Archer Farms Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee Single Cups Review
Now that the patent is expired and we’ve been seeing just about every company imaginable get into the aftermarket knock-off K-Cup scene, it should come as no surprise that grocery stores and big box department stores would want their own in-house brand of coffee to be offered in Keurig-compatible single cup format as well. Such is the case this time around as Target decided to introduce the item we’re reviewing today… Archer Farms Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Single Cups.
As noted above, Archer Farms is Target’s own primary in-house food brand and you can get anything from Archer Farms cereals to salsas. While their coffees have always been available in whole bean & ground format before, this marks the first time they’ve made the transition to a single serve format. Although we couldn’t find any indication on the packaging, we’re going to take a guess and say that Target is using the Real Cup format or something very similar but since there’s no official branding anywhere, we’ll continue referring to them as Single Cups.
The irony that these are labeled Product of Canada yet aren’t sold in Canadian Target stores hasn’t been lost on us. We’ve confirmed that the ground & whole bean versions are sold in Canadian Targets, so why not the Single Cups as well? We’d accuse bilingual packaging laws to be the culprit, but if they can take the effort for whole bean & ground varieties, they could have done the same for Single Cups. Ah well, enough ranting... on with the review!
Brewing these Single Cups resulted in aromas of burnt vanilla and familiar notes of caramelized sugar from a crème brûlée (which literally translated means burnt cream). Anyone who has enjoyed the real deal in a restaurant or prepared it at home knows that the last step to preparation is to burn the top layer with a butane torch which thereby creates a sharp note of burnt vanilla custard with some caramelized aromas from the melted sugars. The artificial aromas present here did a fairly decent job of recreating this but were still a wee bit off and had an underlying chemical trace to them as the coffee cooled in the cup. Close, but not quite there.
As with the aroma, flavor is also affected by the burning of the top layer in the real dessert as you get similar sharp burnt vanilla notes on the top end followed by the sweeter vanilla custard notes underneath. The final flavor profile of this coffee was again a mix of vanilla, some faint caramel notes in the background and an overly artificial crème brûlée taste through the middle of each sip. It seemed to lean more on the chemical side vs. the natural side and while we got used to it over time, we could certainly see how some people would be completely put off by this at first. We can tell Archer Farms were trying but they should have tried a bit harder to find a more natural style of flavoring if at all possible. The packaging does show natural & artificial flavors are present and we’re sure that the natural flavors were used for the vanilla component while everything else is obviously artificial.
Acidity seemed a bit on the sharp side with a slight sour bite at first sip which sustained itself throughout most of the tasting experience. Given that the real deal has a rather sharp taste as you push through the top layer, we can see how this actually works in favor of things rather than be a detriment. Body yielded bright shades of red & orange which didn’t really match anything other than perhaps edges of the burnt layer of caramelized sugar on a real crème brûlée. Mouth feel was light & smooth with a slight creamy & syrupy texture which reminded us of the real deal. Finish was a mix of sweet & sour notes with lingering hints of burnt vanilla in the aftertaste.
- Aroma – 8 – Things start off well during brewing as a familiar aroma of burnt vanilla tinged with notes of caramelized sugar are present but the artificial aroma/flavoring of the crème brûlée component start leaning towards the chemical side as the cup cools off.
- Acidity – 8 – A bit on the sharp side with a sustained sour note throughout. Given the burnt nature of the real deal, this sort of works in favor of the final experience.
- Body – 7 – Bright shades of red & orange were present and didn’t really match anything other than the edges of the burnt top layer on a real crème brûlée.
- Flavor – 7 – This is where most people will likely find their likes & gripes. You get the natural vanilla flavors but the artificial crème brûlée flavoring is overly artificial to the point where it almost creates a chemical taste vs. something natural. You get the burnt vanilla notes up front with sweeter vanilla custard/caramel notes underneath. Whether or not folks can get over the artificial flavoring is a matter of personal preference.
- Mouth Feel – 9 – Light and smooth with a slight creamy/syrupy texture which reminded us of the real deal. Finish was a mix of sweet & sour notes with lingering hints of burnt vanilla in the aftertaste.
- Coffee Drinker – If you like flavored coffees and aren’t bothered too much by artificial flavorings, you might want to give this one a try. Just be prepared for the initial jolt to the taste buds upon first sip. This is definitely a like it or hate it type of coffee.
Overall Rating: 89 – Good
As we noted earlier, the flavor will be the main sticking point with most people as you’ll find it’s either hit or miss. Some folks will find it tastes quite similar to a real crème brûlée while others will find the artificial flavoring a bit too much on the chemical side of things and be completely turned off altogether. We’re kind of in the middle as we’ll admit whatever natural flavors are present do work quite well as you definitely get a strong vanilla taste but the artificial flavoring could stand for a bit more tweaking & fine tuning as it’s not quite there yet. Over the years, we’ve seen several brands take a stab at making their own crème brûlée coffees and if we had to pick our favorite, it would likely be Van Houtte’s version.
Considering that Archer Farms is an in-house Target brand, we have to at least give them credit for creating Single Cups that are on-par quality wise with most Real Cups we’ve seen over the past several months. Other than the taste, this is still a fairly good coffee which we’d recommend trying if you can find the smaller 3-pack sampler sleeves in your local Target. We look forward to trying out some of the other Archer Farms Single Cup flavors over the coming year and we hope that some of their ground coffees make the transition to the single serve format soon (their Coconut Macaroon coffee would be a welcome addition). We also hope that our friends up North eventually get to enjoy Single Cups at their local Targets soon although it shouldn’t cost much to have American friends or relatives ship them a few sampler sleeves via snail mail. As for Archer Farms Single Cups? We look forward to what 2014 might have in store.
Archer Farms Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Single Cups work in all Keurig K-Cup Brewers and are available at most Target locations in USA & online at Target.com and Amazon.com. Smaller 3-pack sampler sleeves are also available in-store for $1.99 USD. These Single Cups are not currently available in Canada (despite being labeled as a Product of Canada). Please also note that Single Cups will NOT work with Keurig Vue brewers.
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 Single Cups on our own for the purpose of this review.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at January 6, 2014 7:33 AM