Lately, I’ve found myself reinvested into YouTube star Emma Chamberlain’s life. I started watching the Gen Z icon’s content during high school, and Chamberlain’s candid humor and seemingly relatable teenage personality (despite being a millionaire celebrity) appealed to me during a time when social media stars were typically material-focused, flashy and fake.
I rediscovered Chamberlain’s YouTube channel recently and loved what her channel has grown into. Her editing style completely transformed from fast and high-energy, to meditative and thoughtfully shot, and she seems calmer while maintaining the sense of humor I love. Although some of her relatability has been lost as she’s skyrocketed into fame, watching and listening to her content still feels like being with a good friend. This led to me listening to her new podcast, Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain, and also checking out her coffee brand, Chamberlain Coffee.
I purchased the Chamberlain Coffee Variety Box online last week for $20. Shipping to my location added an extra $6 for a total cost of $26 (sigh). I opted for the Variety Box since I do not have a personal coffee maker and I wanted to try as many flavors as I could. This box included two bags of five coffee varieties for a total of 10 bags. The different blends include Early Bird, Careless Cat, Social Dog, Night Owl and Family Blend, which I will rank below.
To create this review, I followed the directions on the steeped bags to make overnight cold brew, but you can also make hot coffee. For cold brew, I steeped each bag for about 15 hours. On the morning of the taste test, I added a splash of Califia Farms’ Barista Oatmilk into each mug (shoutout to Mizzou Market Hitt Street) and opted to ditch sweeteners and syrups. In addition, I numbered the mugs from one to five and revealed the blend names afterward to avoid bias. Here are my thoughts:
1. Careless Cat Blend: 10/10
Careless Cat Blend, my personal favorite, is a medium roast with the lowest caffeine strength in the box — a 2.5/5 on the caffeine scale. This also happens to be Chamberlain’s favorite. Chamberlain Coffee describes the taste notes as “toasted almonds, semi-sweet chocolate, butterscotch candy, and raisin.” I’m not a coffee snob, so I won’t lie and tell you that I picked up on all of these flavors, because I didn’t. What I did notice, quite plainly, was a creamy almond flavor. This blend isn’t busy or too complex, which I appreciated. My cup was yummy, mellow and reliable. I actually finished the rest of this cup after writing my first review draft. Frankly, I could enjoy this blend without flavoring or sweetener, but if I had to add something, I would pair this blend with hazelnut flavoring, my personal preference. I rate Careless Cat a 10 out of 10.
2. Early Bird Blend: 8/10
Early Bird Blend comes in at number two for me. This blend is the only light roast in the Variety Box and its caffeine level is a 5/5 on the scale. I’m a light roast gal, so I expected to enjoy this blend. My cup was not heavy or overpowering and the blend was delicious. The brand describes the taste notes as “a subtle tartness of green apple & citrus, sweet caramel syrup body and a creamy milk chocolate finish.” I didn’t taste apples but I did notice some acidity and the bright caramel body. Surprisingly, I think I like this blend more than Starbucks’ Blonde Roast. For future pairings, I would add some basic vanilla creamer. I’d give this roast a strong eight out of 10, simply because the highest caffeine level isn’t healthy for my needs (unfortunately).
3. Social dog blend: 7/10
Social Dog Blend, a medium roast with a 4/5 ranking on the caffeine scale, was too bitter at first. Then, I added extra oat milk and it impressed me. This blend gives Early Bird a run for its money. Its taste description of “milk chocolate, roasted peanuts, brown sugar, & a graham cracker finish” definitely showed up as I sipped. My mug really did smell like milk chocolate-covered peanuts and the graham cracker finish is real. I think a lot of flavors would pair well with this blend, but mocha or brown sugar would probably be the most complementary. I rate this blend a seven out of 10 for its strength and taste note accuracy.
4. Original family blend: 5/10
Original Family Blend faintly reminded me of Early Bird, as both blends have fruity taste notes. This blend is a medium roast, ranks 4/5 on the caffeine scale and Chamberlain Coffee describes it as “similar to biting into a chocolate-covered cherry.” To me, Family Blend tastes like an average cup of coffee. Nothing too special or out of the ordinary. This is what you’d taste if you picked up a simple coffee at a gas station, hotel or dining hall. However, the mundaneness gives the blend its competitive edge, as Original Family Blend could pair well with any flavoring or syrup. This variety is a versatile chameleon. I rate it a five out of 10.
