this coffee at all. This is a clean brew. Not too acidic and not too bitter.

This coffee is wonderful as a classic morning mug or even when prepped as an iced coffee. Starbucks’ really hit it out of the park with this release. I simply can’t say enough good things about this coffee. Plus, the flavor actually ends up being quite a compliment to this time of year. If you see this in your local store, you’d do well to treat yourself to a box.

This is one of my new favorites.

Score: 4 out of 4

Would buy again?:  YES! This coffee exceeded all my expectations. Rich, well balanced flavor. Quality flavored coffee. Everything is just right about this cup.

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Pumpkin Spice Caffe’ Latte

For this Nerd Fuel post, I’m going to break my tradition of reviewing standard coffee pods and take a look at one of those gimmicky “cafe latte combo packs”. Being very much a purist, I’ve been hesitant to pay much attention to these things. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, aside from just standard K-Cups, some companies like to bundle coffee pods with special flavor or “froth” packets. The idea is to combine the contents of the packet with the brewed coffee from your Keurig machine and stir them together – resulting in a more “gourmet experience”. This sounds pretty cool in theory, but in practice the results are usually subpar. Due to the lack of fall seasonal coffees available in my area, I decided to bite the bullet and pick up one of these kits.

The box in questions is a Pumpkin Spice Caffe’ Latte from Starbucks. Now, let me be up front and state that I’m not really a fan of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice lattes. If I find myself on the go and it’s the right time of year, McDonald’s is actually my go-to. Their McCafe line is surprisingly good. I know that some Starbucks fanatics would crucify me over this – but I daresay they are better than Starbucks… So with that in mind, I didn’t really expect much here. But, I did REALLY enjoy the Starbucks Fall Blend. So, I decided to see what their other K-Cup seasonal was like.

So here we go. The way this works is simple. First, you empty the contents of the flavoring packet into the bottom of your mug. Then, you brew K-Cup just like any other coffee. Once it’s finished, you stir and enjoy. Being a cappuccino style beverage, there’s no need to add sugar or cream.

The smell of this mixture is very nice. It has a creamy, spicy smell to it. I was actually cautiously optimistic after giving my cup the nose test.

The coffee itself isn’t terrible. But it’s not all that good either. It had a watered-down, bitter taste that seemed be overloaded with nutmeg and other seasonal spices. There is a faint pumpkin aftertaste, but it’s not the dominant flavor in my opinion. It’s a very hard flavor to nail down. But, it’s not what I think of when I think of “pumpkin spice”.

The coffee is very drinkable, but I can’t say that I found it all that enjoyable. Being a specialty coffee, it costs a few dollars more than a standard box of K-cups. With this in mind, I can’t really claim it is worth either the trouble or the price tag. Fans of Pumpkin Spice would probably do better with a regular pumpkin spice coffee and an extra dose of cream.

So, the quest for the perfect “Pumpkin Spice” home solution continues…

Score: 2 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: No.  A little pricey for something that tastes like lukewarm pumpkin and a cinnamon dishwater. I’ve had worse, but I’ve also certainly had much, much better, for less.

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Fall Blend (2017)

Fall is here! For me, that means pumpkin scented candles and spooky video games. Last year, I reviewed a couple different Pumpkin flavored coffees so I’ve decided to change things up this time and focus on a simple Autumn blend. It just so happens I found exactly what I was looking for as soon as I hit the grocery store. Starbucks is offering a “Fall Blend” for 2017, and it seemed like the perfect fit.

Now, as you may know, I have a very hit and miss relationship with Starbucks coffee. I don’t count myself as a fan, but occasionally they will drop a really good K-cup on store shelves. Other times, their home products are just as icky as what they peddle in their stores.  (An unpopular opinion, I know. But it’s how I feel.)

In the case of this Fall Blend, I’m happy to report a solid quality coffee. This pod has that signature Starbucks “burnt bean” smell as it brews. This alarmed me at first, but thankfully this does not equate to a burnt taste. In fact, this cup of coffee actually has quite a smooth flavor. It’s a medium roast, with a complex earthy/spice taste. It’s actually quite good!

Most fall blends tend to lean a little too heavily on artificial pumpkin flavoring, even when they don’t market the product as a pumpkin coffee. Starbucks did not fall into this trap and the end result is a very solid coffee. If you enjoy everyday coffees in lieu of the trendy flavors, this is a coffee that I recommend. The earthy notes and mild spice taste is perfect for this time of year, without drenching you with tons of artificial flavoring.

 

Score: 3 out of 4

Would Purchase again?: Yes.  This is a medium roast coffee with a solid flavor. It really is the perfect compliment to a brisk Autumn morning. Starbucks managed to deliver with this year’s fall blend.

 

Nerd Fuel: Starbucks – Holiday Blonde Roast

As 2016 winds to a close, I leave you with my final Nerd Fuel coffee review of the year. This time, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and trying a brand that I generally don’t care for; Starbucks. From my experience, most Starbucks coffee tastes burnt and mediocre at best. But, my local grocery store was really pushing this holiday offering from them, so I decided to give it a try.

What we have here is a “Blonde Roast” coffee. A blonde roast is a very lightly roasted bean. So light in fact that the bean doesn’t actually darken. This generally makes for a rather weak coffee. I typically don’t like this type of brew, but considering Starbucks’ has a habit of over-roasting their beans, I decided to give it a try. I have to admit that in this particular case, it works well.

This is actually quite a pleasant coffee. The box claims to have hints of brown sugar, allspice and orange,  but to be honest, these flavors are barely detectable. To me, it tasted like a slightly-weaker, general breakfast blend. But one of good quality. Unlike many holiday coffee blends, there’s no overpowering spice. In fact, I quite liked it.

I made my cup in my typical fashion; sweet Italian creamer, no sugar.  But, I feel that this blend would be ideal for experimenting with different flavored creamers and would also work well as an iced coffee. All in all, this a very nice presentation by Starbucks. Blonde Roast fans should certainly give this coffee a try. Yes, this is a weaker coffee, but somehow it manages to keep a full flavor.

Again, this coffee really surprised me. Many blonde roasts taste watered-down. Not the case here. This is a full-flavored, complex coffee. A very good quality offering from Starbucks.

Score: 3 out of 4

Would buy again?:  YES! This is a unique coffee with a bright interesting flavor. One of my favorite seasonal selections from this year so far.