Thursday, December 31, 2009

PRODUCT REVIEW: Starbucks Ice Cream

My first product review of some Häagen-Dazs ice cream motivated me to delve into other brands of ice cream that, without said motivation, I would have never otherwise purchased.

I love coffee, but have never been the biggest fan of coffee ice cream. I've always liked my coffee hot and anything below 130-degrees Fahrenheit seems like a crime. But I like Starbucks. Starbucks seems to make decent supermarket products, so I figured, what the hell. This is Starbucks ice cream after a product refresh that happened earlier in the year. They dropped their ice cream bars, which weren't terribly good, and also jettisoned their more complex flavor concoctions like Mud Pie. Perhaps Starbucks' new-found focus in quality and product will result in something a bit more worthy of the name?

A little surprisingly, it's good! Not amazing, but very good. Coffee ice cream is a flavor that can be easily borked. Unlike vanilla, which regardless of other peccadilloes like poor texture is always just vanilla, can be seriously nasty if done wrong. The first area is the aftertaste. So many coffee ice creams have this horrid, bitter finish, and with ice cream savored, it's the finish that spends the most time lingering on your tongue.

Our taste buds don't work very well at low temperatures, which is why soft-serve ice cream tastes stronger than hard, scooped ice cream. So when eating hard ice cream, the majority of the flavor really emerges after both your mouth and the flavor compounds in your mouth have a chance to warm up. It's in that process that all the ass-like flavors of bad coffee ice cream come to the fore.

In Starbucks coffee, though, that after taste is a smooth, rich, deep caramel that truly reminds me of fine coffee. There's very little chocolate in it, but the fact that I can pick out any flavor notes is worthy of applause.

The swirls of espresso and coffee are a bit of a gimmick, I found. There's no Starbucks Espresso Concentrate on the ingredients list. Still, Starbucks coffee has a fair amount of coffee bite to it without that nasty bitter flavor. I just happened to have some Turkey Hill Colombian Coffee in the freezer, so I performed a taste test. Turkey Hill is, in my opinion, the best mass-market brand you can buy, so this is some good competition for the 'bucks.

Obviously, the Turkey Hill's texture is inferior. There's a lot more air whipped into the Turkey Hill, resulting in a 66g per 1/2 cup compared to Starbucks' 100g. But as with all Turkey Hill, the flavor is a home run. Very good for the price. It's smooth, sweet, with caramel and no bite. Definitely one of the best coffee flavors in the freezer. The Starbucks is a lot denser and more interesting to chew. It's got a stronger coffee bite to it and carries the aromas from your mouth into your nose much better. It's a more subdued flavor, as well. I assume many people would like this, but the stronger primary taste in the Turkey Hill is very pleasant and I wish the Starbucks had it.

All things considered, this is one of the best coffee ice creams on the shelves. I would not hesitate to recommend it to a fan of the flavor.

Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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