GMCR Wellness Collection Coffee K-Cups Review
A few years ago, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) decided to release a new line-up of products which they dubbed their Wellness Collection. The collection was made up of coffees, teas and Brew Over Ice drinks which had vitamins added in. We already reviewed the 2 Vitamin Burst K-Cup flavors and unfortunately, the 2 Celestial Seasonings teas which were part of the collection have now been discontinued. The 2 coffees are still being sold and have even been made Keurig 2.0-compatible, but we never really got a chance to review them until now. As a result, today we're checking out GMCR's Focus Blend K-Cups and their Defend Blend K-Cups.
As far as we can tell, both K-Cups use the same coffee base which we're guessing is either GMCR's Nantucket Blend or Vermont Country Blend. Both are billed as medium roast and have a slight bold dark roast flavor to them which is what we found with the Focus & Defend Blend coffees, so our guess probably isn't that far off. So what exactly do each of these coffees do? The Defend Blend has 10% recommended daily value of Vitamin C and Vitamin E per 8oz serving and these vitamins serve as antioxidants which help your immune system fight off colds, etc. Given the cold snap we're experiencing lately, we'll take all the help we can get. The Focus Blend has 50mg of L-Theanine per 8oz serving and this is supposed to help reduce stress and improve cognitive function so that you to focus on a task at hand.
If you're like us, you're probably wondering what L-Theanine is and have never heard of it until now. We did a bit of research and found that theanine is an amino acid first discovered in the gyokuro species of green tea leaves. It has indeed been known to reduce stress, fatigue and boost cognitive functions. While it's still debatable how much of an effect theanine has for each of these properties, we tried a few K-Cups at work this past week and did notice a slight improvement in our ability to focus on specific tasks without getting too distracted or overwhelmed. Whether this was due to a mental preconception (i.e. the placebo effect) that the coffee was helping us out or the fact that the theanine was actually having an effect on us is still to be determined. We'll go without any of the Focus Blend coffee next week and see if there's any difference.
So, the big question boils down to this: Do these coffees actually work? For the Defend Blend, with only 10% Vitamin C & Vitamin E, it's hard to say if this would help someone's immune system all that much. Chances are if you're already taking a multi-vitamin or drink a lot of juices which are already high in Vitamin C, the effects of this coffee would likely go unnoticed. If you take neither, then maybe it would depend on how many cups of this coffee you consumed in the course of a day (4 cups would = 40% of your recommended daily value). Medical & scientific analysis would likely be required to tell for sure, but our opinion is it can't hurt. Plus since we like the taste of this coffee to begin with, we like the idea of getting extra vitamins since coffee on its own usually doesn't contain vitamins in the first place. For the Focus Blend, as we noted above, we did perceive somewhat of a reaction after we started taking a few K-Cups over the course of a week, but again... whether this was an actual physical effect or something which was perceived as being physical is still up in the air. Again, we like the idea of anything which can help reduce stress and improve focus at work (or even if you're only trying to get various tasks done at home), plus the fact that this is an natural amino acid and not an artificial chemical cooked-up in a lab is just an added bonus. Personally, we think the Focus Blend actually does work, but we still think a medical & scientific analysis would still be needed in order to rule-out any doubt.
Speaking of the coffee itself, what's it like? Again, we're fairly sure Nantucket or Vermont Country Blend was used as the base. So lets break out ye olde scoring meter and have at 'er, shall we? Just keep in mind that since we're fairly certain the same coffee is being used in both blends/K-Cups, the scoring will apply to BOTH coffees.
Brewing these K-Cups resulted in light smoky aromas which seemed slightly earthy and tinged with mild pepper notes in the background. Billed as medium roasts, we went into this review fearing that the addition of vitamins would create a weird chemical taste in the coffee, but this wasn't the case. Had this been a blind taste test, we would have never been able to tell that vitamins were added at all. Flavor was a bit light at first but became slightly more pronounced as we worked our way forward. You get some smoky notes up front followed by mostly dark chocolate notes throughout. We also detected faint hints of cereal or grain notes and some slight oily notes more commonly associated with a dark roast or French roast.
Acidity was a bit lighter than expected but still kept things moving along overall. We could have done with a bit more vibrancy since things seemed more on the subdued side. Body yielded nice sunburst shades of deep orange & bright golden yellow which created an inviting & warming appearance. Mouth feel was rather light and bordering on watery but levelled-out in the end and didn't distract from the overall experience. Finish was leaning a bit on the sweeter side with more hints of chocolate and a dry smoky aftertaste. Out of the 2 coffees, we'd have to say the Focus Blend seemed to have a slightly stronger taste overall but other than that, things seemed pretty much identical.
- Aroma - 8 - Light aromas of smoky hickory with a bit of an earthy scent tinged with mild pepper notes in the background.
- Acidity - 7 - A bit lighter than expected but still kept things moving along. We only wished for a bit more vibrancy since it gave things a bit of a subdued feel.
- Body - 10 - Very nice sunburst shades of deep orange and bright golden yellow created an inviting and warming appearance throughout the cup.
- Flavor - 10 - Given the fact that vitamins were added, we were surprised to see that flavor seemed mostly unaffected and didn't have any chemical taste. Things started off a bit light at first but became pronounced as we continued. Some smoky notes up front were followed by mostly dark chocolate notes throughout with some faint cereal or grain notes in the back end. We also detected some slight oily notes more commonly found in dark or French roasts. Of the 2, the Focus Blend had a slightly stronger taste and seemed to be our favorite.
- Mouth Feel - 8 - Bordering on watery but things levelled-out in the end and didn't distract us too much. Finish was a bit on the sweet side with a dry smoky aftertaste.
- Coffee Drinker - Suited best for light to medium-bold fans who are looking for a functional coffee with the added benefits of vitamins without having to worry about a chemical taste. The Defend Blend contains antioxidants while the Focus Blend contains a natural amino acid which supposedly helps reduce stress & increase concentration. Taste-wise, if you like GMCR's Nantucket or Vermont Country Blend coffees, you should enjoy these Wellness Collection coffees.
Overall Rating: 93 - Exceptional
That about does it for this review of GMCR's Wellness Collection Coffee K-Cups and whether or not you decide to give these coffees a try is ultimately your decision alone. While some people may claim adding vitamins to coffee won't result in anything, the same could be argued about adding vitamins to bottled water and a multitude of other beverages. If it works in those beverages, why wouldn't it work in coffee? We think GMCR might have stumbled upon an untapped market and if these products become more popular, it won't be too long before we start seeing vitamin-enhanced coffees appearing at places like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.
GMCR Defend Blend K-Cups & GMCR Focus Blend K-Cups work in all K-Cup Brewers including Keurig 2.0. These K-Cups are not currently available in Canada. Please also note that K-Cups will NOT work without using adapters in 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 boxes of these K-Cups on our own for the purpose of this review.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at November 10, 2014 7:46 AM