5. Night Owl Blend: 3/10
I don’t like dark roast, so Night Owl Blend didn’t do it for me. Night Owl is the only dark roast blend in the Variety Box and ranks 3/5 on the caffeine scale. It has taste notes of dark chocolate, honey and toasted walnuts. This description sounds scrumptious, but I found Night Owl to taste like burnt, bitter coffee beans instead. I found the smell and taste to be way too intense, despite having added the oat milk. If you enjoy dark roast, this might be your best friend and something tells me that this variety would simply taste better hot than cold. I would probably prepare this hot next time and add mocha-flavored syrup. I rank Night Owl a three out of 10.
There you go! Now, let’s break down my experiences and do a cost analysis.
Before conducting my taste test, part of me felt horrified that all of these blends would all taste the same. That would be both embarrassing and a waste of my money. However, I am proud and pleased with how this experience went. This test further proves that even if you’re not a seasoned drinker, you can notice and appreciate the nuances of different blends. I also love how this experience made my fridge smell.
As for Chamberlain Coffee, my package shipped relatively quickly with no issues, although I wish shipping was cheaper. The Variety Box was wrapped in paper and not plastic or messy styrofoam peanuts. The packaging itself is colorful and cute (hello, look at those tiny animals!).
I’ve never used steeped coffee bags before, so I initially felt skeptical about these. Through this experience, I learned that steeped bags are super easy to use, actually work and are incredibly convenient for my lifestyle. Not to mention, if you switch to steeped bags you won’t have to throw away single-use plastic cups every. single. day.
I order coffee probably three to four times each week and I typically go to the Memorial Union Starbucks, the most cost-effective location, since I use my ~free~ resident advisor meal plan. However, the long lines at Memorial Union’s Starbucks are intolerable if I’m on a tight schedule and need to leave for class. This leads me to occasionally spend money at coffee shops downtown maybe once or twice per week, or less.
My usual Starbucks cold brew costs $4.61 at the 9th Street location. Sometimes, I’ll get shaken espressos or lattes, which can cost even more. At Lakota, I order iced lattes which usually cost the same, if not more, than Starbucks. Let’s assume that I spend $5 per cup downtown, for estimation’s sake.
Hypothetically, if I were to buy coffee *strictly* at the downtown locations (not the Memorial Union) three to four times each week, I’d be spending $15-$20 on a drink every seven days. Multiply that by 16 weeks in a semester, and that’s $240-$320 spent solely on coffee. That’s equal to roughly three weeks’ worth of pay from my part-time campus job that could instead be saved, invested, put towards groceries or spent on better experiences, like dinner dates or concert tickets.
If I switch to Chamberlain Coffee bags, I only pay $2.60 per cup (with a couple of cents added for creamer and flavors). Instead, I’d only spend $125-$166 on coffee in a semester. While still a seemingly high cost, this is a significantly lower price difference. What’s more, if you “subscribe” to Chamberlain Coffee, you’re given free shipping, discounts and can choose how often you receive shipments, which could range from every 14 to 60 days. This subscription system “was voted by the New York Post as one of the 10 best coffee subscription services,” according to Chamberlain Coffee.
Preparing and taste-testing Chamberlain Coffee was a fun activity to start my week! Careless Cat, Early Bird and Social Dogs Blends were really enjoyable for me and I can see this possibly being a treat to buy myself once in a while. The Memorial Union Starbucks will remain my go-to this year because of convenience and cost. Depending on your budget, what your expectations are and how often you drink coffee, subscribing could be right for you. Subscribing and reaping the benefits of Chamberlain Coffee’s discounts could potentially protect your wallet from downtown coffee shops’ prices. But again, it’s all about what you value. If you value going out, supporting local businesses often or having your coffee made for you, this is likely not your brand.
Overall, Chamberlain Coffee’s quality is top-notch, as it offers a variety of blends and is comparable to what you’ll find at the downtown coffee shops for half the price or less. If you’re interested, I’d highly recommend ordering the Variety Box to see what you like. It’s also worth noting that Chamberlain Coffee has also released a couple of new blends that aren’t offered in this box, including decaf, holiday and a new light roast for spring. This brand also offers accessories like mugs and reusable straws in addition to hot chocolate and matcha powder.