This story was originally posted Mar. 21, 2016 online. I rarely write reviews- or opinion that’s not for an editorial- but I’m still proud of how this one came out, even though it was more a cultural commentary than a true review. Additionally, I made the miniature comic that accompanies the story.
Let me preface this by saying that I love weird food. Cucumber-chile popsicles, chia gel drinks, turmeric detox soup–I’ll go out of my way to try something that sounds strange. Which is why I pulled into the Koffee with a Kause drive-thru the day after they announced their newest type of beverage on Instagram: a bottled and carbonated vanilla cold-brew coffee. I’m a huge fan of their mochas and their mission, so this seemed like a perfect mix.
The first taste was not what I expected. I guess I was looking for a Coca-Cola fizzy, Starbucks sweet sip. That is not what this drink is. It came across as a lukewarm house blend with some sort of texture that covered what was advertised as “vanilla.” That first sip was a shock. It probably doesn’t help that I never drink sodas, because carbonation is a pretty weird thing to get accustomed to.
I kept waiting to get used to the taste and feel of it, taking sips as I headed to school. The flavor of the coffee itself was masked by the carbonation–it could’ve been a hazelnutty blonde roast instead of a medium vanilla and I wouldn’t have known. It’s not that the drink was bad, it was just this liquid paradox; carbonated drinks are supposed to be sugary, and coffee is fundamentally bitter. I honestly cannot decide if I liked it or not. I think I did, but the whole experience was just too weird for me to make a concrete decision about. In retrospect, I should have refrigerated the drink first, but I don’t have the time or patience for that.
Walking across the field house parking lot, I suddenly became aware that the unlabeled brown glass bottle in my hand did not resemble coffee. I decided to chug it, so as to not lose the experience and let my $3 go to waste. Huge swigs actually gave me more of the vanilla taste that Instagram had advertised. That, or my taste buds were rapidly adjusting.
Regardless, I couldn’t finish the bottle. It was too much too early. I hated to waste the last few sips, but I am a mere mortal and can only do so much.
The coffee is possibly Kause’s response to the buzzing popularity of the Austin-based “micro-bubble” carbonated coffee drink, Coffer. Coffer seems to be the typical Austinite beverage, featuring a vintage-esque logo and sepia-filtered pictures of the founders on their website. However, this is Bryant, Arkansas and not Austin, Texas. They have the Longhorns, we have a lot of Little League. I’m not sure that this city is ready to evolve to the level of artisinal obscurity Austin has ascended to. Maybe we should try to mock Fayetteville first, or at least that one artsy part of Little Rock. Anything more might simply be too much for the state who, at one point, proudly claimed the Duggars as their own.
This coffee should not be regarded as a drink, but rather as a symptom of Bryant’s developing personality disorder. I mean, Austinite coffee? Independently-owned bakeries? Health food stores? Bike tours?
Are we not a good-old, Trump-voting, duck-hunting, deep red county? From where I write this, I can see a Confederate-flag clad truck parked feet from a Bernie Sanders-stickered SUV. Is this diversity or a community-wide identity crisis?
There are questions which I, unfortunately, cannot answer. What I can, and will, do instead is sit back, observe and drink whatever wacky drink this city decides to throw at me next.