Canned Coffee Carnival : Maeil Café Latte (카페라떼)

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time and inclination to take a look at different types of prepackaged coffee drinks, but when one of the Korean markets near my home in NYC decided to literally stock an entire line of coffee/tea milk drinks, it seemed irresponsible not to.

Available in pleasant-looking plastic cups with latte-art-labeled foil lids, the Maeil Café Latte (카페라떼, Kape Ratte) presents a variety of coffee, tea, and chocolate drinks. The entire range of Café Latte drinks were identical in cost, though all at a per-ounce premium compared to other similar drinks I’ve looked at in the past. However, the increase of quality in the materials used is evident (especially next to the super-inexpensive Pokka brand that I tried in my last post about these kind of drinks.)

Probably better if you keep the cap on.
Probably better if you keep the cap on.

I felt like I was drinking some sort of classy-person’s Capri Sun – which, may or may not be a bad thing.

Each of these cups comes with a small, telescoping bendy straw that you can stab into the top of the cup to evoke an iced latte experience not unlike that of America’s favorite green mermaid coffee. One can either peel back the foil and reveal the decidedly un-glamorous looking milk drink underneath, or punch directly through the foil and vaguely maintain the illusion of latte art on top. Either way, I felt like I was drinking some sort of classy-person’s Capri Sun – which, may or may not be a bad thing.

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So – are these worth the buy? I think so. Let’s take a look at each of the flavors, individually.


 Cappuccino

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 16g (80mg/mL, or 4.73 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Water, Espresso Coffee Extract, Whole Milk Powder, Granulated Sugar, Colombia Coffee Extract, Skim Milk Powder, Cream (Milk), Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose, Esters of Fatty Acids, Artificial Flavor, Cinnamon Extract.

The former branding of this drink labelled it as a “Double Cinnamon Café Latte,” which is still extremely evident in this extremely sweet coffee. This is the first prepackaged coffee that I’ve reviewed that has explicitly listed actual cinnamon as an ingredient, as opposed to the more commonly seen artificial flavors that encompass a wide range of taste-enhancing/confounding compounds. While said compounds are, in fact, still included, it’s nice to see that at least the (formerly) top-billed flavoring is the real deal.

The Cappuccino has a cinnamon sweetness and distinct coffee bite framed in a single, creamy package.

I note a significantly higher-quality in this coffee compared to other drinks I’ve tried, with the somewhat bizarre decision to include both espresso and coffee in the composition of this product. However, much of the grain and almost buttery flavors are deeply masked by the intense amount of sugar present. There is a lot of milkiness here, owing to the addition of both milk powders and actual cream. The net result is a generally pleasant drink all around, a cinnamon sweetness and distinct coffee bite framed in a single, creamy package.

Mocha Latte

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 16g (80mg/mL, or 4.73 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Water, Espresso Coffee Extract, Whole Milk Powder, Granulated Sugar, Colombia Coffee Extract, Cocoa Powder, Cream (Milk), Skim Milk Powder, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids, Cocoa Mass, Artificial Flavor, Carrageenan

The Mocha Latte aims to evoke a nebulous sense of creamy, chocolatey richness.

The mocha version of the Café Latte has a markedly thicker feel to it, most likely due to its carrageenan bumping up its viscosity. The intent, I presume, is to evoke a nebulous sense of creamy, chocolatey richness – and it succeeds, to an extent. The coffee flavor (as well as the literal amount of coffee itself) take a backseat, instead offering a chocolate drink with a few bitter espresso notes. The thickness suits the sweetness that’s here, allowing the drink to coat the inside of your mouth with cocoa goodness. It’s like a upgraded Yoo-Hoo made with actual, high-quality ingredients, with a spike of caffeine. I’m a fan.

Caramel Macchiato

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 19g (95mg/mL, or 5.61 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Water, Espresso Coffee Extract, Colombia Coffee Extract, Whole Milk Powder, Granulated Sugar, Caramel Syrup, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids

Holy cripes, this one is sweet. As one might surmise from its name, the Caramel Macchiato has a great deal of sugar, both in simple granulated form and caramel syrup. Once again, the usage of real ingredients (actual caramel instead of a corn syrup/caramel coloring blend) is apparent, improving the overall experience beyond what could have easily been a sugary mess.

The usage of real ingredients elevates the Caramel Macchiato beyond what could easily be a sugary mess.

To further this drink from Maeil’s Cappuccino, the Caramel Macchiato also has a slightly thinner consistency to it, probably due to the lower amounts of milk (powder or real) that is present. Thankfully, the beverage does still have a fair amount of coffee in it, its slightly bitter note mixing well with the smoky nut flavors from the caramel and bringing the whole drink together.

