The Scoop: On Coffee Ice Cream

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

To me there are all other ice creams, and then, there's coffee ice cream.

I was one of those weird kids who loved the taste of coffee at a young age. Well, I suppose I should back up. Coffee snobs, cover your ears. My early experiences with coffee were Maxwell House's powdered beverage Café Vienna. Basically it tastes like coffee with cinnamon and melted vanilla ice cream mixed in. Of course I was only allowed a sip, which was torture. Then came the answer to all my problems: Coffee Ice Cream. I can't remember the first time I had it, but I have been confidently calling it my favorite flavor since childhood.

There's something about coffee ice cream that deepens and lingers on the tongue far longer than the average flavor. Before I knew the meaning of the (overused) phrase, my 10-year-old mind thought, "Wow, this has complex flavors". To me, one of the most defining images of my childhood is my young self, creeping into the dark kitchen for one spoonful of Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream before bed. Because Häagen-Dazs stays so hard, you basically have to chip it out of the container, something which makes some people crazy but I actually love. It works especially well with coffee because you get to keep the semi-hard nugget of ice cream in your mouth for a while until it dissolves, letting the coffee flavor expand and deepen. I'm going to stop talking now before this starts getting really weird.

Though I grew up on Häagen-Dazs, I naively thought all coffee ice creams were created equal. Then after 2 or 3 mistakes of the "cappuccino swirl" variety at unfamiliar scoop shops, I realized this wonderful flavor could go horribly wrong. When coffee ice cream is bad, it's REALLY bad. I can forgive mediocre Cookie Dough or Cookies and Cream, but sub-par coffee ice cream is unforgivable. It's characterized by a variety of that weird, chemically, coffee-creamery flavor. I do have other coffee ice creams that I like: I'm a fan of a Dairy Queen Coffee Health Blizzard, and of course HD's Java Chip. I love Jeni's Black Coffee and more recently, Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino. But for me, nothing compares to the dense, milky, deliriously rich Häagen-Dazs plain Coffee Ice Cream.

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