November 19, 2012

Review: Nespresso Variations 2012 (Select Flavors)

Review Single Serve CoffeeVariations 2012 Sleeves

As Nespresso Club members are aware, each year around mid-November marks the release of 3 flavored espresso varieties known as the Nespresso Variations collection. These flavors are available for a limited time only and once Nespresso stops selling them, that's it... they're gone until further notice, sometimes never to be seen again.

This year, Nespresso decided that instead of creating 3 distinctly different flavors, they’d take a new approach and release 3 flavors which are all within the same flavor family. As a result, this year sees the release of 3 flavors which are based off of nuts… Hazelnut, Macadamia Nut and Coconut. The coffee base for each flavor is, as usual, their Livanto Grand Cru espresso which ranks in at a strength of 6 on their intensity scale.

Variations 2012 Intensity

It’s no secret that we are BIG fans of coconut coffee here at Single Serve Coffee and GMCR’s Seasonal Island Coconut K-Cups are our all-time #1 FAVORITE K-Cup on the market, so most staff were running around, hugging each other, yelling OMG! OMG! OMG! for about 5 solid minutes the moment we noticed the coconut flavor in the press release.

We also like exotic flavors, so we were curious to try the macadamia nut capsules as well. Now, you’ll likely notice that we didn’t bother with the last flavor… hazelnut. Why? Simply because of 3 reasons which we’ll explain right now:

1 – Did we mention we LOVE coconut? We came close to ordering 5 sleeves but decided to settle on 3 sleeves of coconut & 2 sleeves of macadamia

2 – Nespresso only allow ordering capsules in multiples of 50. This is a preset minimum/maximum amount each time which means you can’t order less than 50 at a time and can’t order more than 50 at a time (unless it’s in multiples of 50). We had wanted 3 sleeves of coconut, 2 of macadamia and 1 of hazelnut but we couldn’t do so since that totaled 60 capsules which was above the max limit. Instead, we would have had to order 5 sleeves of coconut, 3 of macadamia and 2 of hazelnut which would have totaled 100 capsules.

3 – Rather than pay $80+ (once shipping was factored in), we decided just to pay the usual $40 price for 5 sleeves of the flavors we MOST wanted to try. Unlike our partnerships with Green Mountain, ECS Coffee and other manufacturers/resellers, we must pay for all our Nespresso capsules ourselves just like anybody else. With today’s economy, we try to be as thrifty as possible with our personal purchases and won’t go out of our way to pay extra if we don’t have to. We’re sure our friends at Single Serve Espresso will probably end up posting their own review of the entire flavor lineup if they decide to order anything on their own.

So, now that we’ve explained why the hazelnut flavor is missing from this review, let’s move on to the good stuff.

Hazelnut – Not reviewed. As noted above, we couldn’t justify the extra costs involved in ordering this flavor in addition to the 2 flavors we MOST wanted to try instead, so we opted out of ordering it altogether. We’re sure Single Serve Espresso will post their own review if they decide to order the Variations collection this year.

Macadamia Nut – We immediately pictured exotic locales when we heard of this flavor and had images of tropical landscapes in the back of our mind. Upon brewing, rich aromas of macadamia filled the room with light sweet notes in the background. Flavor was much the same as sweet flavors of nutty macadamia filled our palate at first with sweet hints of vanilla in the background. The sour notes of acidity from the Livanto only revealed themselves once we started to let the espresso cool off and it gave us the impression of citrus notes being present.

Varnes2012Macadamia 1

Body was dark brown with Nespresso’s signature thick crema on top which created a Guinness-like cascading effect during the brief few seconds it was forming. Mouth feel was well-rounded with an almost thick consistency. Lively nut flavors with hints of smoke lingered during the aftertaste.

When prepared as a cappuccino, most of the aromas obviously remained the same but flavor immediately took on an amazingly decadent nature with the macadamia notes infusing themselves into the milk and creating a much more pronounced macadamia flavor. The subtle vanilla notes from before started pushing themselves forward and blended perfectly with the milk to create a delicate vanilla-macadamia blend. A generous sprinkling of turbinado cane sugar helped push forth the naturally sweet notes of the macadamia flavoring while aiding the milk to subdue the sour acidic notes of the Livanto and made for a more enjoyable cup overall.

