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Coffee Purists Buzzing from Passion Cafe's Flavored Coffee.

AUSTIN, Texas -- It used to be a coffee world of purists and flavorists and "never the twain shall meet," but a young Austin-based company is finding that some of the staunchest coffee purists are saying, "it ain't so, joe!"

Passion Cafe Exotic Coffee was introduced three years ago as a healthy gourmet alternative to heavily flavored coffees employing the widely-used chemical solvent, propylene glycol, to carry the flavor to the bean. Passion Cafe's novel blends utilized pure flavor extracts and a natural food-grade carrier to create full-bodied brews not overpowered by flavor.

But initial reactions from flavored coffee enthusiasts were not what Passion Cafe expected. "The general response was 'not enough flavor'," said co-founder Leslie Caplan, who formulated Passion Cafe's unique flavor combinations. "And most flavorists didn't even seem that concerned about the health benefits.

"As we continued doing product demos, however, more and more purists told us how fantastic the coffee was. They raved about the subtlety of the flavors and soon became avid customers. Plus, they loved that the coffees were healthy and not saturated with strong flavor compounds.

"We now believe that this group represents a potentially huge market that has not been serviced by the big boys in our industry."

And now, purists may be paying even more attention. One of Passion Cafe's most popular flavors, Aztec Chocolate, recently received high marks from Coffee Review, one of the leading buying guides to the U.S. coffee industry. In its September 2006 issue, editor Kenneth Davids wrote, "A balanced exception among the otherwise over-the-top spice-themed blends was the Aztec Chocolate from Passion Cafe, which added extracts of chocolate and habanero chile to the coffee in an alcohol base. In this case the flavorings seemed to have been added with considerable tact. The chocolate resonated well with the natural chocolate tendencies of the coffee while the chile added a quiet supporting heat, more felt than tasted."

And Passion Cafe's other unique flavor blends - French Chocolate, with chocolate and lavender; Royal Vanilla, with French vanilla and anise; Heavenly Spice, combining eight spice flavors; and Champagne Touch - seem to be gaining mainstream attention from purists as well.

"We don't kill the coffee!" is something you'll hear often at one of the company's in-store demos from Jimmy Caplan, Leslie's husband of 15 years and the man behind the sales and marketing of Passion Cafe. Referring to himself as the "Colonel Sanders of Flavored Coffee," Jimmy emulates the Colonel's early KFC launch years by barnstorming city-to-city and handing out Passion Cafe samples to coffee aficionados, regardless of their biases and preferences.

"Initially, purists confess to their reservations about flavored coffee," said Mr. Caplan. "But usually, after a sip or two of our unique blends, they say, 'I didn't know anything like this existed' or 'I can't believe this is flavored coffee' or 'How did you do this?'

"This," says Caplan, "is a first for our industry."

The Caplans founded Passion Cafe Exotic Coffee in California after living in Italy for two years. They moved the business to Austin, Texas in the spring of 2005. Since then, they have been successful in introducing the product at a number of Whole Food Market stores in Texas, several in Colorado and Louisiana, and at Grape Vine Market in Austin. The coffee, packaged in 12 oz. bags, is also available at a growing number of specialty stores throughout the U.S. as well as on the company's website: http://www.passioncafecoffee.com/ .

Passion Cafe's exclusive distributor is Sarasota, Florida-based Latitude 23.5ae Coffee & Tea Company, a specialty-grade roaster of origin coffees and signature blends. Latitude worked closely with the Caplans to develop a proprietary flavoring process that "locks in" the coffee's exceptional taste and balanced flavor.

"With Latitude's help and commitment, we've accomplished something truly extraordinary: a top quality, propylene glycol-free flavored brew whose pure flavor extracts accent rather than overshadow the delicious taste of the coffee."
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Dec 5, 2006
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