By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
The Pillsbury Company
Starbucks Ice Cream
Starbucks Ice Cream Partnership
LET'S GET RIGHT to the point: I don't drink coffee. Never learned to like the taste, despite endless repeated attempts. I enjoy other things about coffee, mind you, including the smell of coffee, coffee ice cream, coffee milkshakes, and coffee shops. I even like making coffee for my houseguests. In other words, I like everything about coffee except coffee.
Of course, that's tantamount to heresy in our java-driven world. Tell someone you don't eat meat and you've got political correctness on your side. Tell someone you don't drink alcohol and you'll get credit for willpower and maturity (plus you'll make lots of pals among drinkers looking for a designated driver). But tell someone you don't drink coffee--well, trust me, you might as well be saying you have a three-fingered hand growing out of your back. You'll also be excluded from all those coffee-centric rituals that look like so much fun: adding just the right amount of milk; casually saying, "Let's get together for coffee"; the guilty pleasure of that third cup of the morning; commiserating with friends about caffeine headaches; and so on.
Fortunately, coffee culture and I finally appear to be moving toward an accommodation of sorts, thanks to the growing market presence of mocha products. Granted, coffee mixed with chocolate isn't the same as coffee all by itself, but it's a start, and it happens to be one of my favorite flavor combinations. For years, however, the mocha market was spotty at best, dominated by those dainty little faux-imported specialty coffees with names like "Suisse Mocha" and "Cafe Chocolatte." But I didn't want to feel cultured and sophisticated; I wanted to feel like a regular joe-consuming Joe, just like everyone else. Where was the mainstream mocha?
The first breakthrough occurred last summer, in the baking-goods aisle of an Iowa supermarket. For several years I'd been fruitlessly scanning the shelves in search of a ready-made mocha frosting, silently cursing the marketplace's failure to provide such an obvious product. And then, suddenly, I saw it: Pillsbury Chocolate Mocha Creamy Supreme Frosting (The Pillsbury Company). Okay, so it's artificially flavored and there's no actual coffee in it, but I was still one proud consumer when I handed it to the cashier--there I was, buying a silly coffee-related product like any normal person. And since I don't actually have any cakes to frost, my mocha frosting can sit eternally in a cupboard, granting me a modicum of coffee credibility should anyone go snooping through my kitchen.
Things got even better a month or so later, when Starbucks Ice Cream (Starbucks Ice Cream Partnership) appeared at my supermarket. I pounced on the Mocha Swirl flavor and figured this was the big time--I was partaking not just of coffee culture, but Starbucks culture. Of course, Starbucks is rather loathsome as cultural phenomenons go, but I couldn't concern myself with that, especially when I learned there was a mocha variety of Frappuccino Coffee Drinks (North American Coffee Partnership), a Starbucks-branded line of bottled milkshake-ish beverages currently being test-marketed out west. The Starbucks logo on these products may be annoying, but the ice cream and shake both taste great anyway, which means they qualify as coffee-associated guilty pleasures of their own. You see? In my own little way, I've finally become one of you. (The Pillsbury Company, 2866 Pillsbury Center, Minneapolis, MN 55402; Starbucks Ice Cream Partnership, 5929 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618; North American Coffee Partnership, 1 Pepsi Way, Somers, NY 10589)
Inconspicuous Consumption is an occasional feature that examines a variety of products and services--some unusual, many exceedingly ordinary, but all worthy of close inspection.