Forget the peppermint and the eggnog. True coffee purists only care about one thing during the holiday season -- the widely-debated, limited-time-only holiday coffees, which are specially blended every year by our favorite coffee sellers just for the season.
But there are so many holiday blends to choose from and so little time. The season will be over before we know it.
Lucky for you, the staff here at The Stir has made the decision a littler easier on you. We performed our own holiday coffee taste test of three of the biggest seasonal sellers.
The contenders: Starbucks Christmas Blend 2010, Dunkin' Donuts Mocha Mint, and Green Mountain's Holiday Blend. May the best holiday blend win!
Our serious coffee tasters were briefed on the basics. The task at hand, to brew three fine cups of java and write down their every thought. The categories: Aroma, taste, and overall feedback.
Here we go ...
Starbucks Christmas Blend 2010 ($12.95, Starbucks in stores)
The Starbucks red cup and holiday spirit has become a staple around the country during the holiday season (it's almost addictive!). And the Christmas Blend (available in Regular, Espresso Roast, and Decaf) takes center stage.
Aroma: "On first smell, I think 'Mmmm, coffee.' On second, third and fourth, I think -- I am not looking forward to drinking this."
Taste: "It's your typical Starbucks blend with slightly better taste. I could drink it, but it's definitely not as good as their everyday coffee."
"Bitter. Burnt. Bad."
Overall: "I would never ever drink this again unless I was forced to by my employer again. Full disclosure? I hate Starbucks coffee."
(Note: All tasters entered into this test voluntarily)
Dunkin' Donuts Mocha Mint ($9.49, major grocery stores)
On first glance, how can you resist picking up this adorably packaged java in your grocery aisle? One of three Dunkin' holiday varieties (including Pumpkin Spice and Vanilla Mint), it seemed like our testers were the most excited about this one ... maybe because it had an actual flavor to target.
Aroma: "This. Smells. Heavenly."
The smell was a winning combination of peppermint and chocolate reminiscent of seasonal peppermint bark. It was so enticing every taster brewed this as their first cup.
Taste: "It tastes good but not at all like peppermint or mocha either. It smelled like peppermint, so that was a letdown."
"On the palette, the peppermint tastes almost medicinal -- like cough syrup. I'm not getting any mocha."
Overall: Few thought this was a cup o' Joe they would want to make daily. Maybe keeping it as an air freshener would serve a better holiday purpose.
Last thoughts were, "There's nothing I would change. I'd just find a different cup of coffee."
Green Mountain Fair Trade Holiday Blend ($8.49, greenmountaincoffee.com)
Aroma: "Not too strong, not too week. It smells just right."
Taste: "It had a strange earthy taste and smell, if that makes any sense. I didn’t even realize at the time that it was called Green Mountain, which I think is funny because the first thing I thought when I tasted it was that it reminded me of trees."
"I wasn't exactly blown away, but I can totally see this being my normal morning coffee."
Overall: "As a supermarket holiday blend, I think this works. There's nothing particularly "holiday-ish" about the flavor, but I could see it be a good base for holiday-type coffee drinks like Bailey's and coffee -- yum!"
So ... what's the final taste tester verdict?
Green Mountain's holiday blend is the best for everyday drinking, Dunkin' Donuts smells better than it tastes, and Starbucks is for the seriously bold coffee connoisseur.
Whose holiday blend do you buy each year?
Image via Nina Matthews Photography/Flickr