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Want coffee -- with benefits? Here's what you'll get

October 11, 2008 |  8:01 am

Newcoffeecup

We're a nation of spoiled coffee drinkers. Whereas our forebears boiled old grounds over camp stoves and our parents percolated Folgers, we're driving five miles to suck down triple mocha lattes like beer at a NASCAR event.

Now it’s gotten even headier: Coffee with benefits. Cashing in on our insatiable thirst for coffee and our willingness to embark on new frontiers, java makers are adding a dazzling array of extras to coffee, including soy protein, guarana, garcinia cambogia, matcha green tea, white willow, yerba mate and echinacea.

The ingredients are intended to have actual benefits, such as boosting metabolism or energy, improving the immune system or increasing mental focus.

We put four infused, pre-ground coffees to a taste test and were surprised at how much they tasted like regular pre-ground coffee.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that ingredients such as guarana and yerba mate, which contain caffeine, can leave you with enough supplemental energy to take down a tiger in the jungle. We suggest that before snapping up a bag of infused coffee, consider what you want the coffee to do and then do some research on the supplemental ingredients.

Here’s what we found:

Newspava_3 * Spava: Organically grown (fair trade) arabica beans, fortified with green tea (20 milligrams per 6-ounce serving) and guarana extract (15 milligrams per 6 ounces). The coffee purports to stimulate metabolism and burn fat.

Taste: More acidic, bolder, stronger and earthier than the other coffees tested, with a slightly grassy undertone.

* Kosmo Protein Coffee: Organically grown (fair trade) arabica beans roasted with organic whole soy beans. The soy adds 2 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving. Low in acid, the coffee contains half the caffeine of regular coffee, due to the diluting effects of soy beans.

Taste: This was the smoothest and mildest of the coffees.

* JavaFit Energy Plus: Arabica beans with garcinia cambogia, green tea extract, niacin and extra caffeine (150 milligrams extra per serving).

Notes: Unlike the other coffees sampled here, which recommend 2 tablespoons of coffee for 6 ounces of water, JavaFit recommends 1 tablespoon. We soon found out why. To make a direct comparison with the other three coffees, we used a ratio of 2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water. Big mistake. After one cup, our body was buzzing like a tuning fork -- and the effect lasted all day. Next, we brewed it according to the package directions. Much better.

Taste: Fortissimo. The aroma was strong, almost pungent. The flavor was very robust, and almost bitter at first, but the bitterness mellowed after a few sips.

* Fusion, Diet FX: Organically grown (fair trade) arabica beans, fortified with hoodia, green tea and yerba matte. Amounts of the added ingredients are not included in the packaging.

Notes: Available in the U.S. in 11 varieties at 7-Eleven stores by the cup and in “portion pillow packs” that make one pot of coffee.

Taste: Noteably smooth and non-acidic, with a nice aroma. Tastes surprisingly similar to upper end, generic coffee served on airplanes, which isn’t a bad thing overall.

-- Janet Cromley

Top photo credit: Iris Schneider / Los Angeles Times

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