Low Budget Gourmet: Boston Cream Pie Coffee? Home Goods Raid..Sorta

Today a friend and I went to Home Goods, which is a store that offers gourmet food/coffee, furniture, and bath goods for discount prices.  Think Marshall’s, Ross or TJ Maxx, but without the clothes. I love this place, because it’s easy to access quaint adorable tea pots, funky, vintage “distressed” mirrors and desks, and features the best flavored coffees available- all at a bargain, or a decent price. I appreciate the variety. I went straight to the gourmet foods section, passed the strawberry flavored balsamic vinegar, and the garlic olive oils, to the fun flavored coffees.  What caught my attention first was the flavored coffee syrups (for about $5.99 for a 25.4 fl oz bottle).  There were sugar-free vanillas, to classic hazelnut and regular vanilla, and even Kahlua all manufactured by Monin and Davinci brands, who seem too be the to leading suppliers of coffee syrups. What I appreciate is the lack of corn syrup Monin and Davinci brands offer, and the attention to the importance of making pure, and natural, Organic syrups if you will. And you should. 😀

 

Lovely...

Tangent: I prefer Monin over Davinci just because they offer a wider variety, and it just tastes better.  It does, however contain a little bit more sugar. I love getting the Vanilla syrups because they are a versatile item that can go well with milkshakes, in milk alone,cocktails, sodas (Vanilla Coke, anyone?) in smoothies, and of course in coffees and teas, not to mention a flavor enhancer for baking items. (I will post both websites below just in case you are curious about the flavors they carry.)  Monin has over 100 flavors, also, many which are fruit based like (Mango,Passion Fruit, Strawberry) to other types. Their Vanilla syrup uses pure Madagascar Vanilla. Fancy!

I moseyed over to the coffee, my eyes shifting quickly from the standard “French Vanilla” to “Kahlua” when it hit me- “Boston Cream Pie” flavored coffee. I literally squeaked because there is nothing more exciting than interesting flavors of food or beverages, and this was one flavor I was not going to find everywhere. Then it hit me again…. “Pralines and Cream”. I had a dilemma here, folks. The Pralines and Cream smelled rich and had caramelized nutty and vanilla notes that were enticing, but the Boston Cream Pie- that indulgent cakey base, with deep chocolate and buttery, creamy custard seemed to beckon me as well. I was afraid that the chocolate would override what vanilla custard was there, although I smelled creamy notes through the bag (it has a scent hole). I figured since it’s not a layered edible item, all the flavors would run together, and the chocolate may even be a tad bit muted by the vanilla. Plus, if you have chocolate syrup and vanilla creamer at home, you could probably duplicate this! Especially with a creamier vanilla based creamer, such as Vanila Latte (Coffee Mate) or Sweet Cream (Int’l Delights Coffee) or perhaps “Italian Sweet Cream” (Coffee Mate) Both bags were $4.99 for 12oz Arabia coffee. I will do a review on these items in the future.

monin carries a wide variety of flavors, offers free monthly recipes on their site and even has flavors like “Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and Blueberry Pie” to florals like”Lavender, Rose and Hibiscus” and your standards fruits, exotic fruits (Chipotle Pineapple) and dessert type of flavors. How innovative is that? o.O You can buy Monin’s syrups here baristaproshop. As for davinci  they offer Buttered Run which Monin didn’t have, and Zabaglione (Italian egg nog with Marsala wine) but has a smaller variety. You can shop on their site.

What interesting coffee flavors have you tried? Interesting cocktails or sodas that featured unique syrups? Please share and of course let us know if you’d recommend them to anyone else! Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to comment/rate/subscribe! 

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Three Earl Grey Teas and Cream.

Lately, I have been drinking more tea. I tend to notice an affinity to drink coffee in the colder months, and teas in the hotter months. I have also been leaning towards more teas because of their wonderful health benefits. I have challenged myself to drink a cup of green tea, and black tea per day to increase my body’s immunity, fighting free radicals, and indulging in something that can stimulate me without the aftertaste of coffee. I love the variety teas offer and have been more creative in selecting unusual flavors and twists on classics.

Earl Grey Tea #1-Art of Tea’s Earl Grey and Creme.

I was at a local shop with a friend of mine, and noticed a bag of Earl Grey Creme by “Art of Tea”. As a side note, I had previously purchased their Coconut Creme black tea and found it’s tropical, nutty aroma true to life, natural and the richness of the tea a pleasant experience.  This caught my attention because I never imagined Earl Grey, it’s light, subtly floral flavor with the refreshing bergamot quality fused with rich and creamy French Vanilla. And its organic.

Perfect for first time introduction to your tastebuds, this individually packaged tea may not be enough it's so good.. I wish I bought the entire tin!

I sniffed the package, and inhaled a wonderful, strong aroma of bergamot and an underlying French Vanilla-custardy delicate note that encouraged me to buy it.  I reflected briefly and remembered my mom making this tea- Earl Grey with a splash of mil and a Vanilla flavored creamer, and wondered why she was so hooked. One taste, and I understood completely.

