Judging Java: Coca-Cola with Coffee

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Co-News Editor

When I was a sophomore in high school, before I became chemically addicted to coffee, I would drink Coke Zero in the morning before school would start. Picture a 16-year-old in a Weezer shirt and cargo shorts at 7 o’clock in the morning on a warm fall day. A Bleachers song plays through his earbuds as he sips the sugar-free cola and thinks to himself, “this is the ideal thing to drink in the morning, and I am literally the coolest person alive for drinking it.”

Winona Ryder said in the movie Heathers, “real life sucks losers dry.” As time went on, I stopped drinking Coke Zero in the mornings, moved on to having incredibly cynical and pretentious opinions about coffee, and eventually stopped drinking soda altogether.

Last year, Coke introduced a new product called “Coke Energy.” In case the name did not make it obvious, it is an energy drink with Coca-Cola in it. I got one from the Coca-Cola store in Disney Springs when I was there with my father in February of last year. I was actually a big fan. After that weekend, as I landed back in Pittsburgh hopped up on Coke Energy, I was ready to take on the world. And then a global pandemic happened.

So here we are, almost one year later, and Coca-Cola is introducing a new, similar product; this time with coffee. And here I am, almost one year later, with a weekly column reviewing coffee. So here I am, reviewing Coca-Cola with Coffee.

Coca-Cola with Coffee comes in three flavors: Dark Blend, Caramel, and Vanilla. There are also zero sugar versions of the Dark Blend and Vanilla available, but I was unable to find the zero sugar versions. But theoretically they’re the same thing, just without sugar.

The Dark Blend is not particularly good. Every sip tastes different, with some of them tasting like Coke, others like coffee, and some completely indistinguishable. The caramel is even worse, and is borderline undrinkable in my opinion. It doesn’t even taste like caramel, it just tastes like a worse version of the dark blend.

The vanilla, however, is phenomenal. If you’ve ever watched the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film trilogy, you’ll know that the only movie in the series to ever be good is the second one, Rodrick Rules. The first movie tries too hard to directly adapt the book, while Dog Days, which attempts to capture two books (The Last Straw and Dog Days), feels overstuffed. But Rodrick Rules properly balances adapting the book with original jokes and ideas, resulting in a genuinely good movie. The vanilla is the Rodrick Rules of Coca-Cola with Coffee.

No one drinks dark roast coffee for the sugar, but people mix vanilla in their coffee for sweetness. Considering how much sugar is in a Coke, it doesn’t make much sense to me to mix dark roast coffee with it; the flavors don’t match. But vanilla blends perfectly. It’s like drinking a vanilla cappuccino with Coke syrup added. I was genuinely surprised by how good this tasted, considering how mediocre to downright awful the other ones were.

The thing that I will note is that these do not give you a traditional “coffee” boost. After drinking these, you’ll feel more like you drank an energy drink as opposed to drinking regular coffee. Because of this, I’d recommend that you stick to normal coffee to start your day, and if you’re looking for a boost later in the day, reach for either the Vanilla blend or the Coke Energy, which is still available.