High and Cold (brew): A Love Story

Anyone who says they cannot be bribed simply doesn’t understand what their price is.  Everyone has something important to them, and therefore would be willing to give up that which is less important in order to obtain the item of utmost importance.  I suppose perhaps a person’s integrity might be the most important thing, therefore rendering them physically unbribable, but that would make me question their lack of transcendently important things such as: family, children, coffee, and (of course) love.  Point being everyone has a price.

So with all that said, this post has nothing to do with any sort of bribery, (as much as it may sound like it at certain points.)

I discovered cold brew coffee in my hometown of Seattle.  Tully’s coffee is more prevalent up there than it is in Florida (where I reside now) and they offer it mixed with some kind of “Madagascar Vanilla” that makes for a really tasty combo.  I liked it better than my typical iced coffee at the time, but didn’t realize exactly how special it was.  Maybe because of the vanilla, maybe because I wasn’t paying attention.  Probably a little of both.

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Cold Brew – Looks like science!

For those not yet introduced to cold brew, it’s essentially what it sounds like.  It’s coffee, but it’s never introduced to heat.  So in essence, the ground coffee beans are steeped in water so that it can absorb the flavor and caffeine.  The upside to this is a FAR less acidic and smoother cold coffee.  The downside is that in this case heat is replaced with time.  So making your own “instant” cold brew is impossible (though it IS easy to buy it instantly…  we’ll get to that in a few.)  A typical batch of cold brew takes around 20-24 hours to brew, but it’s well worth it.  Added benefit to those of us who are caffeine junkies, is that the longer you steep the cold brew, the stronger the caffeine content (to the point where even the adventurous addicts find themselves cutting it with water or some kind of milk.)

Even a couple of years ago, cold brew was nowhere to be found in Florida (at least, not that I and the general population here was aware of.)  I figured it was a Northwest/Seattle thing since coffee is a cultural obsession there.  But then I heard that Starbucks was test-marketing cold brew in it’s stores and I became very, very excited.  Of all places, surely Florida, the only state that competes with Hell for total heat and humidity was deserving of this cold brew!  Naturally, I was wrong.  Of all places, primarily the northern territories (including New York, Boston, and Seattle) were the test markets.  Why?  Who knows?  Population maybe?  Regardless a friend of mine working for Starbucks told me there was no sign we would see it in Florida anytime soon, and every other barista I asked agreed or didn’t even know what cold brew was.  So my enthusiasm was curbed, but I kept asking from time to time.

Finally, I was in Miami for a job interview last year and I randomly decided to ask the barista in Starbucks about cold brew… the answer was pure hope: “Oh yeah, we’ve already got some of the materials in, we’re just waiting for the next shipment.  Probably have it next week.”  Wait.. WHAT?  I asked again and was assured it was true.  Cold Brew had finally made it to Florida.

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Starbucks Trenta Cold Brew: Sleep is not an option.

What followed was months of extreme caffeine and discovery.  I learned that I didn’t need
to mix anything with cold brew and it was far more potent than an equal amount of iced coffee.  Then another friend who manages Starbucks clued me in on the potency of cold brew.  It was so strong that Starbucks HQ gave them strict orders to cut it in half with water.  So what I had been drinking and buzzing off of was only half strength!  As a regular I eventually convinced the folks at my Starbucks to serve me full strength for my overnight Uber runs.  The taste obviously took some getting used to (it is VERY potent stuff) but it kept me buzzing all the way through an overnight Uber run with some to spare for the next night.  It was my go-to for many months until I returned to fulltime work and found my caffeine needs reduced.

