Monday, March 05, 2007

Coffee Wars End With Peace Treaty

Last week was Coffee War Week on The Cup of Joe, as previously mentioned in this short post.

Each day I would sample either Starbucks, McDonald's Premium Roast or (an addition late in the week, thanks to a reader) Burger King's BK Joe coffee-flavored product.


I was inspired to do this after Consumer Reports reported that in blind taste tests McDonald's was chosen as the best-tasting coffee among the three.

But not trusting Consumer Reports -- I'm still bitter about the CR-recommended Pioneer turntable I purchased back in 1987 -- I wanted to see for myself. Here are the results of my investigation:

Burger King

The BK Joe Turbo Blend had a full body with virtually no acidity. Nutty, and with a refreshing and surprising brightness, this smooth and rich blend had a haunting suggestion of butternut and caramel in the mid-palate, teetering just on the edge of The Forbidden Zone, a place where flavored coffees are sent to die after being given to coffee drinkers as Christmas presents.

Moreover, all the senior citizens at Burger King, who had been drinking the same cup of coffee for between five and nine hours, seemed delighted in the blend as well, including the hobo outside who was collecting coins for more Turbo blend. (This hobo, incidentally, was last heard mumbling something about Turbo blend being a diuretic, and how he should really have his name promptly removed from the state Attorney General's special Internet list.)

On a celebrity scale, I rate the caffeine kick as JIM CAREY-like in terms of generating the type of coffee buzz craziness one demands. You sure won't feel like you're doing time on maple drive if you select this flavorful cup of coffee-flavored hot water. Final rating: 3.75 out of 5 coffee cups.


Rich, smooth and nutty doesn't just describe that One Guy at work who's on disability. It also describes the new McDonald's Premium Roast coffee. Not elegant, but still flavorful and mysterious, this coffee has an earthy aroma and a well-balanced flavor profile. The best food pairing for this coffee are the "greasy sausage patty with fried egg and cheese on biscuit," or a "lingonberry crepe in a lemon-butter sauce."

The McDonald's crowd, too, seemed to enjoy the Premium Roast coffee, as betrayed by an occasional twinkle and glint in the otherwise icy and vacant forward stares of the McDonald's Silver Hairs who, like the Burger King crowd, had been drinking the same cup of coffee for several hours while complaining about the government.

On my celebrity scale, I rate the caffeine kick as TOM CRUISE-like in terms of generating the type of manic productivity at work that could frighten co-workers, especially those on disability and senior citizens. After drinking this coffee you'll be jumping up and down on a couch as if you've seen the face of Oprah. Final rating: 4 out of 5 coffee cups.


My favorite (and longest) blog post last week was a Starbucks Sumatra-blend-induced spasm concerning Elisabeth from The View, J.C. (as in Jesus Christ and James Cameron) and George Bush. Starbucks wins.

My Starbucks visits included bold and light selections all week. Yet no matter what, all the coffees had a full, syrupy body with a medium level of acidity. Our favorite was the concentrated spicy and herbal notes and earthy aroma that are the telltale signatures of Sumatra blend, which did not disappoint.

Not even this delicious coffee could be spoiled by the overly friendly (and possibly slightly retarded) Starbucks employees, who for some reason seemed to think I had the remotest interest in engaging them in any conversation other than: "Where's my coffee?" or "Just give me my coffee." Best food pairing: Any Starbucks pastry that miraculously happens to still be fresh.

On a celebrity scale, I rate the caffeine kick as ROBIN WILLIAMS-like, but not the post-rehab Robin Williams. I'm talking about the coked-up and "in a manic phase" Williams. The Mork and Mindy Robin Williams who used to suffer near-heart attacks while being interviewed by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 coffee cups.

Believe me, that's one good cup of Joe.

War may be hell, as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman told us, but Coffee Wars can be kind of fun, in a jittery, "I'm annoying all my co-workers and Wally" type of way.

Speaking of Sherman, some historians theorize that Sherman was bi-polar, and that the burning of Atlanta was the result of a manic phase in the general's manic-depressive illness.

Maybe Sherman just had too much Turbo Blend.



Michael said...

Love this post. I, too, am a big fan of the Starbucks Sumatra blend and think it goes particularly well with their chocolate espresso brownies. Talk about a JOLT!

Out of desperation last week I ended up buying a McDonald's coffee and was pleasantly surprised with it. Of course my expectations were pretty low to begin with.

Where did Dunkin' Donuts fall on your Coffee War scale?

jercwe said...

You are still the best 'cup of Joe.'

... Joey P. said...

Michael, the Dunkin' Donuts closest to my neighborhood shut down several years ago, leaving me without their cheap coffee and sugary treats.

Dunkin, by the way, was also rated in the Consumer Reports competition won by McDonalds.

Bobby M. said...

I wasn't kidding last week. White Castle has a great cup of coffee. Always has. You should pit that against Starbucks in a new one on one coffee showdown X-treme cage match.

If you've never had it, you'll be suprised. Bobby M.'s very own mother (and extreme coffee junkie) swears by the stuff, and by golly she's got something.

Anonymous said...

Coffee must be enjoyed from a ceramic mug, not some paper thing with a weird lid. I don't care about it's pedigree.

I drink Ronoco at work; 2/3 caff, 1/3 decaf, and couldn't be happier. And it's free.

peebstuff said...

Price seems to be no subject herein...not a factor for flavor buds? A positive 3.5 or 4 out of 5 rating at less than a buck would seem to outflank a higher rating at $3.95. And the put-down of the grays who stay for days doesn't somehow seem to extend to the yupps who hog the tables for hours at Starbuck$.

... Joey P. said...

peeb: good point about price. a large "venti" mcdonald's will run me around $1.10, a regular large coffee at starbucks will run $1.90. i think these prices are different in different parts of the country. in fact, i know starbucks right around the corner from each other that charge different prices.

I never thought about complaining about the annoying Starbuck Table Hoggers. They're usually having long conversations on their cell-phones, and have a strategically placed best-seller on the table (usually on an important topic) that they have no real plan on ever reading.