Vanilla coffee can either refer to coffee beans roasted with vanilla oils or leaves, or it may refer to pre-made coffee mixed with vanilla flavoring. Many vanilla coffee additives are not made from real vanilla, so consumers should read labels carefully. Coffee beans may be roasted directly with the flavoring, or the oils or leaves can be added later. Many coffee roasters try various combinations to create unique types of vanilla coffee that is made specifically for their brand.
There are various combinations of coffee and vanilla flavorings which may be considered vanilla coffee. The most authentic form involves adding real oil of vanilla or dried vanilla directly to roasted coffee beans. When oils are added, the beans themselves have a hint of vanilla flavoring on them which enhances the taste of the coffee. If leaves are used, they are often strained right along with ground coffee beans and the flavors combine during the brewing process. This method is generally less common since it can be more expensive.
Many coffee companies sell pre-made vanilla coffee in commercial stores or in their own coffee houses. Other versions of vanilla coffee involve adding flavors to ready made coffee after it has been brewed. This can include commercial coffee creamers and other authentic versions of vanilla flavoring.
Vanilla extract in its pure form is often a good additive for coffee, as it adds a hint of flavor. Extracts do not contain the sugar most people relate to most vanilla flavored items, however, so additional sweeteners should usually be added. Coffee creamers are also available, although these generally do not use real vanilla as flavoring. Additional sources of flavoring for coffee include flavored sweeteners, whipped topping, and even vanilla pudding. Sometimes chai vanilla tea is also added to espresso and milk to create a chai latte.
Most forms of vanilla coffee do not use the real oils or plant because it is much more expensive than artificial versions. These artificial varieties typically taste similar to the real thing, but they do not complement the flavor of coffee in exactly the same way as a vanilla roasted coffee would provide. Gourmet coffees and higher end coffee houses often create their own unique vanilla coffee recipes to provide a unique taste experience for their trademark brands. Pre-flavored coffee can also be purchased in most major supermarkets, although consumers may have to check ingredients carefully to determine if real vanilla was used in their production.