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7:34 a.m.: I arrive at the Dunkin’ Donuts attached to a gas station near our office; I made my way to the drive through speaker. I was encouraged when I saw a promotional sign attached to the menu board touting new iced coffee flavors: Heath and Almond Joy. *Victory.* The [highly publicized and factually grounded] rumors were true–candy bar-inspired iced coffee flavors had indeed dropped yesterday, May 30th, at Dunkin’ Donuts locations nationwide.
Note, whenever I hear any sort of “nationwide” promise, I generally assume the location I choose to visit won’t be included. But leave it to a corporate doughnut chain to dispel my skepticism. I would, in fact, be able fulfill my plan of purchasing these candy-meets-caffeine beverages and force feeding them to coworkers for the purposes of this review. I order 3 large iced coffees in each flavor.
7:40 a.m.: I wait in front of the DD because the cashier told me to. They couldn’t hand this kind of order off through the window–as if I ordered a common vanilla frappuccino. I felt special, VIP even. Until some asshole behind me started laying on his horn because he was apparently unable to maneuver his way out of the drive-thru and around my massively obtrusive Honda Accord. But no bother, I brushed this off. I was parked there with a purpose. And while I was [again] skeptical as to whether these would even be worth swallowing, I was hopeful. Once upon a time (maybe 2008?), Wendy’s had a Coffee-Toffee Twisted Frosty (featuring Heath bits) on their menu that brought much joy to my life. I still remember it fondly. I thought, maybe, just maybe, this could be another nationwide fast food candy-inspired item-in-a-cup success story.
7:41 a.m.: A DD employee brings a stack of 2 cardboard cup holders bearing my condensating bounty. I had no clue how I would transfer this ice coffee cup tower from her hands to my passenger seat, but I knew I would figure it out. And I did… about 20 seconds later when she arrived at my car window and upon looking into my uncaffeinated and bewildered–but hopeful–gaze, told me I could take the top cardboard tray off first “if I wanted” (still feeling very VIP at this point). I wanted. And I did. Then, I was off.
7:46 a.m.: I claim a great spot in the office parking garage. And upon realizing that I had farther to go than the 3 feet that the gracious DD employee who was all about letting me do what I wanted had to walk with the stack of 6 large iced coffees, I mentally readied myself for the home stretch. With a laptop bag on one arm and a handbag large enough to hide a medium-small exotic animal in on the other, I held on to that teetering tower for dear life. I planned my next move… opening the door.
7:48 a.m.: Thankfully, our front desk crew is really nice. They opened all of the doors and pushed all of the elevator buttons for me. We bantered back and forth about how I am a stubborn hag that refuses to make more than one trip ever, and no one comments on the condensation that has saturated my sheer blouse. Because we’re a team, and that’s what teamwork is all about.
7:50 a.m.: I arrive at my floor’s coffee station. I made myself a cup of hot coffee, then turn to attending to my iced coffee. I knew that enough of a crowd wouldn’t be here and ready to humor me for another hour, so I decided I would stash the coffees until our daily 9:30 edit meeting–the perfect occasion to unexpectedly ask people to consume something that I put in front of them. I placed the 6 large iced coffees into our freezer; obviously, so the ice wouldn’t melt and dilute the flavor. I go about my way.
9:28 a.m.: Showtime. I go to retrieve the coffee with the cardboard cup holders I very intentionally saved for easy(ish) transport to the meeting (trying to bring my A-brain-game on the first day back after a long weekend). My coffees, all 6 large iced coffees, we’re frozen solid. We have a high-quality freezer, I guess. I placed the coffees out to thaw. I returned the cardboard cup holders I very intentionally saved to my desk and attend the meeting empty-handed… spirits slightly dampened, but anticipation growing. The meeting goes on like nothing ever happened.
10:26 a.m.: My coffees are almost ready to rock, aside from the minor icebergs floating at the top; they were easily surmountable. At this point, I realized that I had another hour-long meeting about things I don’t fully understand starting in 4 minutes. If I waited until after the meeting, the coffees would surely start to water out. If I packed the coffee back up and walked to the refrigerator, I wouldn’t have time to make another cup of hot coffee for myself before the meeting. Damn it, life is hard. I had to act fast.
I opted to taste both flavors myself (feedback coming soon) and asked my coworker, who asked if he could have one earlier in the morning, to put the coffees out with a note sheet, then round up the troops and facilitate a tasting. He looked at me like I was a lunatic (understandably so… we don’t exactly on the same staff) and said “OK…” Again, teamwork. I was only 2 minutes late to the meeting
11:32 a.m.: I return to the tasting table to see a paper covered in tasting notes and opinions, but 4 full large iced coffees remaining. I do tend to overshoot when it comes to feeding people. I checked in with a few of my most trusted colleagues for a report and took the paper back to my office for careful review.
1:04 p.m.: Another colleague swings by my office to tell me that I might want deal with my coffees because they’re flooding the tasting table with condensation and making a mess. He was not wrong. I proceeded to dump the remaining coffee and wipe up the puddle. I did not read the paper covered in tasting notes and opinions for another few hours.
But I had fully appreciated my Dunkin’ Donuts Heath- and Almond Joy-flavored iced coffee journey so far. Sure, there were some challenging moments, and at no point was I personally ever tempted to drink one of the large iced coffees, but the experience stretched me in unexpected ways and forced me to grow.
Heath: The general consensus on this one is that it tasted sweet, that’s all. Some people were into that and some weren’t. I received feedback such as “not too sweet,” “way too sweet,” and “I like this one better than the other one, but it’s still not good.” Personally, I can get down with a sweet vanilla iced coffee (often from DD as it is extremely close to the office and about 75% less expensive than Starbucks) as an occasional pick-me-up, and this definitely met that bar but it’s not like it raised it. On the matter of bars, I wouldn’t exactly liken the flavor profile of this coffee beverage to a Heath bar. There were no milk chocolate notes (hello, a drizzle of chocolate syrup would have sufficed) and no golden-rich toffee depth. Just sweet. I would assume what happened here was whatever toffee-flavored syrup that DD typically uses went into 3 of my large iced coffees with some very smart, fresh branding. Point being–if you enjoy the occasional sweet and milky iced coffee, this is not going to let you down. If you’re a Heath bar fanatic or looking to have your life changed by a large iced coffee that costs less than $3, you may be in for some heartache.
Almond Joy: This flavor was very polarizing, as an intense hit of almond extract followed by an even more intense lingering of coconut tends to be. I am from the deep south, thus, a deep adoration for almond extract is bred into my taste buds. But the coconut-coffee mash-up really threw me on this one. Some of the other tasters were intrigued by it, to the point of saying that they “like[d] it okay.” Again though, there was no chocolate element to this drink. I am confused as to how you’re going to promote a beverage as candy bar-inspired if it’s an amalgamation of flavored syrups, but there’s no chocolate… a visual chocolate cue (i.e. the drizzle) really could have maybe sealed the deal on both of these. Pity. Anyway, if almond and coconut concentrated flavors are flavors that are highly attractive to your mouth, I’d say consider giving this coffee a go. But if you’re off-put by the nutty combo mixed into your caffeine source without so much as a chocolate drizzle, I would take a cue from our taste tester who commented, “I’d much rather drink plain iced coffee with a candy bar on the side.”