Earlier this summer, 7-Eleven introduced their own cold-brewed iced coffee beverage and priced it at the aggressive price point of 99¢, plus tax. (This is an introductory price, and it will cost $1.69 when the promotion ends.) If you take the long-view, it shows how far cold-brew has come since it was appropriated by third-wave coffee shops to create a sweeter, less acidic iced beverage. Cold brew is now literally as ubiquitous as a Slupree.
I ordered a 7-Eleven Cold Brew last week at the Greenwich Village location, on West 3rd Street, and sipped it as I walked to Washington Square Park. In my mind, there was a poetic irony of having a mass-marketed beverage at a neighborhood associated with bohemian coffeehouse culture. However, I then noted that the coffee at those places wasn’t particularly very good and that the bohemian days were over a half-century ago.
The beverage itself comes in two variations: one black and one mixed with some type of milky, fatty liquid. I pour the black cold brew into a cup of ice, paid my $1.08 using Apple Pay and headed out towards Washington Square Park in the blistering 90°F heat.
My initial reaction to the beverage was the smell. Unlike what craft, third-wave coffee roasters use, 7-Eleven appears to be using a dark-roast coffee. I could smell the roast, and it was as strong and off-putting as opening a can of Maxwell House. I didn’t grab a lid or a straw—because I’m not an Earth-Killing, Straw-Sipping Monster—and drank it straight from the cup. However, I wanted to know what the coffee tasted like without the smell, so I held my breathe as I took a sip of the coffee. The result wasn’t too bad. There was some light chocolate flavor, but it lacked any real tartness—no cherry flavors—that good coffees, in my opinion, balance between those flavors. It was reasonably pleasant, although a bit overly bold, as it they were really trying to extract coffee flavor out of their coffee ground. It’s not traditional iced coffee, but it’s not especially Good Coffee, either.
I’m not going to bemoan this as a sign of the death of cold brew or Good Coffee or as some wide-ranging cultural landmark. This is unlikely to get a critical mass of coffee drinkers who pay $4 for a cold brew coffee from a tattooed barista to switch to getting one at 7-Eleven. The beverage available at 7-Eleven is different product than what is available at the local coffee roaster, but it’s nice to offer not-too-fussy coffee drinkers another option.
As I’ve said before, it’s worth overpaying for coffee.