The idea of McDonalds having legitimate coffee has stemmed throughout the last half decade. With the introduction of Premium Roast Coffee and more recently their Iced Coffees, it was only a matter of time until they went in the Café style direction with premium espresso beverages. With Europe riding the wave of wonderment since the early 2000’s America has recently been engulfed with McCafé, McDonalds super duper line of Cappuccino, Lattes, and Mochas. Each comes in a hot or iced variety with a bevy of flavor syrup options.
I became an immediate skeptic of this whole shanty fest. It’s hard for me to believe that McDonalds could expound their boundaries in another direction without making the front area into a three ring circus. In the last ten years I’ve seen McDonald’s add salads, yogurts, differing ice cream treats, updated burgers and chicken sandwiches, change their fries (then change them again), and now they’re adding in a coffeehouse area? What’s next, a soft pretzel cart or a make your own pizza pie assembly line?
I’ve never been a coffeehouse nut, being in college, I drink coffee to survive, though. Sleeping three hours a night, coupled with a job and classes creates a situation where you simply need a caffeine IV at some points to function like a human. I can’t handle coffee black and I’m a big proponent of adding creamer and chemically enhanced sugar by the boatload. Keeping this in mind, I’m usually a specialty beverage kind of guy. Frappuccinos and espresso beverages are usually what intake, and being that I don’t support terrorism and find Starbuck’s prices revolting, I usually find myself drinking homemade tar or going to 7/11 for Oreo Flavored Cappuccino like mother used to make it down on the farm. Well not exactly. But with consumer reports stating that McDonald’s coffee being picked in taste tests of Starbucks in staggering fashion, we decided to give this whole McCafé thing a shot.
After going to the official McCafé website, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Sometimes its hard not to laugh, even in the most serious of times or whenever someone’s trying really hard and falls flat on their face, its hard not to just burst out in laughter. Reading McDonald’s descriptions at their site was a perfect example of such a predicament. Here is an actual quote from the site: “We harvest only the finest, fully-ripened beans in Central and South America, as well as the mountainous regions of Indonesia. Your coffee is freshly ground in-store using state-of-the-art espresso machines and then brewed under pressure, just as it’s done in finest European cafes.” I don’t even know where to start. First off, the idea of workers slaving away in the fields picking only the finest beans for McDonalds seems ludicrous to me. If anyone knew these beans were going to the golden arches, it is very apparent to me that the “screw it these look good enough” attitude would be implemented and the fully-ripened factor would be altered to “well at least its kinda ripened”. Next, why is it important for the consumer to know that Indonesia is in a mountainous region? Does the elevation of the region make that huge of an effect of the $3 coffee beverage when all is said and done? God forbid coffee beans getting picked next to a plateau or even a berm. I think this was McDonald’s greatest attempt to confuse the uneducated consumer into thinking that if they use a whole bunch of fancy words and exotic details, then the coffee will have to be amaze.
So Mike and I decided, basically on impulse to give the McCafé a shot. Being born and bred (what does bred even mean?) in the Pittsburgh area, we were in the downtown area for the Steelers Super Bowl parade. Having arrived two plus hours before the parade was to begin and given the fact that it was frigidarious rex outside, we looked longingly into the McDonalds storefront from across the street. Despite the fact that everyone and their brother’s cousin was in line, we decided to stick it out.
That’s when we first saw it, the magical café machine.
Complete with large large screens, simple directions, and fool proof logic this machine made it so a trained llama could make the most complex beverage. With the initial options of Latte, Cappuccino, Mocha, and Hot Chocolate, followed by the hot or cold option, then the No Fat or Whole Milk option, followed by the syrup options, the employee literally has to press four buttons. This isn’t exactly your Starbucks barista, who has to stir, dip, dive, duck, and dodge their way through most orders.
This is an action shot of my beverage being “made”. I went with a non fat vanilla latte. I had the option of making my vanilla syrup sugar free, but I decided that I wouldn’t be able to give a valid opinion if I went too “diet” for you guys.
In traditional American coffee hut standard, the beverage’s initials are written on the side of the cup, and McCafé is no different.
As you can see, the latte was quite frothy on the top. I was pretty amazed at how the cup my latte was served in had a thick feeling to it, where I didn’t need one of those hand protectors as most coffee places are required to hand out fearing lawsuits.
I have to say that I was quite pleased with my beverage, at the beginning that is. The latte wasn’t too hot and had a good vanilla flavor to it. I honestly could have told you I went to Starbucks or Caribou and got something that tasted similar if not worse. My issues began when I got to the bottom though. The excess syrup was waiting for me like a head ache after a night of boozing. My final sips were characterized by an over the top sweetness that reminded me of a trip to the Wonka Factory.
I’d have to give my Vanilla Latte a 3/5.
Mike didn’t fare too much better. Being in the traditionalist state of mind he went for a regular cappuccino with non fat milk. The employee was astounded whenever he said that he wanted it plain without any type of syrup.
Flustered as can be, she made the order and pressed the dreaded “none” button on the syrup option screen. Mike characterized the espresso as having a bitter, stale taste and nothing that seemingly resembled the bold and full taste advertised in the above quote. Maybe Indonesia isn’t so mountainous after all.
The cappuccino was given a 2.5/5 by my colleague.
Given the fact that it’s McDonalds and given the fact that this idea is still in the developmental stages in the US, I can say that despite the lower ratings, the McCafé idea isn’t as preposterous as I had once thought. I’m interested to try more flavors going forward and to see if the “state-of-the-art” machines improve in their syrup distribution. Regardless, with reasonable prices and reasonable taste, I will recommend going to Macdos for a wallet conscious caffeine fix.
Vanilla Latte: 3/5
Until the next sauce,