Varnes2012Macadamia 2

Body was, as expected, SUPERB. Rich fluffy clouds of froth gave way to an amazing layering effect underneath of alternating milk & espresso layers one of top of the other. Mouth feel was silky smooth with a light creamy texture while aftertaste yielded slightly stronger smoky notes this time around. Overall, it looks like our instincts were correct as we’re sure this flavor likely yielded far more enjoyable results than what we would have achieved with the hazelnut capsule. We weren’t expecting the macadamia flavors to be so pronounced once we prepped this as a cappuccino but the milk & sugar just served as a medium to explode the flavors into their individual components. Quite enjoyable & recommended for those who like macadamia flavors.

Varnes2012Macadamia 4

Coconut – Ah coconut… be it in cookies, candies, crèmes, liqueurs or just right out of the shell itself, we ADORE it and consider it to be one of nature’s tropical wonders. So, as you can imagine, we were beyond excited to give these capsules a try and can’t thank Nespresso enough for FINALLY introducing this flavor to their Variations lineup. Coconut… in an espresso? Yes… a million times over… YES!

Varnes2012Coconut 1

Brewing these capsules resulted in strong coconut aromas bursting forth with some other very faint notes hiding underneath… we couldn’t exactly determine what, but there was definitely something else present… almost had a faint spicy aroma to it, but the main scent here was definitely coconut. Flavor was pure bliss to our taste buds. First up were the rich notes of coconut quickly followed by mild notes of dark chocolate underneath which, as Nespresso’s description depicts, evoked the flavors of coconut macaroons and had us doing a happy dance around the kitchen. The sour notes of the Livanto’s acidity paired well with the coconut & dark chocolate flavors and only became stronger once the espresso began to cool (proof that once again, espresso is best consumed while piping hot).

Varnes2012Coconut 2

Body was identical to the macadamia flavor with deep dark brown colors topped off with a thick velvety crema layer. Mouth feel was smooth and again, a bit on the thicker side while aftertaste yielded delightfully smoky notes of coconut which (much to our joy) just didn’t seem to dissipate until several minutes afterwards.

Varnes2012Coconut 4

When prepared as a cappuccino, aromas were the same as before but flavors took on the appeal of sweetened coconut milk. Luscious notes of coconut came bursting forth with milder hints of chocolate pushed to the background. We even detected very faint hints of vanilla hiding underneath which just added to the overly indulgent experience. We also noted some smoky notes of the Livanto lurking around the cup as well which gave us the impression of toasted coconut. Oh man, were we ever enjoying this!

The Livanto’s acidity was present but subdued by the addition of milk and our favored use of turbinado cane sugar which also aided in accentuating the already present sweet notes in the flavoring. Body was as excellent as the macadamia with similarly nice layering occurring throughout the cup and a delightfully thick milk froth settling on top which served as a perfect bed for our turbinado sugar. Mouth feel wasn’t as thick as coconut milk but it came pretty close with smooth creamy textures which yielded to a smoky coconut aftertaste. By far our #1 FAVORITE of the lineup and if you’re as passionate about coconut as we are, you’re in for one heck of an awesome treat. Our hats off to the coffee experts at Nespresso for creating such an enjoyably decadent capsule.

Overall impressions  Each year, Nespresso keep pushing out amazing ranges of specialty espressos which never cease to amaze us. Just this year, we’ve seen not only the most amount of new releases, but also many firsts for the company starting with something we never dreamt they’d do… re-release a previous year’s Limited Edition. There was so much fan demand and the first run of capsules sold so well that Nespresso decided to give us a bit of a late Christmas gift and shocked us all by re-releasing their intensity scale-busting level 12 Kazaar Limited Edition capsules in January. Needless to say we (and just about every other Nespresso fan world-wide) jumped at the opportunity to stock up on this amazingly intense ristretto.

