More than a means to power through an all-nighter, there’s much to love about coffee—even as a flavor in its own right.

Coffee-flavored or coffee-themed treats are a regular addition to many a dessert company’s roster, both for high-end establishments and commercialized, mainstream-marketed brands: local bakeshop chain GoldilocksMocha Roll is, for many Filipinos, an introduction into exploring the more “mature” treats around; home-based baker Homemade by Roshan’s Jamocha Fudge Walnut Torte is always a worthy splurge; and who can resist scoops of Filipino ice cream companies Arce Dairy or Carmen’s Best’s coffee-flavored frozen treats (Coffee Crumble and Brazilian Coffee, respectively)? At times though, you just want a small dose of sweet—during which you can count on coffee-flavored candies.

Small enough to fit into your pocket and sold practically everywhere—at sari-sari stores or on the streets to traffic-stuck commuters during the A.M. rush hour—these candies allow you to have your coffee-flavored sugar fix on the go (on the bus, while at school, you name it) for dirt-cheap (most of these go for a peso a pop at most stores but are even cheaper when bought in bulk). You’ll find different brands with different ways of interpreting a cup o’ joe in candy form—bittersweet or creamy, hard or chewy. How much coffee can they pack in a piece, and how do they compare?

W.L. Foods Sweet Dart Black Coffee

These “Black Coffee” candies boast of a “toasted coffee flavor” on the packaging. Not sure we’ve ever encountered “toasted” coffee—perhaps they meant the related but still distinct (and more apt in this context term “roasted”? Either way we can’t say they taste all that, erm, toasty, but you do get a smooth, somewhat chocolatey hit of coffee that is simple and straightforward, but does the job supremely well.

Eisbon Cafe Black

Eisbon is known for making great cola candies, and we love them, but we can’t say the same for their black coffee candies. While some coffee-like bitterness is present in each ball-shaped piece, the rest of the flavors are a little off, with an odd note that reminds us of the fake melon or banana flavoring used in street side ice scramble: bubblegum-y at best, but medicinal at worst. We appreciate the easily-chompable consistency (likely at the hard-crack stage—think of the consistency of peanut brittle or toffee) and the occasional pop of what seems to be salt granules especially when you bite and crack your way through the candy, if those are any consolation. But we found it difficult to even finish a single piece.

Kopiko Coffee Shot Classic

This Indonesian brand is popular around the world (as well as these parts), and for good reason. You get a great dose of coffee in here that is deep, dark, and robust enough in terms of intensity, but is also smooth and well-balanced that it doesn’t bite. There’s some creaminess at the finish that cradles its powerful punch just enough without holding it back from making an impact. Though the rectangular shape seems a little unusual for hard candy, its flat surface and thin body works to its advantage, making for a wider surface area that distributes more candy on the mouth at a time for a wonderfully smooth melt.

X.O. Classic Coffee Candy

Perhaps the most popular (or at least the most ubiquitous) of the bunch, X.O. comes just a notch lighter and redder in color than Kopiko. It offers coffee flavor just about as strong as Kopiko, just a little more burnt and acidic as opposed to Kopiko’s smoother blend (a member of the team compares it to the taste of Great Taste brand instant coffee, which makes sense considering both X.O. and Great Taste come from the Universal Robina brand)—and with a greater proportion of creamer to coffee.

Alpenliebe Cofitos

This German brand’s take on coffee candies takes on a similar dark reddish-brown hue as X.O. The taste is pretty similar too, with a good amount of robust coffee flavor as well as ample creaminess for balance. What sets Alpenliebe apart, however, is a greater amount of salt that helps propel the bitterness forward and balance out the sugar and the cream.

Kopiko Cappuccino

Kopiko offers a creamier take on their Classic Coffee candy with this double-sided candy—one side containing what seems to be exactly the same mix they use for the classic coffee, another side with a lighter-colored mixture likely representing the drink’s characteristic steamed milk foam top. In true Kopiko fashion, these do not disappoint in the flavor department, still delivering on a good dose of coffee but with an added creamy boost and a lovely, velvety melt.

Eisbon Cream Coffee

These “Cream Coffee” candies hail again Eisbonn company, which also produced the “Black” variant we sampled above. While their ingredient lists do differ slightly—most notably on the presence of a so-called “special cream coffee flavor” here that is not on the Black variant, among other differences—they don’t actually look or taste all that different from each other. This “Cream Coffee” variant tastes just a touch less bitter (and this is only evident when you intentionally try to spot the differences) but still offers the same easily-chompable hard-crack consistency, overwhelming artificial banana flavoring, and distinct salt granules. Which is to say—like with the Black variant—we didn’t enjoy these at all.

Caramel Fiesta Coffee

Brought to us by the same company that brought us the Ube Fiesta candies we’d tried previously, these Caramel Fiesta candies offer the same stiff consistency that can be difficult to chew but yields more taffy-like elasticity after some time in the mouth. The flavor is on the odd end of the spectrum however, the most predominant note being a mild (but fake) orange flavoring with creaminess and the slightest hint of bitterness trailing behind. Though not unpleasant enough that it’s vile (ahem, Eisbon coffee candies), we’re just not into this one.

Phisman’s Philips Coffee Caramel

Last but not the least are these Coffee Caramels which take on a decidedly old-school route on its packaging. Underneath their paper wrappers, each square piece takes on a slightly grainy consistency, somewhat similar to American penuche but chewier. Though firm at the onset they are easy to break off (or bite off) into parts and dissolves effortlessly in the mouth. You get a milky, toffee-like note that strongly reminds us of butterscotch bars made with one of those commercialized boxed mixes that heavily rely on powdered milk for flavor. We’ll be honest and say these hardly taste of coffee—whatever coffee’s in there plays more of a supporting role to deepening the toffee notes—but for what they are, we love them anyway.

The Verdict

For a simple, straightforward (albeit relatively watered-down) coffee flavor jolt, W.L. Foods has your back. Fans of a deeper coffee hit will want to get their hands on Kopiko’s Classic. For a great balance of creamy and robust, Kopiko’s Cappuccino or X.O. candies are your best bet. Not into coffee? Give Phisman’s Philips Coffee Caramels a try—it exemplifies coffee’s ability to enhance other flavors even without taking center stage. However you like your coffee-flavored treats, there’s a candy for your liking.

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