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There seems to be a growing trend of drinking flavored coffee.
It seems odd that coffee drinkers would want to mask the unique flavor of the coffee. Some of these flavors are overpowering, others, unperceivable.
Most are only one more ingredient in many popular coffee concoctions. One stands out, up there in popularity: hazelnut coffee.
But where does it come from?
Let’s start with the plain truth. There isn’t a hazelnut coffee plant! So, anything you see sold is an artificial (sometimes “natural”) flavored coffee. The word “flavored” hints to the process. I remember once, having a chat with my friend Willy, and he asked me if there was a hazelnut coffee plant. I didn’t laugh, although I wanted to.
That said, you can experiment and come up with a hazelnut delight.
Here’s a fine example of a company that cares Lifeboost Coffee. Not only are they using excellent organic coffee beans, but they also flavor them with natural oil. No doubt these are the best hazelnut coffee beans. Although very pricey, it’s worth the investment. It’s fair-trade coffee, which ensures the farmers in Nicaragua reap some profits. Nothing wrong with that. You’ll find many reviews of happy customers.
Well, this one is not all natural but is halfway there. Whatever their secret is, the toasty flavor is perceivable and many people love it. Their medium roast blends in well with the hazelnut. As a major known roaster, they boast a reputation of excellence within the coffee industry. To some, Starbucks’s nemesis.
Volcanica has made a good name for themselves. This coffee is also flavored. Although you see a bunch of delicious hazelnuts in their advertisement, the truth is there are none inside. A medium blend that comes with Volcanica’s 100% freshness guarantee. They use beans from very rich soils for their products.
Another flavored coffee. Some people claim it tastes great black. It has a hint of coconut flavor. Other people find the taste a bit off. The source of the coffee is not Hawaii. It’s a medium bold coffee like most of Don Francisco’s coffee. Again a company with a lot of practical coffee products. And you get a multi-use can after you finish the coffee! Hey, their selling point, not mine. Follow the link and you’ll see.
Interestingly, this company uses wild German hazelnuts and vanilla. They hint the vanilla gives it a sweet, nutty flavor. Sure, they also use other artificial flavoring agents. It’s a medium bold roast, using only 100% arabica beans and certified Kosher beans. Some people dislike that the beans bleed a little, while others love that, and refer to it as a “decent creamy foam.” Well, sometimes you can’t please everyone.
Another honest company that labels its hazelnut product as artificially flavored. The hazelnut smell is powerful. They use arabica beans sourced from South America. The beans don’t bleed (a sign of old and over-roasted beans). You are not getting bad beans. If you’re a true hazelnut enthusiast, here you’ll get a strong and buttery treat. It’s not that expensive, so expect nothing close to a natural hazelnut flavor.
Cameron’s claim to roast in small batches which can, with care and experience, produce unique coffee jewels. Their commitment to the environment seems very genuine. Their hazelnut is artificially flavored. The truth is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) says is ok to use these artificial flavorings. It’s up to the individual to decide. It’s a light roast, which means the focus will be on the hazelnut. Sweet, but contains no sugar.
Well, I’ll show a bit of a bias here, but New England is one of my favorite places to visit. They like their coffee bold, but not bitter, and their cream, very rich. Many people like this coffee because it’s smooth. Yes, another one flavored with both natural and artificial flavors. The beans are a blend of Central and South American coffee beans. I guess they balance their blend to maintain a consistent smooth coffee, whether you drink it black or with the works.
New England Coffee Company has been roasting coffee for over a hundred years. Yet, they have embarked on a sustainability mission and are helping the farmers in coffee developing countries. The social, economical and environmental sectors in these countries are better now because of initiatives like this one. Buying their product gives back to people.
These K-Cups are 100% arabica, medium roasted and artificially flavored. Their convenient size makes them a favorite to take to the office. Because they’re Kosher, whatever artificial flavor they use would have to be plant or non-animal fat based.
Just don’t forget to recycle.
This moderately priced coffee (compared to some on this list) is also artificially flavored. The hazelnut is not too intense. The medium roast enhances the coffee taste more than the hazelnut. You may describe it as a cup of rich coffee with a hint of hazelnuts.
It’s not sweet at all. Some people complained it was bitter. Perhaps we would have to define what bitter is. No one complained about its freshness, though. Always check the expiration date. If you buy refillable K-Cups, you can enjoy single servings of this coffee. And if you have an espresso machine with pressurized filter inserts, you can expect a decent hazelnut espresso.
