San Pellegrino recently launched a new line of coffee-flavored Essenzas, hopping on the lightly-caffeinated sparkling water train that left AHA station and has been picking up passengers over the last year or two: bubly, Chirp, Nixie, Limitless, even Signature Selects have all released sparkling waters with about 30-35 milligrams of caffeine.
Not one to leave money on the table, Nestlé (yes, sadly, San Pellegrino is owned by Nestlé, as we will never tire of pointing out) also decided to take this opportunity to remind us that San Pellegrino is Very Italian, serving up three adjective-laden, Torani-inspired variations of coffee sparkling water: Exotic Vanilla, Delicious Cocoa, and Smooth Caramel.
As much as it deeply pains us to drink anything owned by Nestlé, the discontinuation of AHA’s Coffee + Cherry left a coffee-flavored hole in our heart, and we’ve been genuinely impressed with these new San Pellegrino coffees. We’ll pay for it in the upcoming water wars, we suppose.
But for now, let’s crack open this Smooth Caramel and hope the toasted sweetness soothes the pain, and the smoothness of the caramel smooths out a few wrinkles in our brains. All aboard!
The nose on this is a deeply toasted caramel, with almost a note of charcoal wafting through the rich, dark coffee background. For a sparkling water with no actual coffee, sugar or sweeteners, it’s honestly pretty astounding that it smells like this.
The first sip is actually a little lighter than the smell might suggest, the rich minerality of the San Pellegrino water balanced with a perfectly crackling Crème Brûlée crust, reminding us that there are few better things in life than cooked, delicately burnt sugar. That is how accurately the flavor sorcerers at Nestlé conjured these caramel spirits.
While caramel can go in a lot of different directions, often landing in some milky and saccharine miasma, San Pellegrino manages to capture a surprisingly sophisticated, darkly toasted, lightly buttery caramel vibe.
The coffee train, however, apparently left without us, and we’re standing on the platform with the caramelized aftertaste of confusion. Yes, the caramel is rich and “smooth”, but we were promised coffee.
There’s certainly an undercurrent, but the coffee is not super present, and it’s actually kind of hard to figure out where the caramel ends and the coffee begins.
There’s maybe a faint note of coffee in the overall aftertaste, but if this is likened to a coffee drink, it’s more akin to your first coffee drink ever: the ones loaded with so much milk, sugar and buttery toffee flavors that the coffee was merely an afterthought. Before you grew up and realized that mainlining the black stuff was where it was at.
The aftereffect is so rich, in fact, that each sip comes as a new surprise: this is a sparkling water?? You’d swear that you just had something rich and decadent in your mouth, but the actual sip is so much lighter than what your brain is convinced you just drank, the subtle Pellegrino bubbles light and refreshing, while the overall impression is milky, dessert-laden, decadent.
If we’re sticking with this caffeinated train metaphor, San Pellegrino’s car is the refined café, a bar carved from Mahogany, where you can sip a tiny espresso & contemplate the passing countryside, a respite from the loud and crazy AHA and bubly party cabooses.
Just don’t think too hard about what Nestle’s shoveling into the engine up front, though, or you’ll realize we’re going off the rails…
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay
Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of chocolates, produced by slaves
Mental wounds not healing
Life’s a sparkling shame
I’m going off the rails on a Nestlé train
I’m going off the rails on the caffeine train
Carbonated Mineral Water, Natural Flavors, Caffeine
caffeine in San Pellegrino Essenza Smooth Caramel & Coffee
Calling all Bubblenauts!
We’re trying to make this website better for bubblenauts everywhere
and would love your input.