Thursday, 21 November 2013

Review Of The 'Healthier' Festive Drinks Available On The High Street & A Homemade Alternative!

Hi Foodies!

So, with December right around the corner that time of year has come where all the high street coffee shops are parading their fancy festive drinks :) (warning - this is a wordy post!)

I don't know about you but all I heard about in October & November was the joy of a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Instagram people I blame you!) and now I can't seem to wander through town without being bombarded by colourful adverts brandishing pictures of massive, creamy festive beverages. 

I think places like Starbucks have been very clever in their advertising over the years, now people seem to somehow equate welcoming the famous 'red cups' from Starbucks as some kind of exciting sign we can now appreciate a different season by spending £3 everyday while brandishing an infamous red cup in a Facebook photo....
Now do not get me wrong as I am aware I sound a bit bitter here - I do enjoy a Starbucks but I have to be honest when I say I just like coffee. Just coffee. These days though coffee shops like to make out this is not 'exciting' enough though and seem a little disappointed when all you ask for is a 'small filter please'! So- I decided to see what this festive drink hype was all about!

From peppermint mochas to cinnamon frappacinos  - I can't say I have been tempted by many offerings in my local chains at all. However maybe I am a little bit of a coffee purist (just a splash of milk please) so I wanted to see what I was missing out on by exploring what the high street had to offer & see what I was missing out on.

Now, let's get one thing straight, NONE of these below drinks are 'healthy'. They are all loaded with sugar, fat and in many cases dairy so what I mean in the title of this post is that I counted essentially just calories. Normally I would not advocate calorie counting but I think when it comes to treating yourself to something that is obviously 'naughty' it does pay to be aware of calories as clearly there are no other health benefits to be gained from these drinks other than keeping calories as low as possible. 

I hope this helps anyone out there wanting a festive treat but not wanting to have a bucket of milk and cream- I have taken into consideration calories and price here (yes I asked for the lightest option in each cafe - I was THAT girl!) so you don't have to! Obviously these are chains available in the UK so I am not sure how helpful it will be for other places apart from Starbucks and possibly Costa. You will also notice I got a take out option most of the times as I was on the way to my University library. Good excuse for some extra caffeine - to help me study!!

1) Starbuck's - Nonfat Gingerbread Latte

OK- so clearly the first place I had to try out was the King of festive drinks right? 

I asked the server for the lightest option that was in their Christmas range and she suggested a latte (small) made with skimmed milk and gingerbread latte syrup. I must say they are always pretty helpful & accommodating I find in Starbucks to help you make the best choice. 

Nonfat Gingerbread Latte Stats:
150 calories (no cream, non fat, small)

First of all - in my opinion I would not like to be dropping over £3 on a drink that often... seems a little pricey to me. But saying that this drink was gorgeous!! It was gloriously warm with a comforting sweet (but not sickly) flavour of cinnamon and nutmeg. I was dreading an overly sweet drink but this was perfect for me and really tasted like Christmas in a mug! Being mostly milk - this really filled me up too - meaning I was not craving a sweet something afterwards. 
This was really, really lovely and while I would not be buying this often due to the price I felt for the calories (150 compared to 410 in a pumpkin spice latte) you did not feel in anyway you were having a 'lesser' option or anything less festive. 

4/5 festive points from me! (dock in points for: expensive, no sugar free syrup option here in this flavour)

2) Costa Coffee - Apple Spiced Drink

The next largest chain in the UK is Costa Coffee who seem to be doing quite a good job in competing with Starbucks in terms of festive selection and advertising. The new take out cups are pretty adorable but will they compete with the big reds?!

I went for their lightest option - The Hot Spiced Apple - something I had heard great things about (for example here ) from other reviewers. To be honest I am not a fan of Costa - I find their coffee lacking - an to be honest I was kind of dreading this drink as I was pretty sure it was not going to be my thing...

Hot Spiced Apple Stats:
130 calories (smallest size)

OK for me this drink was pretty hideous. That may sound harsh but it literally tasted like sugar and syrup melted into hot water (which is basically what it is) with a cinnamon stick and star anise chucked on top in order to make it a little more presentable. 