Not satisfied with blowing everyone’s minds with a Limited Edition re-release, Nespresso set about in early May to do something which had also never been done before… cultivate a coffee bean well past its maturity level and base this late harvest solely on acidity/pH balance much like wine vineyards do when harvesting grapes. This revolutionary new approach yielded their first Limited Edition for 2012 dubbed Naora which turned out to be an espresso with many flavor profiles. Taken straight as an espresso, notes of blueberries & other berries were present. Taken as a cappuccino, flavors immediately morphed to reveal nutty notes instead of berries. Again… our minds = blown.

Then came their introduction of yet another new concept in September where they figured they’d create a 2nd Limited Edition dubbed Crealto which was based on haute-cuisine culinary chefs’ suggestions. It was yet another first for Nespresso as this marked the only time they’ve blended an espresso with the intention of having it pair well with so many different styles of foods and that it did, amazingly so. It was equally right at home with the rich flavors of a fine steak right down to the bittersweet flavors of dark chocolate banana bread. Some of the chefs even based entire menus and food tasting sessions around this espresso’s versatile taste.

Not long afterwards in late October, Nespresso caught everyone by surprise yet AGAIN by producing an EXTREMELY limited run of 100% Hawaiian Kona espresso capsules which were dubbed their first “Special Reserve” flavor. The most notable difference between this special reserve and any other special edition or limited edition was obvious the moment you tried ordering some: the insanely high $2.00 PER CAPSULE price point. Yes, that’s right… a single sleeve of 10 capsules would set you back a whopping $20.00 compared to the usual $7 price of variations, limited or special edition sleeves (thankfully, they dropped the 50 capsule minimum order and allowed you to order whatever amount you felt comfortable with)

But we can guarantee, you got what you paid for. It was the first time we noticed extensive silver foil embossing on a sleeve and it was also the first time we’d seen a new method of opening a sleeve. Gone were the flimsy end cap designs which would never stay closed, replaced instead with a beautifully designed perforated enclosure that opened up the entire side of the sleeve complete with a secure tab which locked the sleeve back together when closed (if only ALL their sleeves were designed like this!).

Fast forward a few weeks later to November 2012 and we land up with these Variations flavors. The first time Nespresso have used a single flavor family to create 3 different flavors which were all based off of different styles of nuts. Did it work? We’d like to think so. Instead of having 3 glaringly different flavors, we landed up with 3 somewhat similar flavors which paired quite well together. We’re still on the fence if we’ll bother ordering a sleeve of the hazelnut (although it would give us an excuse to order 4 more sleeves of the coconut), but we loved the 2 flavors we tried from the lineup and we’re sure the hazelnut is probably fine in its own rights.

As for the 2012 Variations collection itself? We’d definitely recommend ordering some capsules while you still can. They work well on their own as an espresso and the flavors pair perfectly with milk when used as a base for a cappuccino. It’s just a matter of which method you prefer. In a year of many firsts, we think Nespresso have given its fans more than we could have ever wanted and if this is the new method of operating that they want to take, we can’t wait to see what they’ve got cooked up for 2013 (Strawberry Crème, Blueberry Crème & Maple Crème Variations 2013 flavors would knock our frickin socks off… if anyone from Nespresso is reading this, PLEASE make it so for next November!)

Nespresso Variations 2012 capsules are available for a limited time via Nespresso.com (or if you're lucky, via a local Nespresso Boutique retail shop). These tend to sell fast, so get yours while you still can. Pricing for each flavor is roughly $7.00 for a sleeve of 10, with a minimum order of 5 sleeves required.

You can also check out the official Nespresso Variations 2012 microsite here. Once again, the creative team at Nespresso have created an amazingly detailed Flash-based site with beautifully interactive animations. It’s worth a visit on its own & should pique your interest in this year’s flavors.

A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that these Nespresso capsules were purchased by our team for the purpose of this review.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at November 19, 2012 7:47 AM

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