Saturday, January 1, 2011

Peet's Coffee and Tea: review of vanilla lattes vs. sugar-free vanilla lattes

Greetings, coffee enthusiasts, and welcome to 2011!

It's a new year and for billions of people all around the world, that calls for new plans, new goals, new resolutions, new lives.  People are committing themselves to spending their money more wisely, watching less television, reading more books, losing weight, consuming healthier foods and drinks--all for the sake of improving their personal lives.  One thing that coffee drinkers do to follow through on their resolutions is to make the switch from whole milk to skim milk, or from flavored syrups to sugar-free flavored syrups, and some even make both switches at the same time.  

On the other hand, there are those who are nervous about the transition to sugar-free syrups.  It's understandable--the sugar, after all, is what gives those drinks that sweet vanilla goodness.  Without the sugar, the drink would just taste bland, boring, or, at best, artificial.


It is with this question in mind that we at Peet's Evanston decided to find out for ourselves just how different our vanilla lattes is from our sugar-free vanilla latte.

Ironically enough, all of our participants in our comparative tasting unanimously concluded that the sugar-free vanilla latte actually had a sweeter taste than the regular vanilla latte.  The vanilla latte, despite its sugary base, was very subtle and, if one didn't know that vanilla was in their latte, one might not even recognize it immediately.  Although the sweetness was definitely still there, the beverage didn't have an overwhelming vanilla taste to it--the syrup mixed with the espresso and milk so well that, as Mal pointed out, it actually tasted like real vanilla beans had been infused with the drink, rather than a syrup added as an extra element.

The sugar-free vanilla, on the other hand, didn't have that same subtlety--upon first sip, the syrup made a grand appearance on the palate, dominating the steamed milk and espresso.  This was especially true when we went one step further and made the latte with skim milk rather than the traditional whole.  The sugar-free was so sweet, in fact, that we could still taste it lingering in our mouths after we had finished the cupping.  Of course, this is not so much a complaint as it is an observation of sugar-free syrups; whereas most sugar-free options (like hazelnut, caramel, raspberry, et al) in the coffee market leave a formidable aftertaste that even a glass of water can't shake, the vanilla syrup that we use, though it did leave an aftertaste, had minimal lingering.  This writer believes this was mostly because the syrup didn't really blend as well with espresso and milk--not the same way that regular vanilla did.  Another factor contributing to this was the artificial sweetener (Splenda) in the sugar-free syrup--it was almost as though Splenda overcompensated for being artificial by attempting to "out-sweeten" regular sugar.  If that's the case, mission accomplished.

However, despite these differences, the regular and the sugar-free vanilla were surprisingly similar to each other.  Like Halle remarked, "...the taste is not so different that sugar-free vanilla cannot provide an alternative to people looking for a healthier option."  Both beverages were sweet, bother beverages were creamy, and, despite one of them being artificially flavored, the final word is that both beverages tasted like vanilla.  So if you're one of those who made the resolution to consume more healthily, but are wary of sugar-free syrups, fret not!  Peet's can help you meet your goals.  

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