The first thing I noticed was the fragrance. Uplifting to the senses and emotions, I detected a strong current of bergamot, that married perfectly with the smooth vanilla flavor. Not only was this tea smooth and full in body, but the French Vanilla had toned down the citrus, but didn’t hide it too much. This was a delectable, dessert like treat that had depth. I added 2 teaspoons of white sugar, a little milk, and a Vanilla creamer (Coffee Mate’s French Vanilla). I was also able to make 2 additional cups after my first one, and although the flavor dissipated slightly, it was still strong enough to go around 2 more times. (One who for my friend) Impressive. I literally milked this tea to death-no cheesey pun intended. I paid $2 for this 1 bag, however, it was well worth it. As far as caffeine content is concerned, this tea has a medium amount, perfect to awaken the mind, but not too much.

Art of Tea Earl Grey Creme Yumfactor– 4 tongues and a tastebud. (4.5 stars out of 5) It’s rich, fragrant, citrus and sweet, perfectly balanced by that creme, and the black tea base itself is nothing but quality. True indulgence. Here is the link to their site- http://www.artoftea.com/

Earl Grey #2Bigelow’s Earl Grey Tea.

Since my first true experience with Earl Grey tea was nearly perfect, indulgent, and rich, I expected to have a similar one from here on out. I remembered my mother making Earl Grey Tea at home, and decided that all I had to do was to add French Vanilla, or regular Vanilla creamer to the tea, and I’d have a similar concoction as the prior. Boy, was I wrong. -_-

Bigelow’s tea to me is hit or miss. There are times I have had their tea and felt that the flavors weren’t strong enough. For instance, take their Vanilla Chai. Pretty packaging, however, too sweet. I have had other brands of Vanilla Chai and felt the Vanilla accented the Chai well, but still tasted the warm, earthy essences of the spiciness. The spices in chat make it chai! Now, I’m no Chai expert, however, I had the pleasure of tasting all types of chai, and even tasted Chai made from scratch by a native Indian on a regular basis in the past. I wasn’t expecting the same spice factor, but I wasn’t expecting to have a tea that was extremely sweet, either. I digress, though.

Earl Grey #2

So, upon making my Earl Grey with Vanilla creamer, milk and sugar, I noticed that the fragrance was lighter. Okay, not a big deal. I tasted it and compared to the first tea, noticed that the citrus undertones were a bit muted. The vanilla flavor was pleasant,(Coffee Mate’s Italian Sweet Cream Creamer) but the tea was overall not as strong and inviting as the other one. I realized  three things at this very moment: 1) Art of tea makes incredible teas. 2) I shouldn’t compare the two, because this tea doesn’t have the creme finish and it’s a different brand/quality. 3) According to my tastebuds, Bigelow teas are average in my opinion. Some flavors just won’t suffice for me because they are not full/strong. Then I stopped comparing, and realized that the tea itself wasn’t bad. It just won’t be one I drink on a regular basis.

Bigelow’s Earl Grey Tea Yumfactor– 3 tongues. (3 out of 5 stars) It’s not disgusting, but I was left searching for another brand. Specifically one with a stronger flavor of bergamot.

Earl Grey #3- Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea.

I was at Target (which I love!!) and saw a tea sale, and went crazy and bought 3 different teas: Mango Coconut Oolong, Double Spice Chai, and Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea. I figured the Double Bergamot would suffice because Bigelow made me feel lie it didn’t have enough bergamot. Maybe the bergamot flavor in the Bigelow brand was a bit shy, and didn’t want to be noticed. I understand, bergamot, don’t worry *pats it on its shy back*.

First and foremost, Stash teas are often lovely, full of flavor and priced at reasonable prices with a variety that is hard to ignore. I have often found myself pleased with the variety of teas, and the flavors they offer. Now, on to the tea.

Good stuff, Stash, good stuff.

I brewed a cup, and took note of the strong presence of the bergamot. Ah ha! I figured going off of the scent alone I would have a great replacement for the other brand (I was not able to make it to the store and get another box/bag/tin because of a few reasons so I needed a replacement). I added the milk and Italian Sweet Cream creamer and was pleasantly surprised with the similarity in body, richness and fragrance this tea had compared to the first one. I bought it for about $2.15 (for a box of 20 bags, which was *much*cheaper than the A.O.T, which was  $12/6oz tin of loose leaf. There was also the individual bags, but, you get the picture.) When I added the Vanilla, it danced gracefully with the citrus overtones, and completed it effortlessly.

Stash’ Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea Yumfactor– 4 tongues. (4 out of 5 stars) It’s inexpensive, rich, delicate and is satisfying.

*Remember, all of these tea do contain caffeine, so be aware. If I had to rate according to faves, I’d say Art of Tea ranks in 1st place for innovative taste and over all quality, but is pricey, in my opinion. Stash follows closely behind, because of quality and value, although Art of tea’s Earl Grey has a stronger dessert like creamy presence. Then last, comes Bigelow, because, apparently, the bergamot in that tea has an inferiority complex and doesn’t like much attention.

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