Slurpy Joes

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Hi, my name is G.A.B. and I'm a coffee-holic. Yeah, I'm undeniably hooked on jumpin' joe, go-go juice, liquid black beauty. You see, every day I've gotta feed a seven-cup-minimum, King-Kong-sized monkey jonesing on my back, and he loves tugging on my ear while whispering confidentially, "You look beat, G.A., I think you need another."

But last week, feeling unusually parched and fatigued at the dusty tail end of a poorly conceived five-mile urban trudge in 90-degree heat, a steaming hot cup of energy just didn't seem like a tidy fit. What I needed was something extra refreshing, but with that enlivening kick.

Just then I saw a smiling kid exiting a fast-fooder and cradling a double-fisted load of one of those frozen mocha concoctions so damn popular these days. Man did that jumbo java jubilee look uplifting, and clearly the kid was "loving it."

Prior to this episode, when it was real hot out, I preferred to just sip on plain old iced coffee without all the fuss. But suddenly I craved the mathematical appeal of this current craze: coffee + icy + chocolate = sweet treat + giddyup-and-go.

Therefore I decided to kill a sluggish afternoon (one in which I later cleaned my house and yard, began an epic novel and then performed scores of jumping jacks while furiously screaming out the Ohio State fight song) by sucking back five of those ubiquitous beverages.

In the end, while I found some of their easy-to-sip packages delivered the somewhat paradoxical cool-me-down and pick-me-up, when subsequent research revealed the truly alarming caloric toll they were charging, I reasoned it was just too much. In other words, I'll stay stuck on just coffee, and pass on the sugar, fat and high cost.

Here's some specifics. Note that for this test I tried to order the most similar-sounding products possible. Prices listed are for a "medium"-sized drink, and no special requests were made.

Caribou Chocolate Cooler $4.15 (20 ounces)

4/5 stars

Full-on, dark-roasted coffee flavor well balanced by chocolaty sweetness and dairy. Best blend of this bunch. Medium-thin texture, yet creamy.

Calories: 560

Number of jumping jacks necessary to work off: 3,516

Panera Frozen Mocha $3.69 (16 ounces)

3/5 stars

Pleasant, yet closer to a chocolate milkshake than a coffee drink. Caramelly, milky and smoothly blended. While I liked it, the coffee took a back seat to dairy and chocolate.

Calories: 550

Number of jumping jacks necessary to work off: 3,456

Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino $4 (16 ounces)

3/5 stars

First taste was of chocolate, then Starbucks' characteristic very-dark-roasted coffee brought on a lingering java finish. Creamy and thick as a shake.

Calories: 380

Number of jumping jacks necessary to work off: 2,387

McDonald's Iced Mocha $2.79 (12.4 oz)

2.5/5 stars

I tried this twice because the first time it was wholly repellent. When made "correctly," it was watery-thin and sweet, with big chunks of floating ice. It had a surprisingly aggressive coffee profile (tasting of beans both raw and cooked), yet a negligible chocolate presence.

Calories: 310

Number of jumping jacks necessary to work off: 1,950

Tim Horton's Iced Cappuccino $2.69 (16 oz)

1/5 stars

Very sweet, tasting of pancake syrup, with a minimal coffee aftertaste. Thinnish with chunks of ice, and milky only in a non-dairy creamer sort of way.

Calories: 400

Number of jumping jacks necessary to work off: 2,514