Flavored coffee creamers get a bad rap because they are gross. People think that just because they’re bad, they can’t be good. This is incorrect.
The novelty creamer is the iced coffee of cold-weather months: a seasonally appropriate abomination for the unsettled. The one discrepancy between iced coffee and coffee with a novelty creamer is that coffee with a novelty creamer actually tastes good. “Pumpkin spice” gets a lot of attention for being a flavor disliked by puritanical whiners during this time, yes, but the world of flavored coffee creamer is much larger than that. Cinnamon roll and candy cane-like flavors invite us to get out of bed in the cold darkness; they envelop our hearts in their caloric creaminess and say, It will be okay (artificially).
It’s not my job to convert the coffee drinkers who have shut their minds to cognitive dissonance of the delightfully disgusting flavored coffee creamer. They are religious in their devotion to the bitter grounds their father drank, and that’s for them to sort out. It is instead my job to survey the fall and winter 2022 market of unusually flavored coffee creamers and report my findings.
My first stop was of course International Delight, a stand-out in the world of coffee creamers that make you think, “Why would anyone want that.” Alas, they did not respond to any of my requests for free International Delights. And upon searching for the more creative International Delight flavors (Cocoa Pebbles, Willy Wonka, French Toast Swirl, Cinnabon, Coldstone Creamery, Almond Joy) at my local grocery store and then also the far-away grocery store, I was left empty-handed. Do they even actually make these flavors? It seems like no. A scam. To rebel against them, and because I prefer the more ethical oat milk anyway, I narrowed my scope to fancifully flavored nut milks (from companies that would send me milks for free). Let’s see how they fared.
Nutpods: “Toasted Marshmallow”
Toasted marshmallow — can you conceive of a better flavor to combine with your pre-ground grocery store coffee that you make with one eye open at 6 a.m., knowing the sun won’t rise for at least another hour? I can’t. This version is made with a blend of coconut and almond milks and boasts zero grams of sugar. The problem with zero grams of sugar, though, is that then you need to add sugar. Without it, this blend tastes a little like toasted marshmallow, but mostly like when you accidentally grab a flavored to-go coffee from the gas station when you meant to grab a regular coffee and don’t notice until you get to the car, and then you take a sip and you think, oh god, this is like … hazelnut or something.
With sugar, though, it tastes like a better version of that. And a little bit more like toasted marshmallow. I love it. Five stars.
Planet Oat: “Coffee Cake”
Coffee and coffee cake combined into one drinkable beverage? Why, I feel like I’m living in the Jetsons! But this isn’t a cartoon, my friend — it’s reality, if your grocery store stocks the Planet Oat flavor “Coffee Cake,” which I’m not sure if it does. Is the flavor good? Well … how do you feel about a flavor that isn’t necessarily reminiscent of coffee cake, but is sweet in a way you can’t necessarily place, either due to your poorly developed palate or due to the failings of the creamer? If that sounds good to you, which it should, I think you’re in for a treat. It ain’t bitter, my friend, and it has a taste. I love it. Five stars.
Califia Farms: “Cookie Butter”
I didn’t know about cookie butter, a spreadable peanut butter-like product (but cookie), until I was introduced to the beloved Trader Joe’s version in my late 20s. I hated it instantly and never looked back. Little did I know the correct way to consume cookie butter was not on a solid (disgusting) but in a liquid (coffee). I love this creamer. It’s perfect. Creamy, butter cookie-y, reminiscent of a warm memory even though I have never tasted it before in my life. Cookie butter is not necessarily a holiday flavor, I don’t think, but here it gives off a holiday taste. Can’t ask for anything more from a novelty creamer. I love it. Five stars.
Nutpods: “Cinnamon Swirl”
This Nutpod is called “Cinnamon Swirl,” but its container depicts an unfrosted cinnamon roll. Are unfrosted cinnamon rolls called “cinnamon swirls”? It’s not for us to know. Like “Toasted Marshmallow” this Nutpod has zero grams of sugar, and — for those of us who do not seek out almost Catholic-like punishment in every corner of our lives — requires adding sugar. Once the correct sugar level has been reached, the creamer blend is basically a delight. Its coconut milk adds a light coconutty taste, but not in a bad way. It otherwise tastes like cinnamon and bread. It makes the drinker wonder: do I actually like the experience of drinking cinnamon and bread? The answer is not really, but also yeah, sort of. I love it. Five stars.
Chobani Oat: “Gingerbread”
The flavors of Christmastime, joining us here in early October like the Amazon commercial I keep seeing about “Prime Day” Christmas decoration deals. It’s not right, but it’s okay — we’re gonna drink it anyway. Gin-ger-bread. Christ-mas-eve. You’ll never be alone when you have Steve (the gingerbread man’s name).
Back to our review of the cream. Gingerbread, like cinnamon roll, is not necessarily a flavor I want to drink (and this creamer does certainly achieve the flavor of gingerbread). But as we know this isn’t necessarily about things that are enjoyable. This is about gross things that are good. This is about yucky things that we love and enjoy even if we don’t necessarily enjoy them or even like them. And this is certainly that. I love it. Five stars.
Califia Farms: “Cinnamon Roll”
Califia Farms is not afraid to tell it like it is. Their “cinnamon roll” flavor is presented unveiled and without apprehension, unlike the Nutpod “Cinnamon Swirl” flavor you might remember from earlier. Not that we would ever pit them against each other — each flavor is our friend. But it would be incorrect not to note that the boldness Califia Farms brings to the naming of its cinnamon roll-flavored coffee creamer (“Cinnamon Roll”) matches the boldness it brings to the flavor of its cinnamon roll-flavored coffee creamer (cinnamon roll). You can taste the bread and the cinnamon very much. It makes you think, even more than you did with the Nutpods creamer, “hm … do I want to drink bread and cinnamon?” And even more than with the Nutpods creamer, the answer is no. But also, sure. I love it. Five stars.
Chobani Oat: “Pumpkin Spice”
She’s the king for a reason. Five stars.
Califia Farms: “Peppermint Mocha”
Yes. Yes. YES. Give me nothing but “Peppermint Mocha” from Thanksgiving until Jan. 10. I fuckin love this for real. Great taste. Peppermint. Chocolate. Coffee (sort of). Yes. It’s so goddamn good. I love it. A hundred stars. A thousand stars. A MILLION stars (five stars).
Chobani Oat: “Caramel Macchiato”
“YOU LIKE THIS?” my boyfriend asked after taste-testing my caramel coffee. And no, I don’t. I’m just trying it for work. It’s obviously disgusting, like drinking poison. It is so sweet and so bitter at once that it makes me physically ill. I hate it and cannot fathom a brain that would perceive this as an enjoyable gustatory experience. I cannot imagine a being of the same species could experience this taste in a pleasurable way. I never want to taste it again in my life. I never even want to smell it. It’s horrifying. I love it. Five stars.