Taste Test: Blended Coffee Drinks

By: sara levine

Frozen coffee drinks from Starbucks, Cozy Cafe, Au Bon Pain, and Caribou Coffee.
As the weather warms up, orders for icy Frappuccinos are beginning to edge out lattes and caramel macchiatos during the Starbucks morning rush. So which sweet, blended concoction tastes the best? In a blind sampling, our panel of judges (three Washingtonian interns) weighed in on regular and light Starbucks varieties, as well as offerings from a few competitors--Au Bon Pain, Caribou Coffee, and a downtown mom-and-pop coffee shop, Cozy Cafe (1828 L St., NW). Contemplating a cool pick-me-up? Here’s the lowdown.

The Favorite:

Au Bon Pain Mocha Blast: ABP doesn’t make a plain coffee-flavored blended beverage, just their signature Mocha Blast. But I didn’t tell the tasters about the chocolate, and none of them detected it. One taster noted an “almost caramel flavor,” and applauded the “good, not too icy consistency.” The others also liked the “caramel-coffee taste” and rated this “really creamy, smooth” drink #1 overall.

Runners-Up (in order of preference)
:

Starbucks Light Coffee Frappuccino
: Starbucks introduced its “light” line of Fraps in three flavors--coffee, mocha, and caramel--last year. Overall, our tasters rated it higher than it’s calorie-laden cousin. “Not too sweet, which is kind of nice,” remarked one taster. Another thought it had “too much ice, not much flavor.”

Cozy Cafe Cappuccino Frappe
: This small shop serves a “frappe” that’s a good bet for non-coffee drinkers. The sweet, creamy concoction tastes more like a milkshake made with coffee ice cream. One taster loved its “malty and hazelnut” undertones and “creamy, smooth” consistency. If you’re looking for a dose of caffeine and strong coffee flavor, though, you won’t find it in this drink.

Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino
: The often-imitated Starbucks original landed towards the bottom in our tasting. One taster put it bluntly: “Blecch. No Taste. Diluted. No coffee flavor.” The others agreed: “Too much ice.”...”Not enough flavor.”...”Too watery.”

Caribou Coffee Cooler
: Our tasters all agreed that this tasted the worst of the bunch. They determined that it must have been made immediately after a smoothie--in a blender that hadn’t been cleaned out: “It tastes like fruit, and not in a good way,” noted one puzzled taster. Even with the undeniable fruity aftertaste aside, Caribou’s drink had “too much ice” and tasted “more like milk than coffee.”