K-Cup Flavored CofeeCredit: sxc.huWhile many coffee drinkers scoff at the idea of adding flavor to a cup of their wake-up beverage, many others have developed a taste for more than just plain old brew.  Whether it's a love of a specific flavor, a search for variety, or a momentary craving, those of us looking for a little seasoning in our java have many options to choose from.

There are three primary sources of coffee flavorings for the average consumer who isn't obsessed enough to roast their own beans: flavored creamers, flavored syrups, and flavored beans. 

Creamer-y Goodness

Flavored Coffee CreamersCredit: http://www.internationaldelight.com/Classic-FlavorsFor convenience and availability ,it's hard to beat the simple solution offered by flavored creamer products:  bottles of them are most likely available from the refrigerated section of your local grocery store from companies like Coffee-Mate and International Delight.  They can be bought in single-serve packs as flavored half-and-half, or even in powdered non-dairy form, though these are less likely to be found at a neighborhood grocer.  There are even a few varieties available in sugar-free form.

There are disadvantages to coupling cream with flavor, though.  What if you want less cream and more flavor?  What if you prefer milk or heavy cream?  What if you're one of those people who doesn't like cream at all?  What if the taste you're craving isn't among the fairly limited list of flavored creamer choices?

The Syrup Solution

Flavored Coffee Syrups(80809)Credit: www.davincigourmet.comFlavored syrups are the next step up from creamers.  They allow you to prepare your coffee just as you like it, then add as much or as little flavoring as you prefer.  While they can sometimes also be found at a supermarket - I often see a limited selection of the Torani brand, in particular - if you want something more exotic than the basics, you'll probably need to shop online or in a specialty store.

I usually keep a bottle of Torani sugar-free Vanilla in a desk drawer at work, and when I run low I can pick up a new one during a weekly grocery run.  I haven't yet tried most of their other flavors; their website claims over 80 syrup varieties, but I've only seen a few locally.  The next time I order some flavor syrups online I plan to try a few of theirs, but first I have to finish up the bottles of DaVinci syrups in my pantry.  DaVinci sells big bottles of syrup in 60+ flavors, most available in regular or sugar-free.

Another nice thing about these syrups is that they have more uses than just for coffee.  For instance, instead of adding sugar or sucralose to a bowl of bran flake cereal, I'll often add a few drops of sugar-free almond syrup.  Another combination I like is a little bit of peppermint syrup drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

It's in the Beans

Flavored Coffee BeansCredit: sxc.huFor the flavored-coffee purist, there's no substitute for a good handful of fresh-ground beans.  Flavored beans are created by soaking regular coffee beans, still warm from roasting, in naturally or artificially flavored oils to infuse them with new taste and scent.  Flavored-bean proponents will tell you that this method makes for the most rich, nuanced flavoring achievable.  It also has the advantage of not adding any sugar or calories to your drink.

The tricky part of choosing a bean-based solution is that the ultimate taste of the brew depends heavily on the quality of the beans that go into it, and it's impossible to know ahead of time if you'll like the coffee part of your flavored coffee.  With creamer or syrup, you can simply tinker with the brew you already know you like; with a new bean, you're taking a chance.

Don't let that stop you, though!  I'm glad I picked up that little bag of pumpkin spice coffee at a local Amish farmer's market last month, and I'll be going back there to try the amaretto soon!