Since most of the hazelnut coffee beans, you’ll find out there are going to be “flavored”, make sure you read the label.
The shorter and easier to read, the healthier it is.
One ingredient that makes you wonder is propylene glycol. It’s also used in antifreeze. Although it is safe to consume, (or, so they say) when you read about it, you might not want to consume it at all. Some side effects include vertigo, seizures, and note this, “strange sensations”.
Something else to keep in mind is that the coffee you’re consuming might not be as fresh as you think. Coffee after roasting has a shelf-life. You wouldn’t keep it over 14 days. But some, if not a majority of flavored coffees, could be a year old or more. Anything vacuumed sealed is suspicious. The artificial flavoring masks the old coffee taste. A few coats of hazelnut “spray” are necessary to enhance these old or lesser quality beans. Think of a painted old apartment.
We must treat coffee like we treat our vegetables. We would most likely discard anything past its prime.
Pick good quality coffee beans. The minimum you should look for is 100% arabica.
Well, there are always many sides to a story. It’s pretty much accepted that by the 17th century Europeans were enjoying coffee already. But it had a terrible reputation, called by some the “bitter invention of Satan.” Yet, once Pope Clement VIII tried it, he loved it. And its acceptance revolutionized the workforce. Think of it. People, before that, were starting their day with beer and wine as their morning brew!
Considering coffee habits and roasting styles were rudimentary, someone had the great (or not so great) idea of improving the taste of coffee. Alpine monks (from the Alps region) took it upon themselves to make that improvement. Hazelnuts grow in that region and were plentiful. With a little tweaking, (perhaps with a version of the recipe below), they came up with something unique. It proved to be a blessing in disguise as we now consider both ingredients as healthy foods.
You can grind fresh hazelnuts and add it to your coffee before brewing. A French press would be perfect to do this. Make sure they are dry roasted and unsalted to avoid off-flavors and oils from ending in your cup. People add many things to their coffee nowadays. Adding real hazelnuts, or any other nut, wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Something to remember is that hazelnuts and coffee beans have different densities. Watch the grind size. Some recipes call for grinding the beans with the nuts. You can, but a logical alternative would be to grind them separately and then adding them to taste. For a more intense hazelnut taste, you can toast the hazelnuts in a non-stick pan at medium heat. A light to medium coffee blend is better suited for this method.
If you are a coffee purist, who adds nothing to your coffee but a big large mug, you’ll discern the flavors. But if you’re used to adding sweeteners, cream and swirls of chocolate, you would hardly perceive the hazelnut flavor this way. That’s why commercial roasters use a flavoring additive. So, is hazelnut coffee good for you?
In reality, I wanted to say “a better alternative”, but thought about the fact that we all choose what our guilty pleasures are. You might like the taste of flavored coffee and don’t care about the ingredients.
However, why not train your palate to enjoy coffee on its own?
The coffee industry uses a flavor wheel to describe different flavor tones in coffee varieties. You probably heard a super enthusiastic barista talk about the blueberry and strawberry fruity flavors of Ethiopian coffee, for example. Words like that express the wonderful complex flavors that occur naturally in coffee.
If you want to try this yourself, try reducing the amounts of sugar and cream you put in your coffee. You’ll surprise yourself, after a few weeks, when you finally can drink it black, that there are sweet tones in your favorite brand you never noticed before.
Although I presented you two opposite sides, there are roasters that care. The following reviews will help you choose the best hazelnut flavored beans.
You, only you, can make the healthiest and best hazelnut coffee. It’s easy to find organic ingredients. If finding them turns out to be too challenging or expensive, flavor the coffee you already drink. There’s an array of natural extracts and syrups you can buy. Read the label. The list should not be long.
From our list, Lifeboost promises a healthier product, followed by Volvanica’s blend. New England’s and Amazon’s seem like an affordable and tasty choice.
As I could discern all these coffees would be fine to use in most home brewing equipment. A French press would be ok if you can grind the beans yourself. Remember to grind them coarser than regular drip coffee. Another thing to remember is that the level of extraction in a French press is higher than in drip coffee. You’d be extracting a lot of components that normally are filtered out. The same with cold brew. You don’t want any of these artificial ingredients to sit in water for 24 hours or more. Who knows what they’ll mutate into!
I know you probably say that a little artificial flavor won’t cause any harm. Well, true. We already consume a lot of artificially flavored foods, ice creams, for example. But in our coffee, too? I thought that was sacred.