April 29, 2013

Review: Tully’s Hawaiian Blend Vue Packs for the Keurig Vue

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It’s been a while since we’ve seen Hawaiian coffee appear in K-Cup, let alone Vue Pack format. So we were a bit surprised to see Tully’s taking a stab at making such a product. As you’ve obviously noticed, they didn’t call this a Kona Blend likely because there’s no Kona coffee in it. We tried finding the exact blend used and the best we can guess is that Kauai coffee is what’s included here. Most companies decided to start selling Kauai coffee as a cheaper alternative to Kona once they realized how badly decimated Kona crops were after the borer beetle infestation a few years ago.

As farms struggle to recover crops and plant new ones, Kauai remains the only island with enough crops to sustain demand for Hawaiian coffee production. Similar in nature to Kona, Kauai coffee is slightly more acidic in nature yet still maintains the characteristic smoothness of Kona to a certain degree. We’ve never seen it blended with other varietals before, so it’ll be interesting to see the final results. Today we check out Tully’s Hawaiian Blend Vue Packs.


Brewing these Vue Packs at regular strength resulted in a decent smoky aroma during the brew process which yielded notes of sweet chocolate & molasses tinged with mild floral notes in the background. Billed as a medium roast, flavor was a pleasantly smooth mix of dark chocolate blended with some smoky notes that had a neat sweet & sour taste playing around on our tongue throughout the tasting experience. You get the initial sweetness of the dark chocolate which then gives way to some of the mild sour notes from the acidity. An interesting combination to say the least.

Body was medium to dark brown with sunburst shades of orange, red & yellow when held to a light source. It reminded us of a Hawaiian sunset which played well with the coffee’s namesake. Acidity was nicely balanced and slightly stronger than what you’d get from a traditional Kona coffee, but then again, it added that neat sweet & sour taste to the whole mix which made for a unique experience overall. The sour notes were very mild, so they played well with the inherent sweetness of the main flavors without any negative impact whatsoever.

Mouth feel was on-par with most Kona coffees and resulted in a super smooth texture throughout which seemed to melt like warm butter sip after sip. Finish was sweet with some mild cocoa & smoky notes in the aftertaste. Overall, not exactly the same experience you’d get from a Kona coffee, but this Hawaiian Blend is a close 2nd place contender which deserves a spot in the same class as most Kona coffees.

When the Strong button was selected, aromas took on an oilier note along with a burnt scent overall. We couldn’t detect any of the chocolate, molasses or floral notes from before. Flavor was much the same as it tasted more burnt & oily than anything else. We could detect some faint dark chocolate notes hiding underneath along with some faint traces of molasses in the background but that was about it. Body remained pretty much the same with sunburst colors when held in front of a light source.


Acidity was increased a bit and made things slightly more sour, but nowhere as intense as what we were expecting which just serves as a testament that Hawaiian coffees in nature yield exceptionally smooth & balanced acidity levels no matter the condition. Unfortunately, we lost the neat sweet & sour effect as a result. Mouth feel was still smooth yet oddly enough seemed leaning towards the watery side of things (no, that’s not a typo… we were just as much confused as you are) and had us scratching our heads wondering how something can feel more substantial on a weaker brew setting. Finish was a bit dry with a mild smoky chocolate aftertaste.

Overall, we’d have to say the verdict for this coffee leans heavily towards using the regular setting instead of the Strong button since things just excelled there compared to the stronger setting. Hmm… things haven’t exactly been going too well when using the Strong button lately as instead of improving a coffee, it just seems to mess it up. We know good things can be achieved (as was evidenced by the Gloria Jean’s Hazelnut Vue Packs) but it’s becoming far & few between with the latest Vue Pack flavors lately. Hopefully we’ll eventually find one that yields great results on regular and even better results when the Strong button is used.

Just a reminder of our dual-scoring system below. Regular setting scores are on the left while Strong setting scores are within parentheses on the right. Whichever setting has the highest score will be what we base the overall rating on.

  • Aroma – 10 (2) – Smoky aroma with notes of sweet chocolate & molasses tinged with mild floral notes in the background. The Strong button pretty much killed most of the aromas and replaced them with oily & burnt notes instead.
  • Acidity –10 (8) – This is where this coffee shines. Stronger than a Kona, yet balanced enough to create a unique sweet & sour experience where the sour notes in the acidity played well with the sweet notes in the flavor. The Strong button produced a surprisingly similar result as far as smoothness but we unfortunately lost the sweet & sour effect in the process.
  • Body – 10 (10) – Medium to dark brown with sunburst shades of orange, red & yellow when held in front of a light source. Reminded us of a Hawaiian sunset which paired well with the coffee’s namesake. Nothing changed when using the Strong button.
  • Flavor – 10 (2) – A pleasantly smooth mix of dark chocolate blended with smoky notes to create a neat sweet & sour taste throughout once the acidity comes into play. The Strong button unfortunately only yielded burnt oily notes overall with some faint dark chocolate and traces of molasses hiding underneath. The sweet & sour effect was again gone as a result.
  • Mouth Feel – 10 (6) – Super smooth throughout much like a Kona with a texture that seemed to melt like warm butter sip after sip. Finish was sweet with mild cocoa & smoke in the aftertaste. The Strong button resulted in a similarly smooth feel yet texture was oddly enough leaning more on the watery side which had us baffled. Finish was a bit dry with some smoky chocolate notes in the aftertaste.
  • Coffee Drinker – While we can’t exactly claim it’s exactly like Kona coffee, these Vue Packs are a damn close second place contender and should more than please anyone who’s looking for an exceptionally smooth coffee crafted with Kona coffee in mind. Worth a try if you’ve been holding out.

Overall Rating: 100, based on regular setting – Excellent

Tully’s is a brand that has stuck around with Keurig ever since the beginning when the first K-Cup brewers hit the market and while their retail coffee shops might be nearly impossible to find outside of the greater Seattle area, their K-Cups & Vue Packs have been widely available at specialty shops and grocery stores for the past several years. The brand became synonymous with quality coffee and has been a favorite around the Single Serve Coffee test kitchens since day one. We’re glad we can now add this new Vue Pack flavor to our list of favorites and think it serves as a shining example that Kauai coffee (if that is indeed what’s included here) can measure up as a more than decent alternative to Kona any day. Worth a try if you’ve been thinking of buying a box as we’re sure most Kona fans will likely enjoy this one.

Tully’s Hawaiian Blend Vue Packs are one of the many Keurig Vue Packs available for the Keurig Vue V700 Single Cup Brewing System, and you can also read our full review of the V700 here.  Keurig Vue Packs are not compatible with older Keurig K-Cup systems. Pricing is $11.99 USD ($10.79 USD Member Price) for a 16-pack via Keurig.com

The Keurig Vue V700 isn’t presently sold in Canada, but Canadians can order these Vue Packs fromKeurig.com if they’re willing to pay a $10 FedEx brokerage fee.

A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that we purchased a box of these Vue Packs on our own for the purpose of this review.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at April 29, 2013 7:23 AM
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