Regular coffee has been so easy to come by now that I had only sought regular, cut cold brew on days I needed that extra pick me up.  That was, until, I found High Brew brand cold brewed coffee.   I randomly saw High Brew on sale at Target one day when I was searching for a companion to my lunch sandwich.  It was on sale, and I was intrigued by the idea of canned, single-serve cold brew, so I thought I would give it a try.  As is typical of me, I snapped a picture of this experience, and a member of the Highbrew marketing team commented on my photo.  My one lament was that the Mocha flavor I tried had dairy milk, and I prefer my coffee either black, or with an alternative milk such as coconut or almond milk.  Fortunately they responded that they did, in fact, have a “Black and Bold” version and would happily send me a sample if I dropped them a line via e-mail.  Of course I jumped on the opportunity.

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Social marketing at it’s best!

Weeks later my “sample” arrived, and let me tell you, the folks at Highbrew know their social marketing.  They sent me several cans of the “Black and Bold” version to try, along with several more certificates good for a free can, along with a personalized note from the girl who commented on my instagram (Thank You April!)  Also, High Brew gets a ton of points for originating in Austin, TX (the coolest city in Texas and one of the coolest in the country.)

So naturally I did three things with my samples: 1. I searched for places I could use my free coupons (target doesn’t carry the black and bold I like!)  2. I tried the other flavors (all are good, but the milk kills it for me.)  and 3. I did a taste test between a can of Highbrew black and bold and fresh Starbucks cold brew with a comparable amount of sweetener (Three pumps of classic, to be fair.)  Here’s how it went:

Taste: High Brew

At first High Brew seems almost a little watered down, but that’s a part of it’s consistent drinkability and flavor.   Starbucks suffers from an inconsistency depending on the brew, and often has a funky sort of aftertaste (as this one did.)  Lately I’ve been ordering my Starbucks with coconut milk, which would give them a boost, but to keep it fair I’m comparing the same style.  High Brew would benefit from a dairy alternative flavor I think.

Smoothness: High Brew

As I mentioned above, High brew is SO easy to drink.  It’s best chilled, but it doesn’t have to be.  On ice as served, Starbucks is sometimes pretty close, but it tends to have more bite along with an occasional aftertaste.

Caffeine Content: Starbucks

In roughly 6 oz of Starbucks I feel more energetic than I do from the 8 oz can of High Brew.  There’s a good possibility that Starbucks is steeped longer resulting in both the stronger taste and higher caffeine content.  It certainly gets you through the day on it’s own while it (happily) takes at least two High Brew to get me through a long day (when I need this sort of intake.)

Price: Starbucks

High Brew ranges from $2.00 – $2.99 / can. (8 oz) A similar amount of Starbucks will run you about $1.62. (based on $3.25 for a 16 oz Grande)  The $2.00 price point I found for High Brew is the four-pack from my local Fresh Market where it’s been on special.  But even with that close race, you get more caffeine for your money via Starbucks.

Convenience: Tie 

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SO. MUCH. COFFEE.

Starbucks is everywhere, and High Brew is mostly in Whole Foods and similar stores.
(Target appears to be phasing some of it out, and doesn’t have Black and Bold.) However, if you can find a local distributor on their website like I did, you can get and STORE the cold brew in your fridge for first thing in the morning, backpacking, etc. So more portable and convenient form factor, which is why lately it’s been my go-to for the office. (It just so happens my boss sends me to shop for him at the Fresh Market that sells these.)

(And… After this review.. having drank both… I can see sound.)

What’s awesome about all this is that cold brew is catching on to the point that Starbucks and High Brew are only two of many options showing up on the market (including a tasty one made with almond milk!)  But even more awesome was the personalized effort by High Brew to demonstrate to a potential customer and share their brand.  I can easily say I’m sold as I buy a minimum of two four-packs a week and show no signs of slowing down.

If you’re an iced coffee drinker, I strongly recommend you try cold brew.  And if you haven’t checked out High Brew, give it a shot.  Besides the Black and Bold that I prefer, they also offer Vanilla, Mocha, Espresso and Caramel flavors with milk that are quite good.  If you decide to try it out, drop me a line and let me know what you think!

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I’m shameless, I know.

 

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