Coke with coffee is a surprising success

I imagine the Coca-Cola executives sitting in a big, fancy board room on a penthouse somewhere warm, wearing matching Coca-Cola ties and branded water bottles as they sip experimental versions of Coke and try not to offend the scientists who stand bravely in front of them.
“Sir,” says one of the scientists. “What do you think?”
The head executive, who wears exclusively Coca-Cola branded fuzzy slippers which are, at this very moment, perched on the glass-top table as he leans back in his expensive leather chair, thinks for a beat, and then hops out of his chair with the grace of a leaping bunny.
“Johnson,” he says gravely, “I do not understand how you have managed to combine these two into such a royal concoction, but I think it has been done.”
The other board members nod sagely, barring one, whose face is marred in utter disbelief and horror.“You spent so long thinking about how you could,” he wails, “that you simply did not consider whether you should. The Caffeine wars, as we all know, have sustained us for many years. People are so polarized about where they get their caffeine — either from us, Big Soda, or our mortal enemies, Big Coffee — and if we unite into one there will be chaos in the streets.”
“That is a risk we are willing to take, Jermaine,” says the scientist. He is deadly serious.
“The end of the Caffeine War is nigh,” says another scientist, whose clipboard has only a few words written on it: “BREAK INTO COFFEE DRINK MARKET.”
The head executive turns back to the lone dissenter, who now shakes violently, realizing that his vocalized opinion has cost him everything.
“Jermaine,” says the head exec. “We will release this. We will unite with the Dunkin Mochas and the Starbucks bottled Frapuccinos. There is simply no other way.”
So there I was, sitting on my couch, when my partner approaches me with what appears to be a beverage monstrosity: Coca-Cola with Coffee: Vanilla flavor.
“It piqued my interest,” he said. “I had to buy it.”
So there I was, cracking open a flavored Coke. I’d never agreed with the stuff in the past — I view Cherry Coke and Orange and Vanilla Coke as abominations upon the deity of Coca-Cola. Unfortunately for Coke’s coffers, I hadn’t turned to them as a caffeine source outside of a meal. I’d cruised the coffee sections of grocery stores intent on picking up a bottle of creamy pre-mixed coffee, not expecting to find Coke among them.
Until now, I suppose. The branding of this newly synthesized beverage is as sleek as Coke always is — red can, complimentary tan and brown to indicate the coffee, and a pleasing short, thin can that doesn’t feel chubby in my hands. The tab on top is red, contrasting with earlier iterations of cans with the silver one. Either way, the satisfying pop of the pressurized lid was more than enough to prime me for my first sip.
Coke with Coffee is pleasantly less carbonated than its sans-coffee grandparent, and by extension it is silkier. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the bubbles as I sometimes do with other carbonated drinks in a can.
The first taste is neither coffee nor cola. It has the molasses-y quality of a cola, rounded out by the creamy sweetness of a milk-heavy coffee drink. The bubbles add a sharpness to the experience that, if you’ll excuse the pun, fizzles out quickly, replaced by a pleasant aftertaste that I would describe as “standing ten feet away from a piece of caramel.”
Coca-Cola With Coffee: Vanilla is the same color as Coke normally is — the caramel color shines through. What surprises me is that the creamy vanilla flavor doesn’t seem to be a major ingredient. Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color and coffee powder are the first four ingredients. To me, that says that there really isn’t that much coffee in this drink at all, despite how delicious it is.
A four-pack of this soda-coffee hybrid will run you seven dollars, which comes out to $1.75 for each 12-oz can, which holds 69 mg of caffeine.
In comparison, one Dunkin Donuts iced coffee bottled drink (which is also owned by Coca-Cola!) is somewhere in the realm of $3, depending on where you purchase it. For your three dollars, you’ll get 13.7 ounces of the drink and 186 mg of caffeine.
If you’re like me and you’re just trying to get your caffeine for as little money as possible, you’ll get more for your buck with the Dunkin drinks — 39 mg per dollar for the Coke with Coffee is paltry when compared to 62 mg per dollar for the Dunk’s.
That being said, if you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up rather than a morning jolt and you like carbonation, you’ll really enjoy the Coke with Coffee. Another perk is that even though it reminds me of a cappuccino mixed with Coke, it doesn’t have any dairy, and contains half of the added sugar.
Overall, Coke with Coffee is a really novel beverage. I hope it doesn’t go the way of other Coke experiments — here today, gone tomorrow. This one feels like a real hit, and I’m sure I’ll pick it up every once in a while when I’m on the go.