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Coffee shops roll out holiday-inspired drinks

The roll-out of candy and dessert-inspired drinks has become an annual tradition at area coffee shops during the holidays.

But are these decadent drinks worth the price, and do they actually taste as good as they sound?

My friends and I have been sampling a spectrum of drinks to find out.

Mellelo Coffee Roasters, which has several locations in the Rogue Valley, has a full roster of seasonal drinks, including eggnog, butter pecan caramel, salted caramel and white peppermint lattes and mochas.

A barista at the coffee shop's downtown Medford location said they make the eggnog latte with Umpqua's eggnog mix. The drink was proving too rich and thick for customers' tastes at first. Baristas now thin the eggnog latte with milk, he says.

I ordered a medium-sized eggnog latte ($3.85) and sprinkled on cinnamon and nutmeg. The drink had a traditional eggnog flavor that brought back childhood memories.

The addition of espresso to the eggnog gives the drink an adult kick. If I ordered it in the future, I might ask for less espresso to better taste the eggnog flavor.

Dutch Bros. also has a full range of holiday drinks at its ubiquitous coffee stands. I tried a peppermint mocha, which a barista topped with candy cane sprinkles. The large size was $4.50.

The sprinkles gave it a fresh, minty aroma and the mocha did indeed have a flavor of peppermint candy canes.

Dutch Bros. hot chocolate — available year round — reminded me of the hot chocolate my mom used to make on the stove using milk and cocoa. Dutch Bros. starts with chocolate milk for its hot chocolates and mochas, which leads to a better mixing of the milk and chocolate. A medium-sized drink is $3.

At Starbucks, prices for holiday drinks run from $3.95 for a small up to $4.95 for a large.

A friend tried out a pumpkin spice latte and described it as "uncannily like a pumpkin pie."

He said he could feel the cinnamon and nutmeg spices in his mouth. The drink was rather rich, and best enjoyed in small sizes.

Another friend tried out a caramel brulee latte, which she described as deliciously rich and creamy. However, the flavoring was too sugary, without enough caramel taste.

I sipped a Starbucks' gingerbread latte, which was simply undrinkable because of its bitter, chemical flavor. It was like trying to drink a melted scented candle.

The chestnut praline latte was much better, with a sweet, nutty flavor that reminded me of praline ice cream.

Vickie Aldous

Rich and thick eggnog lattes are available through the holidays at Mellelo Coffee Roasters. Mail Tribune/Vickie Aldous