When Coffee Was Just Coffee

Image: ABC
At what point does a cup of coffee stop being a cup of coffee? Probably at the point you add caramel brûlée flavoring to it followed by a ridiculous amount of corn syrup and whipped cream on top. 

I don't get our country's and society's obsession with oversized, unhealthy, sugar-saturated beverages that are marketed as "coffee." Doctors and the media will list many nutritional reasons for our growing obesity rate -- fast food meals, the high cost of healthy food, and consumption of soda are often cited as some dietary culprits. But confectionary beverages such as the variety sold at Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are not to be overlooked. And as far as I'm concerned, most of these can't be considered coffee -- at least not in the traditional sense. A coffee drink should be comprised of freshly brewed java, with some optional dairy and sweetening. How can you even taste the brewed coffee in the drink when it's buried by the flavors of white chocolate and enough sugar to send the healthiest person into diabetic shock?

Image via Flickr (username Jamie)
It used to be the above coffees from General Foods were the start of the flavored coffee craze, in the '80s. I remember these -- they were actually pretty good for instant coffee, and kept things simple.

Today, Starbucks has over 50 current varieties alone of its frozen frappuccino beverage listed on its website. I remember when Starbucks first introduced the frappuccino; I loved them. At that time they were merely slushy frozen coffee made with milk and sugar. Now they have a Red Velvet Cake Creme Frappuccino Blended Creme, a Strawberry Shortcake Frappuccino Blended Creme, and a Cotton Candy Creme Frappuccino Blended Creme. I tried to find the combination that sounded the most sickly sweet and ridiculous; I think the Frappula Creme Frappuccino may be a contender. Here's the description:

White chocolate sauce, milk and ice are blended together then layered on top of mocha sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Finished with a drizzle of raspberry syrup and whipped cream for a drink so good, it's scary. 

You bet it's scary. I'd be scared for my health after sucking one of those down! So basically, it sounds like there really isn't any coffee in this drink -- just different syrup combinations, whipped cream, and sugar. Yay for American tastebuds and waistlines! The calorie content for a 16 ounce grande size of this beverage made with whole milk is 450; I actually thought it would be higher, around the 600 calorie mark. The sugar content is a whopping 56 grams. To put that in perspective, you could have a whole cup of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream which contains 42 grams of sugar for roughly the same amount of calories. 

Image via AllPosters
Such beverages aren't coffee; they're desserts. Not to mention these drinks aren't very manly. Could you imagine a man from the '50s, '60s, or '70s drinking such a concoction? What about Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, who took his coffee black?. "Diane, I sure could use a pick-me-up. I'm on my way to the diner. Nothing quite hits the spot like a Butterfinger mocha with chocolate syrup, almond milk, and extra whipped cream. Damn fine cup of sugary garbage!"

Let's stop this insanity, folks. Just give me a regular ol' cup of Joe, hot during the winter and iced on occasional during the summer. A teaspoon or two of sugar -- depending on the size -- and some milk and cream, thanks. 

Image via Flickr
Damn straight. 


  1. My sentiments exactly! Great post :)

  2. Amen Pam, to just get a simple cup of Black Coffee at one of these posh joints seems damn near impossible anymore. I've noticed a lot of the new style coffee shops also shops also have plenty of sugary cakes and donuts to go along with your cup of corn syrup filled coffee. Give me a an old 50s style beatnik coffee bar rather than what we have nowadays.

  3. This made me laugh out loud--red velvet cake? Cotton candy?? I haven't been inside a Starbucks for a few years now, didn't know things were so out of control!

    I may not be totally old school, I love my Keurig machine; but all I need is a Folgers or 8 o'clock k-cup and a 1/2 teaspoon of Half & Half :)

  4. PS. Pam I'm diggin' your new Go Retro look, it's really looking like a professional site :)

    1. Thanks, Doug! I literally spent the whole day Sunday experimenting with different free blogger templates and settled on this one. I still have to work on some things but it's getting there!

  5. I agree completely! Once I ordered a plain black coffee from Starbuck's (because that was the only coffee at the conference I was attending.). It was aweful! So without all the cream and sugar, you're paying a fortune for really cheap coffee.

    1. Yes, that's another thing I forgot to mention -- the cost of these drinks. $5 or $6 for a cup o' calories.

  6. I've been a coffee drinker since the age of 4 (German heritage). I've been drinking it black since I was a teenager. I will try a flavored (minimal sugar please) coffee occasionally, but my preference is still black.


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