Maybe I have tastebuds which do not appreciate overly sugary things but this was like medicine for me- so much so I could not drink 80% of it. The way I would describe it is 'shrill' - it was not a calming drink and was so, so, so sickly I could feel my heart rate rise as I drank the little I did. 

However I think I am in the minority with this one - I checked out other reviews online and on twitter etc and nearly all were positive. All I can think to explain my STRONG reaction is that because I do not eat too much sugar generally- my tastebuds are more sensitive to such sickly drinks - so maybe don't take my word as red and try it yourself. The calories are fairly low for a festive drink, but considering these calories are coming purely from sugar and not even any milk - you are getting NO benefit from this at all. 

But, like I say, I am in the minority here it seems so if you fancy the lowest calorie drink in Costa and fancy something sweet (!) perhaps consider this one!

1/5 Festive Points from me...sorry Costa!

3) Cafe Nero's Nonfat Chai Latte

When I asked the server what festive drink she would recommend she suggested the skinny latte (I suppose in any cafe a skinny latte with a syrup any time of the year is a nice way to have a warming sweet coffee with slightly fewer calories) with the chai spice.

Nonfat Chai Latte
230 calories (!!!!) they only do one size for this and it is fairly large

OK, so first of all this is clearly NOT a low calories option.And if this is Nero's lowest option... I am not too impressed.

Nero's do not clearly display calorific information as Costa or Starbucks do so I had to research this myself & was shocked to find the amount being nearly 250 for a drink they said was their LOWEST festive themed drink. 

Like I said in the intro, I do not recommend calorie counting at all, but I am always aware in the back of mind the calories I am consuming and what can I say, I would much rather have an awesome afternoon snack for this amount of calories than just a quick drink.

Anyway, moving on to the taste. This did taste really nice. Like the Starbucks latte I enjoyed the gentle flavour and warm milk (could have been a tad hotter) which did again taste very Christmassy. I didnt like the fact you HAD to have their size, no option for a small, so I did feel towards the end I was chugging down a vast quantity of dairy. But hey, this is a good drink but shame about the calories and it is getting up their on the price.

3/5 Festive Points from me....(only 1 size and pretty calorific for a 'lighter' option)

Clearly you can spend:
A) a lot of money (price of the week's 3 drinks = £8.30!) 
B) a lot of time queuing!
C) A lot of your calories on these popular festive drinks. 

And hey, if that's your thing and you can afford to do that go ahead.

I was not impressed with my high street's options and will be sticking to my regular filter from now on - I know it is boring but I enjoy it and I drink coffee a lot, so do not wanting to be spending double my regular price most days. If I was to choose one of these drinks again I would pick the Starbucks latte again and again - this is a lovely drink!

For anyone preferring a lighter, cheaper and quick option to make at home - here you go! This is what I make at home for a very similar tasting drink to the Starbucks gingerbread latte I enjoyed.

 This is a quick and simple alternative which taste minutes!

Georgia's Home Made Cinnamon Spice Latte!

100 calories 
(After buying the ingedients of course which cost around £2.50 in total which is the price of one high street festive drink!)

Ingredients for 1 large cup:

Simply place the milk and dry ingredients in a pan and gently heat for 5 minutes. Then add the brewed coffee and leave again heating through gently for another minute or 2. When the drink has reached the temperature you prefer - it is done! The milk and coffee should be buetifully blended and infused with the gorgeous Christmassy flavours. Strain the liquid, pour into a cup and sprinkle with some extra cinnamon.

I LOVE this drink - I enjoyed it this lazy Sunday with a plate of cocoa protein pancakes and it went down a treat.

4/5 festive points from me 
(because let's face it, it is fun to go out and have a fancy drink now and then!)

So there we go! For me, Starbucks did indeed have the best option for a lighter festive beverage but I still believe most are really quite overrated :)

I think it is great to go out and enjoy a treat now and then but just not every day, my waist line or purse could not handle it! 
So, on the days you are saving yourself but fancy something a little festive why not try out my lighter and cheaper home alternative!

P.S Well done if you read all that - my wordiest post ever!


  1. I will try the nonfat gingerbread. I usually get a skinny vanilla or egg nog during the holidays.

  2. The non fat gingerbread is so tasty! I love starbucks and the "skinny" menu because the calorie count is much more reasonable!
    Your recipe sounds very tasty and healthy too!!


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