We tried Pepsi Café, which will get a limited run next year.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
Updated December 13, 2019
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Choosing the right afternoon pick-me-up can be hard. You can pour a cup of coffee, or opt for soft drinks or one of the many brands of so-called energy drinks that have popped up in the past couple decades. If you're indecisive, or just looking to try something new, Pepsi's coffee-infused soda may be what you've been waiting for

The Pepsi Café line comes in two flavors—Original and Vanilla—and gets its coffee flavor from arabica bean extract. It's not meant to taste like coffee fully, but rather a mashup of coffee and Pepsi, meaning it's, yes, a carbonated beverage intended to be served cold. (Considering that Starbucks admits over half of its sales are cold beverages, it's sure to pique the interest of some cold brew fans.) As for a caffeine kick, Pepsi Café sports about twice the amount you'd find in a 12-ounce can or bottle of regular soda (which is 37.6 mg), and with a typical eight-ounce cup of coffee coming in at 95 mg, the new product land somewhere in between.

So how does it taste? I was invited to try both flavors in advance of the announcement and found the product certainly delivered on the coffee-meets-cola concept. Coffee is very present on the nose (probably helped by the carbonation bubbles popping up in the glass). The Original flavor has a pleasant coffee aftertaste, more so than the Vanilla which came off as a more complex cream soda (or Pepsi Vanilla, perhaps). If you're used to taking milk in your coffee, this probably isn't a drink that requires you to port that practice over—the sweetness and caramel notes of the cola round out the palate so it's a pleasant reminder of coffee but not akin to drinking black cold brew.

Pepsi

It's an intriguing combination that will be interesting to see in the hands of American consumers who have thus far kept their coffees and colas separate, which may be why Pepsi is rolling it out in April of 2020 for a limited time (which I'm told is about eight weeks).

This isn't Pepsi's first foray in coffee-related colas, either. You may or may not remember a product launched in 1996 called Pepsi Kona, or another in the early 2000s called Pepsiccino. Pepsi's team said that having some prior experience in the category as well following the evolution of consumer tastes has positioned Pepsi Café to meet the market for energy-boosting beverages where it's currently at.

However, Pepsi will have some competition in the name-brand energy cola category soon as earlier this year Coca-Cola announced Coca-Cola Energy would be making its stateside debut in 2020 as well, and it also has a coffee cola in some international markets.

But Pepsi has more than a few innovations up its sleeve. Around the Super Bowl this past January, the brand debuted Pepsi Nitro, the first cola to use nitrogen gas (commonly found in dark beers and cold brew) for "carbonation," creating a cola with the same cascading bubbles seen most famously in Guinness. And just last month, Pepsi released another new creation: Pepsi Sparkling Rosé. The non-alcoholic pink drink was released in wine bottles around BravoCon with the help of Lisa Vanderpump. While no plans have been announced for a wider release, Pepsi says it's not off the table.

With Pepsi Café and PBR's hard coffee, it sounds like you'll soon have both your afternoon and evening coffee needs covered.