by Dana Caputo

Summer is upon us and you know what that means-an abundance of iced and blended drink options to choose from. Today's coffee retailers are getting more creative with flavors and adding new beverage selections to their menus every day. Here are a few of the drinks you can expect to see at your local retailers this summer.

Blended Ice coffees
Americans have always been passionate about their coffee drinks. Coffee and gourmet beverages have become a part of our daily routine and are a major reason why people gather and socialize at local coffee shops. And there is no better way to enjoy a hot summer evening with friends than by drinking a blended ice coffee at an outdoor café.

Blended ice coffees are cooling and will satisfy your craving for a rich, dessert-like drink. Depending on what style of drink you are in the mood for, there are various ways to prepare these flavorful concoctions. If you want a strong flavor profile, order a blended ice coffee drink made from a cold toddy base or one prepared with a shot of espresso. If you are looking for a beverage with a milkshake-type consistency, rich in flavor and the taste of coffee, order a drink made from a mix that uses coffee as its base. To make these drinks at home, simply add milk and water to a mix you purchase from your local retailer. For a stronger coffee profile, add more coffee!

Blended ice drinks are a great summer drink, and the flavor choices are endless: Toffee, White Chocolate, Coconut Mocha, Vanilla Latte, to name a few. If you want to explore Italian syrups, the flavors are even more exotic. How about Orange Swiss Mocha or a Raspberry White Chocolate swirl? Ask your retailer what mixes she offers and take one home. Experiment with fresh fruit. Nothing beats a fresh chocolate and strawberry coffee drink. Are you really daring? Try a shot of Kahlua and vodka with a mocha coffee drink. Warning: These drinks can be habit forming!

Smoothies are prepared in a variety of ways. They can be made with fresh or frozen fruit, sherbets or sorbets, liquid concentrate mixes or even vanilla-based powders. All are prepared fresh to order, but with all the choices available, you can receive a drink at one retail location that tastes one way, and order the same drink at another location that will have a completely different flavor profile. The only way to know what you are drinking is to ask your retailer. Once you know the type of smoothie you prefer, you can ask the cashier when you order what ingredients this particular establishment uses to concoct these refreshing drinks. Some new flavors to look out for this summer include: Tangerine, Green Apple, and Passion Fruit. One of my personal favorites is a drink made by blending fresh summer fruit, a vanilla base, milk and ice-Viola! A healthy and delicious drink!

Bubble Teas
Bubble Teas are a hot item on the smoothie and coffee bar scene this season. If you really like to experiment with taste and texture, this may be the choice for you. Bubble Teas are becoming increasingly popular with coffeehouse patrons. Bubble Tea-aka Boba Tea-is a combination of tea, fruit and milk. Tapioca balls are also added to the drinks. These delicate, chewy balls add a new dimension to a blended drink. If you want outrageous flavor, slurp on Honey Dew, Taro Root, Star Fruit or Tangerine Green Tea. Wow! There are two options to prepare these new creations. You can brew your own tea, then add milk and fruit, or simply add water or milk to a powdered mixture. Add tapioca balls to either for a splash of fun, and get ready to enjoy a new taste experience.

Whatever your beverage choice may be, make your experience as tantalizing as you can. Sit back, relax and enjoy summer while you refresh yourself with a blended drink. Don't forget to let the wind blow through your hair!

Dana Caputo has worked as a national sales manager in the specialty coffee industry since 1996, primarily in the frozen beverage market.


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