Mild Caffè Latte

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 16g (80mg/mL, or 4.73 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Water, Mocha Coffee Extract, Whole Milk Powder, Granulated Sugar, Colombia Coffee Extract, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids

I wonder who, at some point in the process of developing this series of drinks, decided that the coffee aspect of their baseline formulas were just too coffee-ish. However, the Mild Caffè Latte demonstrates the milky outcome of this mental exercise, pushing the espresso aspect of this drink out altogether in favor of a significantly lighter-tasting Mocha coffee extract. (I’m assuming that this refers to actual Mocha-variety coffee beans from Yemen, as opposed to the chocolate-laden shenanigans that we’re all used to.)

There’s an enjoyable creaminess in the Mild Caffè Latte, without much heaviness or greasy texture.

To my surprise, I actually enjoy this one far more than I thought that I would. The milky sweetness works as a drink, though not so much as an actual coffee milk beverage – there’s an enjoyable creaminess without any heaviness or greasy texture. So, while the Mild Caffè Latte comes off as just a sweet milk drink, I could definitely see myself getting this again.

Chocolate Latte

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 20g (100mg/mL, or 5.91 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Water, Granulated Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Belgian Chocolate, Cream (Milk), Skim Milk Powder, Cocoa Powder, Microcrystalline Cellulose, CMC, Guar Gum Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids, Salt.

Maeil also has few non-coffee-ish options available in their Café Latte series. Their Chocolate Latte struck me as kind of interesting because it explicitly states a high chocolate flavor, sporting “five times more chocolate that Maeil’s Café Latte Mocha Latte.” With actual chocolate mixed into the drink in addition to the cocoa powder used in the Mocha Latte, this claim is not unsubstantiated. There’s a lot of flavor in this drink, eliminating the pretense of coffee altogether and going all-in on delivering as much chocolate per volume as humanly possible.

The Chocolate Latte goes all-in on delivering as much chocolate per volume as possible.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chocolate Latte has the highest sugar content of any of the Maeil Café Latte series. Compared to the Caramel Macchiato, the Chocolate Latte’s sweetness is somewhat masked by its significantly higher viscosity. The addition of guar gum and cream adds a distinct richness, which elevates this drink beyond a standard chocolate-milk-y type of experience. Very enjoyable.

Matcha Latte

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 18g (90mg/mL, or 5.32 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Water, Granulated Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Cream (Milk), Skim Milk Powder, Green Tea Powder, Microcrystalline Cellulose, CMC, Guar Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose Ester of Fatty Acids, Vitamin C

Matcha lattes are hard enough to prepare correctly when fresh, so I approached the prepackaged version here with some trepidation. Similar to the Chocolate Latte, this drink contains a lot of milk and additives to bump up the viscosity and richness. I think that choice was a very good call, because the texture of this drink really makes it work, balancing the intense sweetness of all the added sugar with the bitter note of the matcha powder.

The Matcha Latte balances an intense sweetness with the bitter note of the matcha powder.

I do think that the level of green tea in this drink could have been bumped up in strength to make it taste less candy-like. However, the amount used here was presumably chosen with a general approachability in mind, much like the coffee-based Café Latte drinks. There’s enough tea here to get its point across, though, and it’s pleasant enough to enjoy without much thought.

Milk Tea Latte

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  • Cost: $1.69 for 200mL (0.85¢/mL)
  • Sugar Content: 18g (90mg/mL, or 5.32 teaspoons per 8oz.)
  • Ingredients: Whole Milk, Water, Granulated Sugar, Dextrin, Black Tea Extract Powder (ASSAM), Artificial Flavor, Microcrystalline Cellulose, CMC, Guar Gum, UVA Black Tea Extract Powder, Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids, Sodium Bicarbonate, Salt, Natural Flavor, Carageenan, Dextrose

The Milk Tea Latte delivers a strong punch of milky sweetness balanced by a brightness from its black tea. While the labeling proudly denotes a Sri Lankan Assam tea as its basis, the addition of bergamot flavors make it taste more like a Earl Grey than anything else. There are plenty of floral notes that come through as well, adding another level of complexity to this drink’s flavor.

The Milk Tea Latte is rich, in the best way possible.

The Milk Tea Latte is a builder’s tea, through and through. Unlike any of the other Maeil Café Latte series, this is the only drink that has milk as its primary ingredient. It’s rich in the best way possible – with all of the added milk powder and thickeners, this one manages to capture the spirit of its base drink in a far more accurate fashion than its coffee-based analogues.


After all is said and done, I have to give the Maeil Café Latte series a huge recommendation. While still not a super accurate rendition of freshly prepared espresso drinks, these provide a quick and tasty experience to get your caffeine fix. Mind that sweetness, though.

Until next time, take care! 🙂

 

Comments

  1. Reply

    I love these got them at an Asian market but it is so far from my home. Where can I buy these online ?

  2. Reply

    Hi, hello! Is there a website that I could possibly buy a package of these from?? Please let me know

  3. Reply

    I’m glad I found this blog after googling Maeil Coffee. I just had the Chocolate Latte and was extremely confused why it tasted more like chocolate milk than coffee! I’ll probably go back to my local Koreamart and pick something else more coffee like.

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