If you're anything like us, your taste for iced coffee drinks doesn't disappear just because the leaves are starting to change color. You want your cold coffee, and it's even better if you don't have to make it yourself. Milk company Hood (well known for their flavored eggnogs) recently introduced a line of ready-to-serve Latte Iced Coffee Drinks, available across New England in Shaw's, Market Basket, and Hannaford stores.
All four of the flavors—Mocha, Mocha Light, Vanilla Latte, and Caramel Macchiato—have coffee as their primary ingredient, followed by nonfat milk, sugar, and cream. Each also includes disodium phosphate (a common food additive), and carrageenan, which is used for thickening, on top of natural and artificial flavors. The two Mochas contain cocoa as well.
These drinks might not be for folks who like their coffee unadulterated, but if you occasionally have a craving for a sweetened coffee drink, the Hood lineup is actually quite good. And at only $3.99 for a half-gallon, they're a bargain. Consider that Starbucks' bottled iced coffees go for half the price, and you get about 1/6 the volume. Each of the coffee drinks has a dessert-like sweetness, and none stood out as sweeter than the rest—if you tend to pour the sugar in your iced coffee, these cartons are for you.
Our first thought once the Mocha hit our tongue: chocolate milk, with coffee behind it. Although the coffee flavor is not quite as strong as we'd like, it's there, and it's good. Though this one is arguably the least complex of the flavors, it's actually our favorite.
The "diet" flavor of the bunch, this one tastes very much like the regular version. Instead of 150 calories per one cup serving, it has only 100. Side by side, we really couldn't tell a difference between the two. To achieve the calorie drop, Hood added in acesulfame potassium and sucralose, both artificial sweeteners. There's the slightest hint of artificial sweetener aftertaste, but it's mostly covered up by the coffee, so we barely noticed it.
Take the Mocha, swap out the cocoa for vanilla, and you have Vanilla Latte. It's definitely the vanilla—a combination of natural and artificial flavors—that hits you first, but the coffee blends well. It's perhaps the most artificial tasting of the group because of just how strong that vanilla is; it's a tricky flavor to do well.
No, it's not the traditional espresso with milk, but if you've ever had one of Starbucks' bottled Caramel Frappuccinos, this flavor will be very familiar. The caramel flavor is definitely there, and it lingers. It would be a little harder for us to drink a full glass of this one than any of the other flavors; don't get us wrong, we definitely would, though. It's still tasty.
Samples provided for review consideration.