4 ways to make coffee smokin' hot

Lizzy Freier, Technomic Menu Analysis Managing Editor

coffee cup beans

Charred foods have been gaining steam in recent years, and now, the influence is spreading to coffee. Operators are exploring smoky, toasted and burnt flavors, but because coffee naturally tastes roasted, they're focusing efforts on getting consumers to embrace the additional smoke. Here are four techniques being used when adding smoke to coffee.

1. Balance smoky with sweet

au bon pain toasted honey latte

Some operators are using sweet flavors to offset smoky flavors in their lattes. Au Bon Pain, for example, is spotlighting toasted honey. The chain’s winter Toasted Honey Latte features espresso blended with honey and toasted marshmallow syrup, topped with frothed milk. It’s available hot or iced. The item will be offered through March 27. Other sweet-smoky coffee combos include Toasted Coconut Cappuccino at convenience-store chain Thorntons, Toasted Marshmallow Coffee at The Bagel Cafe in Las Vegas, and Toasted Graham Latte at numerous Disney park concessions, including Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

2. Use natural smoke flavor

starbucks smoked butterscotch latte

Starbucks’ recently returned Smoked Butterscotch Latte also falls into the trend of smoky-sweet balanced coffees. In the drink, natural smoke flavor is used in the smoked butterscotch sauce and smoked butterscotch sugar topping. The drink also features espresso and steamed milk. A tall 12-ounce latte costs between $4.25 and $4.45 depending on location. It’s available while supplies last.

3. Spotlight a favorite ingredient

dunn bros bacon coffee

Some ingredients will be embraced in all mealparts, no matter how off-the-wall they may seem. Bacon is one of those ingredients, now showing up in coffee. Dunn Bros Coffee’s holiday Smoky Spiced Nirvana features steamed cold press coffee, half and half, an infusion of hickory smoke and spiced brown sugar syrup, topped with a skewer of candied bacon.

4. Reinvent a classic

regent coffee cappuccino marshmallows

Some operators are reinventing classic beverages with new ingredients. Regent Coffee in San Gabriel, Calif., for example, is spotlighting a twist on the classic hot chocolate with marshmallows. The coffee bar offers cappuccino either by itself for $3.50 or with burned marshmallow for 50 cents extra. The burned marshmallow is also available in hot chocolate.

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