The Secrets Of Flavored Coffee
The flavored coffee industry as we know it is said to have begun in 1958 with flavored instant coffee. How many of you remember that small rectangular can of General Foods International Coffee? These were instant, add-to-hot water concoctions with names like Swiss Mocha, French Vanilla Café, Café Vienna, Irish Mocha Mint, and the first time I tasted it (as a kid) I loved it. It was like a sophisticated Hot Chocolate. It was 1975 and I was hooked. Now if we are to be true to the topic, flavored coffees have existed for hundreds of years going back to the Arabian Peninsula, with the addition of spices and nuts to enhance the coffee’s cup profile.
In the early 1990s however, we were in the second wave of specialty coffee and with the rise of the café drink menu and variations with decadent drink titles like caramel macchiatos and vanilla cream lattes, the idea of flavoring coffee moved into the modern day. In 2003, the Pumpkin Pie Latte which would evolve into the Pumpkin Spice Latte saw an 11% jump in drink sales and has gone on to be one of the best-selling flavored drinks in history. For many coffee consumers, coffee equals flavored coffee.
Now in addition to the mainstays like hazelnut, vanilla cream, and chocolate anything we have such entries into the market as toasted marshmallow, strawberry shortcake, glazed jelly doughnut, mint chocolate chip, and (I shudder to think) Spicy Taco Coffee. One thing I know from working in coffee is that people who love flavored coffee LOVE their flavored coffee. Try our flavored Kona coffee too if this is your thing.
How is Flavored Coffee Made?
With few exceptions, flavored coffee is made in the following way:
1. Bottles of propylene glycol syrup with extracted essential oils (both natural and artificial) are ordered from a company that specializes in flavor additives.
2. After the coffee is roasted, the syrup is added to a small amount of the coffee (either whole bean or ground) and then that quantity is added to a larger batch of coffee and slowly rotated for a predetermined interval.
3. The propylene glycol syrup will bind with the bean and you have flavored coffee.
Although the FDA considers propylene glycol “GRAS” (“generally recognized as safe”) each individual should check to see if it is compatible with their personal dietary needs. You can find more information here
We make three flavored coffees at the farm, a Macadamia Nut, a Chocolate Macadamia Nut, and seasonally an Autumn Spice. These coffees are made in the same way I described above and are very popular with our customer base.
Can I flavor my own?
Although I am probably a purist when it comes to my coffee, there are many ways to flavor your coffee at home if you are seeking a little taste excitement.
Here is a list of things you can add to your coffee if you seek additional flavors:
Spice (Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, cardamom, pepper)
Bailey’s Irish Crème
Salt (usually on the grounds while brewing)
Hot Chocolate Powder
Citrus rind (orange, lemon, yuzu)
Alcohol (Kalua, Whiskey, etc)
Vanilla Extract (just a couple of drops)
You can also combine some of these to your specifications.
If you are drinking really good coffee, I think you will find that the natural complexities of coffee give you incredible flavors all on their own, but variety is the spice of life and if you need a change, let your inner mad scientist free.
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farm’s Tour and Retail Store Operations.