By Mollie McWilliams
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Joseph Geha
By Anna Roth
So the other day I was midway through ordering a double-iced cappuccino (which, for anyone taking notes, does not mean double the ice or double the milk, but double the espresso; if I'd wanted to order a latte, I would have) when I glanced over and noticed a sign for something called a Chai Chocolate Cooler, one of those experimental coffee/tea beverages making their way to your local cafe this summer.
The concoction consists of the following: chai tea (black tea and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves), cocoa powder, milk, and upward of 8 pounds of sugar, frappéd into a frozen slushy drink.
I cannot begin to count the number of things wrong with this concept. Let's start with frozen tea. As far as I'm concerned, the only folks who should be drinking tea that resembles a milkshake are microwave-challenged Eskimos. As for tea and chocolate: In my book the combo is acceptable only if the chocolate comes in the form of a small square on your saucer. Anyone who believes otherwise should be relegated to that distasteful fringe of society that includes people who put pickle relish in their tuna salad, douse their french fries in gravy and cheese curds, and eat blueberry bagels.
Coffee chains now abound in these unholy creations. At Starbutts, it's almost impossible to find plain-old coffee on a seemingly endless specialty-drink menu that includes such horrifying offerings as Tazoberry Blended Créme (raspberry-flavored tea blended with fruit juices, cream, and ice, and topped with whipped cream) and mocha coconut Frappuccino -- one of the less noxious of the company's 15 or so tooth-rotting Frappuccino drinks.
Peet's limits its blendered beverages to a short list of Caffe Freddos, essentially Frappuccinos with less blatantly American nomenclature.
Places like the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Pac Heights, which claims to be the inventor of the "World Famous Original Ice Blended" drink, give us variations such as the Black Forest -- a whipped-up combination of chocolate, coffee extract, espresso beans, and maraschino cherries -- which sounds bad enough all on its own, but far worse when described as a "vacation in a cup," which conjures up images of being trapped on a cruise ship next to a huge Bavarian guy wearing Hawaiian shorts and listening to Jimmy Buffett at full blast.
There is an alternative to the above-mentioned abominations -- one that satisfies the need for a refreshing iced, caffeinated beverage on a warm afternoon, but that doesn't cross into cannibalized-confection territory. It's the Iceechino from Martha & Bros. (locations in Noe Valley, Upper Fillmore, and Bernal Heights), the family-run coffee company started by Nicaraguan sisters Martha and Patricia Guerrero. Its name notwithstanding, the Iceechino is a not-too-sweet, not-too-bitter, not-too-milky, and plenty strong blend of espresso extract, milk, sugar, and ice that successfully treads that fine line between classic iced coffee and blender drink. No whipped cream (unless you ask), no weird fruit, no caramel/ coconut/cinnamon/French vanilla additives to muck it up. It's also the only one I've tried that doesn't put me into a diabetic coma. Did I mention that it's coffee-licious?
I can only hope that by offering a palate-pleasing substitute to these nauseating frozen novelties, demand will drop, the marketing folks will come to their senses, and Chai Chocolate Coolers will go the way of Captain Morgan Gold, a rum-flavored malt beverage launched last year to a universal cry of "Blech!" Within months, it turned tail and ran, leaving behind nothing but a few outraged beer drinkers and a bad aftertaste.