Food & Drink

Veganuary taste test: ‘Flavour is the Costa veganism’

By Sophie Donovan
January 14 2020, 16.10

The success of the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll meant pastry was no longer off the cards for those cutting animal products out of their diet.

With the launch of a vegan ‘steak’ bake and a record number of people signing up for Veganuary last year – 250,000 worldwide – it’s time for other lunchtime providers to catch up.

Costa Coffee has done just that and as part of their limited edition January menu, which hit the stores on January 2, they’ve launched their largest vegan offering to date.

With high praise gracing social media, I tested the latest vegan offerings, and it’s fair to say that we were not fans.

Costa's Vegan Smoky Ham & CheeZe Toastie and Rocky Road
A ROCKY START: Where are the marshmallows? (Photo: SWL/Sophie Donovan)

The problem – a lack of flavour.

Options like the Vegan Smoky Ham & CheeZe Toastie and Vegan Rocky Road offer a nostalgic hit for those vegans that have been deprived of these choices when eating out, yet as a non-vegan I won’t be making the permanent switch to these meat and dairy-free options. 

Vegan Smoky Ham & CheeZe Toastie

This has been all over Twitter, and unfortunately, I’m not sure why. The CheeZe tasted a tad synthetic and was of a glue-like texture. This, coupled with the playdough aesthetic of the Quorn ham, doesn’t equate to enjoyable eating. The best part about this was the vegan bread, and that’s because it’s bread.

I’m also not sure Nicky’s recommendations would do much good – soggy bread wouldn’t exactly encourage me to avoid the classic version.

Vegan Smoky Chilli Bean & Rice Pot  

For those who like a hot offering to break up the day, this was rather tasty, as long as you’re a fan of coriander. The roasted red pepper and white rice added to the comfort-food element that’s needed in January.

However, the label (with a very subtle vegan sign, questionably placed on the back) does claim to include meat free mince, but there was little evidence of this.

Vegan Rocky Road

A decadent treat that can be hard to come by as a vegan due to the need for gelatine-free marshmallows and butter-free biscuits. While this was nice enough to eat again, there are some adjustments needed from the perspective of a cake-loving non-vegan.

Less so of a dairy-free issue, but more so one of baking. The distribution of marshmallows is uneven and so if sharing you can be left with a mouthful of biscuit and little else. Another generous helping of chocolate could also help, as there’s currently a dusty flavour that isn’t needed.

Vegan Strawberry Croissant

Missing on the official Costa Vegan menu, and maybe this isn’t a bad thing. This is not worth the calories or the effort it takes to go pick one up. The pastry is hard and heavy, resembling shortcrust rather than puff, and after 10 minutes in the open, resembles something like a toenail. The jam has a bitty consistency as if the sugar hasn’t dissolved and makes it a little too sweet to be eaten as breakfast.

Coconut Flat White

January also sees the launch of the coconut trio drinks range, including a coconut flat white, coconut vanilla latte and coconut hot chocolate. The flat white is actually something I’d order on the regular. The coconut milk is relatively sweet, and so works well for those who would add sugar or syrup to their caffeine. Compared to Pret a Manger’s coconut-rice milk flat white, Costa’s offering is a little lighter.

For those that aren’t a fan of the coconut flavour, Costa is also offering their milk alternatives free of charge for a limited period.

Costa commercial marketing director Eric Tavoukdijan said: “January has a reputation for being a dull time of year, but at Costa Coffee we believe it is an opportunity to try something new.”

A Costa Coffee spokesperson added: “We continue to provide credible choices across our menu offering and work hard to offer our customers new and innovative products, developed to appeal to customer’s dietary requirements and lifestyle choices.”

While I’ll happily enjoy a cheaper almond milk latte, I won’t be embracing Costa’s other vegan options again any time soon.

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