Ah, coffee! Whether you are drinking it for that much-needed morning caffeine jolt, having it as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, or savoring a cup with your dessert after dinner, you probably have a definite preference about the way it's served. Perhaps you like it "au lait," with a lot of milk, or maybe you like it strong and black, with just a bit of sugar, or a sugar substitute like Stevia, Sweet-n-Low, or Equal. Whatever your choice, there is no wrong way to enjoy your java.
Even if you've been drinking your coffee the same way for years, it can be good to experiment once in a while. One way you can add some variety to your morning brew is to vary the way you sweeten it. Brown sugar is often used, as the higher molasses content lends a "darker" tone to the flavor, but here are other options you might consider.
If you've been to an espresso bar or cafe you've probably seen the bottles of Torani or Monin coffee syrups, but you may not have realized that they sweeten your coffee as well as adding flavor. Ranging from the tried-and-true vanilla to the festive almond and mint (traditional peppermint as well as a softer creme de menthe flavor), to the more exotic coconut and banana, these syrups dress up your drink either singly or used in combination.
If you've ever read the back of a blackstrap molasses bottle, you know that this thick, dark syrup can be used in place of sugar in coffee, for a dark, tangy sweetness redolent of the bayou. Some brands refer to this as "Cajun" coffee, but even if it's not really Cajun, it's still quite tasty.
Sweetened chocolate adds depth to your coffee, and gives you that wonderful mocha flavor. Powdered cocoa (Ghirardelli ground cocoa is an excellent choice) is one option, but you can also toss a couple of Hershey kisses in the bottom of a mug, and stir until they melt and blend into the brew. Do you like your coffee light? You can use chocolate milk.
Traditional cream alternatives like Coffee-Mate and healthier options like flavored soy milk come in a variety of flavors that can be used in place of sugar. The former is available in vanilla, almond, hazelnut, and cinnamon, among others, while soy milk comes in both vanilla and chocolate, and sometimes has an almond variety as well.
Ice Cream, Sherbet, and Sorbet
If you generally use milk and sugar in your coffee, consider floating a small scoop of ice cream or sherbet in it instead. Chocolate and vanilla are popular, of course, but orange, raspberry, cinnamon, and even more exotic flavors like the nutty Thai tea, are excellent if you want to turn coffee into a dessert, or just as a change of pace in warmer weather.
If none of these options appeal to you, or you're simply a die-hard sugar user, you can enhance the flavor of your coffee while still using sugar, by adding cinnamon or nutmeg. Most people simply sprinkle their preferred spice into their mug, but you can also add it to the grounds before you turn on your coffee maker, for a delightful coffee infusion.
The bottom line is this: there are as many ways to enjoy coffee as there are cute sayings that can be printed on coffee mugs. For best results, conduct your own coffee flavoring experiment.