Dark Barrel Latte.
Does the combination of those three words conjure up the same brew of feelings and expectation in your mind as it did mine?
Dark: a rich wood or an intense chocolate
Barrel: aged, natural, woody
Latte: milky, creamy, comfortable
Starbucks has been letting Columbus, Ohio stores experiment with a new flavor. The first time I saw the advertisement drawn on the chalkboard at the Target Graceland branch, the barista was answering another customer’s inquiry by describing it as “unique” with a “toasted malt” flavor. Another morning the barista flat out said that it tasted like beer and that most people that tried it weren’t liking it.
Usually, I’m too cheap to spend more than $3 on a beverage. However, once my husband has purchased enough plain tall darks for us to earn a reward with Starbucks’ loyalty program I can try something different.
Several weeks ago, I brought the card with me to work just in case I wanted to get my free drink. The difficulty was that I would have to walk a block north of the office before heading south toward home. This may sound like a silly consideration, but having to cross a busy intersection on foot, twice, during rush hour, then walk three miles before getting to one’s apartment… just to get a free sugary drink when I could brew my own good coffee at home?
That afternoon I asked one of my coworkers if he had tried the Dark Barrel Latte. Surprisingly, he hadn’t even heard of it (His wife used to work there, and even now he’s at Starbucks every afternoon). As I started to relate some descriptions from internet posts to him, I commented on how the combination of beer and milk seemed strange. Immediately, he reflected that when he had been in Uganda they had had a Castle Milk Stout that was quite good. Not exactly the first place that comes to mind when you hear “stout”, eh?
My perspective shifted. Instead of “beer and milk” my thought was of holiday gingerbread made with Guinness & molasses.
At the end of my work day, I asked Nate whether I should try the latte cold or hot (the autumn chill hadn’t quite fallen on Columbus). He said to get it warm and sit in the afternoon sunlight for a while, “they always have the air conditioning blasting”. So, I did.
Here are my notes from the first drink:
Aromatics hit you first: the caramel on the whipped cream
Texture: not thick, perhaps because I had been contemplating a cold one instead
Flavor: not bold but definitely there the grain and molasses
drops of chocolate here and there / now and then, but not constant
strong syrup finish MOLASSES
Although it seemed like they had only filled the cup half-way with coffee (the rest whipped cream), I was satisfied, but not completely decided; I would need to try another before giving my opinion to the blog-o-sphere.
A week or so later I found an excuse to reward myself with a special drink at Target by actually paying full price for the DBL. This time I got it at the Target store and walked it back to the coziness of our apartment. This time it didn’t taste healthy at all- where was that earthy-toasted grain flavor? Hidden in the excess of sugary syrup.
Perhaps you could say that only the “real Starbucks” do it right.
Perhaps you could say that my perspective was colored by hopefulness, autumn sunlight and memories of holiday treats.
Perhaps I need to try just one more before they take it off the menu…