If you mention flavored coffee to most coffee lovers, myself included I’m  usually  not interested. But there was something a bit  intriguing  about the Starbucks Natural Fusions, their  flavors  are not chemical in nature, they are actually made by including extracts and spices into the blend as the coffee is ground. I myself have thrown a  cinnamon  stick or a vanilla bean into coffee to punch it up a little bit, I was  curious  how the  flavors  would blend into the coffee if done on a larger scale. This time around we are testing out the caramel flavored coffee.

The last of new natural flavored coffees from Starbucks is Caramel. I was quite worried about this. What direction would they go with caramel? Even most caramel candy isn’t natural these days so how would they play it. Caramel in roasted sugar is a beautiful smell and flavor so I was hoping for  something  along those lines? What did we get? Well you need to read on.

As per usual all coffee’s submitted are run through the same process a nice coarse grind and a 4 minute steep in the trusty french press. To be through with the testing I also ran the coffee through the venerable Cuisinart Grind and Brew, as well as cold brewing a batch.

The Journey

  • Smell: The Start of your journey
  • Taste: Obvious and penultimate
  • Mouthfeel: Besides the taste how does it feel while drinking

Smell: Sweet, the smell of candy wafted throughout the house or office as I was brewing this coffee in any manner. It was a true  caramelized  sugar smell. Incredibly bold and  pleasant  as well. Out of the three different coffee flavors Starbucks introduced this was by far the most pungent.

Taste: Three different brewing methods created three different flavors. I’ll So I’ll take them one at a time. The literature that came with the coffee suggested tasting it both as a black beverage and then with cream and sugar, as I normally take my coffee black I was happy to have the suggestion.

  • French Press: produced a bright cup with lovely caramel flavors and an interesting mild coffee backend.
  • Drip brewed: The smell  overwhelmed  the office and the first sip is interesting. It smells like this would be sweet, but its a normal cup of coffee with a caramel overtone.
  • Cold brewed: Cold brewed coffee this was both sweet and refreshing. A clean and bright cup. Still my favorite way to enjoy the  flavored  varieties from Starbucks Natural Fusions
  • When adding sugar to any of these methods this cup  fulfills  its taste profile and really shines. A very stunning and interesting cup.

I never thought of caramel as a natural flavor, even though it is. Caramel is roasted sugar a sweet full bodied and rich taste. To have that layered on top of coffee without the sweet  is strange

Mouthfeel: This coffee is very bright and clean, with a heavy sweet flavor, without having the sweetness actually there its a complex cup.

Notes: Non of the brewing methods created any type of acidic coffee, According to the literature the beans used in this blend were specifically chosen for low acid content, and it showed and played wonderfully well.

More often than not I would  prefer  to have whole beans coffee at my disposal, in this case that is not an option as the flavors are blended into the beans as they are ground to provide an even distribution. When brewing coffee with natural flavors on my own I would often run into the problem of spices clumping up together to create a super strong pot, this will never happen with these options.

Cost: At $8.99  per 11oz this comes in at a reasonable price for decent coffee. I am a bit  disappointed  that what was once a 1 pound bag, dropped to a standard 12 oz bag, and is now an 11 oz bag. Keeping the price point the same and  dropping  the  volume  is not fun

Conclusion: I have found yet another flavored coffee I like.  Starbucks Natural Fusions are doing two things, first they are confirming my gut feeling that chemicals ruin coffee and well matched natural flavors can only enhance. With this blend i was very conflicted of all the three flavors this was the one i was most unsure of, and conflicted over whether or not i liked it. It tasted great, but the lack of a sweetness to go with the flavor of caramel is confusing at times.

4 out of 5 beans in the Preground Flavored Category, it could be a 5 out of 5 after you add the sugar, but to taste sweet without having it there is too confusing for the  palette.

*Full Disclosure:  I was sent a lovely care package at no cost by the fine folks at Starbucks for the purpose of writing this review.