September 4, 2009

Review: Cafe Escapes Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups

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One of the things that always bugged us about Keurig brewers was the lack of selection when it came to hot chocolate/cocoa choices. We guess our gripes (and yours) have been heard by the powers that be since we recently saw the introduction of the Cafe Escapes hot beverage line-up on the K-Cup scene. A quick look around the Cafe Escapes K-Cups for Keurig website reveals that they've sourced their various ingredients from Europe (the companies/suppliers in question are not named), so this might reveal why these K-Cups appear creamier/richer than what's currently on the market.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is distributing this brand, so there shouldn't be any problems getting your hands on a box whenever you so desire. For the purpose of this review, we decided to try the 2 main flavors which are currently available: Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa and Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa. We also decided not to bother with our usual scoring system since these are hot cocoa drinks which don't have acidity or some of the other characteristics we base points on. Instead, we'll describe tasting notes and whether or not we recommend these selections or not.

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Cafe Escapes Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups

Billed as your "classic" hot chocolate flavor, the first thing you'll notice is a slightly stronger cocoa scent than what we've seen in past competitors' products. Café Escapes have also succeeded in creating a much creamier/richer flavor overall. The closest thing we can compare it to would be melting some Lindt chocolate in warm milk.

This K-Cup seemed a lot sweeter than previous hot cocoa K-Cups we've tried before and we soon realized this was due to the addition of sucralose. That ingredient alone is enough to scare away the purists or those who have what we can only describe as a "high sensitivity" to artificial sweeteners, but we didn't mind it at all. It should also be noted that the presence of milk ingredients makes these K-Cups NON-Kosher and you won't find any KSA logos anywhere on the box as a result.

Mouth feel is smooth and velvety while the body does indeed reveal the presence of milk ingredients with its light-brown & creamy color. We feel milk was the key ingredient missing from other (more watery) hot cocoa K-Cups in the past and if we had to pick this over the main competitor's product, we'd take Café Escapes any day. Pricing may seem a bit high (more on that further below) but considering the ingredients are sourced from overseas and the quality has been considerably improved, we feel it's worth the extra cost. We're sure most hot chocolate fans will be pleased with this offering.

If we had to score this on our usual scale, it would probably get a solid 90 or 95.

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Cafe Escapes Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups

Quite likely the first "dark" chocolate K-Cup on the market, this flavor is definitely darker in color and has a slightly different aroma than its "milk" counterpart listed above. We were expecting a stronger taste but the flavor was almost similar to the milk chocolate version. It had a somewhat creamy texture but wasn't as rich as we were hoping despite the inclusion of milk ingredients. Sucralose also gives this a sweeter taste and as we've noted above, we're not bothered by it.

Mouth feel was still smooth and the body was absolutely spot-on with the typical dark color you'd expect in dark chocolate, however, we feel Café Escapes may have missed the mark a bit on this one as we would have preferred a considerably stronger dark chocolate taste... not so much a more bitter taste as with 70% dark chocolate bars, but a stronger chocolate flavor overall. Those of you who are thinking of trying this K-Cup might want to get a sample from friends or family before you decide to buy an entire box. On the bright side, it's STILL better than your average packet of powdered hot cocoa you'd find in a grocery store.

If we had to score this on our usual scale, it would probably get an 85.

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Conclusion

We liked Timothy's White Hot Chocolate K-Cups when they were released last year and Green Mountain's own Hot Cocoa K-Cups were good depending on how you prepared them (i.e. Picking a smaller brew size, mixing remaining powder from K-Cup back into drink, filling your mug half-way with milk and using the smallest brew size, etc.), however, we're pleased to see that the Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups from Café Escapes have finally given us an all-in-one solution for a quick hot chocolate fix at the touch of a button. The Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups also allow for the same, however, we truly wish the taste would have been more pronounced and deem that to be their only downfall.

You don't need to add milk or use an extremely small brew size. Just select the standard 8oz size BUT make sure you shake the k-cup well before you brew it. That's the key to ensuring most of the powder will be extracted during the brew process instead of having it clump together in the bottom of the K-Cup. There's even a warning on the foil lid noting to "shake before brewing". Speaking of warnings, these products do in fact contain milk, soy and tree nuts as we've noted earlier, so anyone with allergies to these ingredients should take appropriate caution or avoid this altogether. Also as noted before, these products contain the artificial sweetener "sucralose" and it appears to be a major turn-off for most people (based on customer feedback noted on the Green Mountain website), although we didn't mind it and it didn't appear to bother us whatsoever.

With new flavors like French Vanilla Café-au-Lait, Chai Latte and Mocha Latte on the horizon, Cafe Escapes seems poised to become one of the premier hot beverage K-Cup manufacturers on Keurig's roster. We have yet to receive any indication as to when these new flavors will be released (an ad on Green Mountain's site simply says "coming this Summer"), but we can't wait to give them a try regardless. Could this spark other K-Cup manufacturers such as Timothy's to release their own powdered chai/hot chocolate varieties in a K-Cup format? We can only hope.

Cafe Escapes K-Cups for Keurig Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups and Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cups will work in any Keurig brewer and are available for $17.95 USD per 24-pack from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at September 4, 2009 8:01 AM

Recent Comments

Hey guysos,
To add more 'mouthfeel', I have used powdered milk. I don't use powdered creamer as I think it has too much hydro'd cr*p and the liquid creamers have too much sugar if they lack the fat. I also use Land O Lakes FF creamer. I may have "ruined" my taster these last ten years, but you are an adventuresome lot and you might see the pro's of powdered milk. I make a wicked iced coffee with p.milk & LOL creamer. And thanks
so much for all the good reviews, you've saved
me some bucks thru the years. And now, I'm a total Keurighead for life. Which, BTW, there's a Flickr group I just started yesterday by the same name. Come post about your "hot cuppa piercings". (kcups remind me of vampires. LOL)
Shaun


Posted by: Shaun at September 8, 2009 3:12 PM

I wish the prices on these were more in line with prices for other k-cups. I don't think they're worth the premium really, though they're good. I preferred the Dark Chocolate over the Milk, but I agree it wasn't as dark as I'd expected.


Posted by: jbviau at September 4, 2009 8:54 AM
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