Nescafe, UCC, Oishi, and More: 7 Brands of Ready-to-Drink Cafe LattesJuly 8, 2019
So you couldn’t help but binge-watch Stranger Things last night—only to end up missing your alarm and having to run out the door with zero time to brew up a cup of coffee (let alone line up for one at the coffee shop). Enter ready-to-drink coffee drinks, which are readily available at supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide, and thus easy to stock up on or grab and go even in the most hectic of mornings. How do the different brands compare?
Note: We narrowed down our selection to Cafe Lattes (or its closest equivalent) from each brand. All drinks were sampled chilled.
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
Packaged in cans, the known coffee chain’s beverage is just mid-level sweet and not too rich, with just the right amount of coffee. The drink overall is refreshing and fairly enjoyable—if not for the odd, somewhat musty (and, as gross as it sounds, almost cockroach-y) aftertaste.
Haus Blend’s bottled version is also on the refreshing end—it’s not too sweet and only mildly rich. You get the classic instant 3-in-1 coffee taste, along with a somewhat chocolate-y note that makes for a smooth-tasting beverage.
Kopiko’s bottled version is darker in color and in flavor. It’s on the sugary side, but gives you the bold and brazen taste of coffee just barely evened out with a smidge of richness. Given the potency of the coffee and the sweetness, you’ll definitely be woken up.
Oishi Hi Coffee
Oishi’s version comes in tetra pak boxes. It has a consistency on the tongue that’s fuller and somewhat rounder or thicker (we’d chalk it up to the vegetable oil in the ingredients), which works to make it feel rich as you sip through its narrow straw. The flavor is somewhat buttery (it brings to mind coffee buns), with a peculiar rustiness to its coffee element but ending with a full-on, fatty creaminess.
Nescafe French Vanilla
Though Nescafe does not have a plain Latte variant, the closest of those available is the French Vanilla, which also comes in tetra pak boxes. With that, you definitely get a good hit of the artificial (but nostalgic) “vanilla,” similar to what you find in Coffee-Mate creamer. It’s great and creamy, reminding us of coffee ice cream, yet the sweetness is surprisingly just right.
Starbucks’ bottled version is the lightest-colored of the bunch. Similar to Kopiko, it’s on the highly sweet side. But it tastes more of dairy than coffee, the latter only mildly coming through amidst the full-on creaminess. Either way, it’s good as a dessert drink.
This Japanese cafe’s bottled version gives off a strong roasted aroma. Like Kopiko, it’s on the robust-tasting, coffee-heavy side, with just enough creaminess to round out the coffee. Unlike Kopiko however, it’s barely sweet and on the thin side—making it refreshing and easy to sip, and waking you up without bogging you down with lots of sugar.
The Verdict: UCC
With its strong coffee essence and mild sweetness, UCC’s is an immediate hit with our team—one we’d gladly chug down to wake up in the morning (or, heck, to chill out after a long day).