Thursday, April 23, 2009

Maple & Vanilla Caffe Latte

When I was working full-time in a Japanese office, I used to indulge myself once or twice a week with the purchase of a Caffé Latte milk and coffee beverage. At that time, there was no Starbucks down the street and my choices for coffee were making my own when I was zonked out and dazed in the morning or picking up a plastic cup of cold Caffé Latte. I opted for the cold coffee, though I wasn't necessarily happy with all of the sugar that was in it. When sugarless versions were later released, I was pretty happy with that, though I had to add my own sweetener.

After a few years, I gave up on this indulgence because of the waste of the plastic packaging and the relatively high cost. At a convenience store, these usually cost 150 yen (about $1.50) for 240 ml (8 oz.), though the one I'm reviewing today was at a 99 yen shop (about $1). This is one of the few brands of the many, many coffees that you can buy in cans, cartons, or plastic cups in Japan that I actually like because there's so much milk in it that it's not bitter or overly acidic. It also carries with it the image of being a relatively high profile beverage since commercials featuring Jodie Foster and Winona Ryder have advertised it.

Since the mixture of maple and vanilla sounded interesting, and I hadn't had one of these for years, I thought I'd give this a try. Flavored coffees are always a big gamble though because they usually seem to be infused with a lot of artificial flavors or the added flavors are too strong. A sniff of this revealed just the smallest hint of vanilla and no maple scent at all. Mainly, it just smelled like coffee. The first sip though was overwhelmingly chemical tasting. The vanilla hit super hard and the maple rather less so. Subsequent sips revealed more of the maple and the strongly artificial vanilla taste relented a bit, but to the last drop, the flavor didn't taste like anything that may occur in nature.

There is real maple syrup in this, but there is no listing of vanilla among the ingredients. I'm guessing that much of the artificial taste is in some sort of cheap vanilla substitute, but I could be wrong. Perhaps someone just overdid it a bit. The entire cup is 145 calories. This means that you'd be better off drinking a can of Coca-Cola if you're trying to avoid sugar and fat as it'd be lower calorie and probably deliver enough caffeine.

This was okay. I didn't have any trouble drinking the rest of it, but mainly that's because it was pleasantly sweet and still coffee despite the flavorings. I'd certainly never buy it again, but more importantly, had I known what it would have tasted like before buying it, I'd have given it a miss.

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