In this case let me say straight up that I was contacted by Jiva to review this product. All photos are from the Jiva web site.
My name is Natalia, I’m the co-founder of Jiva Cubes, a startup in Miami, Florida. We use high-quality Colombian coffee and combine it with raw, unrefined cane sugar to make a dissolvable cube (think of a sugar cube with coffee mixed in). We also make Hot Chocolate cubes by combining cacao powder made from fine Colombian Criollo beans and our raw, cane sugar – Panela. Jiva Cubes are an alternative to machine systems like K-cups, pod and other brewed coffee. We are also great for those who have sworn against all other instant coffees and is especially useful for people that are always busy or on the go.
Well, coffee is good, so I said OK, and they sent me two boxes of Jiva cubes: one off their ‘Classic’ coffee and another of all the other varieties they make. There were quite a few.
The best explanation for Jiva cubes comes from Jiva themselves.
Jiva is Colombian coffee mixed with raw, unrefined cane sugar made with no preservatives or artificial additives. Made with the finest Colombian Coffee exportable and 100% unprocessed, unbleached Panela brown sugar, Jiva coffee cubes are the finest way to drink java on the go! Each cube comes individually wrapped to ensure portability, flavor and freshness.
Basic Jiva cube.
The picture here shows a Jiva cube. Yes, basically a cube of sugar with coffee or cocao somehow embedded into it. The cube sticks together because it is completely unrefined raw sugar, called panela in Columbia. This is not the free-flowing ‘brown’ sugar you get in Western supermarkets: this is raw, sticky and smells of molasses. The normal sugar refining process separates out the sugar (or sucrose) from the molasses. You should visit a sugar refinery some day: the smell of hot molasses can be a bit overpowering, and it spreads out from the processing plant for a long way! Jiva claim that the molasses gives the sugar “a darker brown color and a mild caramel-like flavor that compliments the smooth tones of Columbian coffee”.
Obviously the coffee is not in bean form; it has to be in an ‘instant coffee’ form. On the other hand, it seems that the cocao version does contain some ground cocao bean. What is in some of the other ‘flavors’ I am not sure.
The illustration here shows how you use the cubes. I found that the 30 second delay they mention is real: the cube has to have time to absorb water and break up. Bashing it around with a spoon after a while helps a bit.
I tested the Jiva cubes at home. Each morning (morning tea, around 9:30 am) I had my normal mug of filter coffee, using an Australian “Espresso blend” (yeah, grown in Australia!) at filter strength – which is to say only medium strength. I have it black with no sugar. In the afternoon (afternoon tea, around 4 pm) I had one of the Jiva cubes dissolved in the same mug of near-boiling water. I will list the various flavors and my reactions to each one.
This is where Jiva started – it’s coffee and panela with a noticeable bit of molasses overtone which seriously masks the coffee flavorful. Its success entirely depends on whether you like molasses or not. I found the molasses flavor to be a bit overpowering, to the point of masking the coffee. The amount of sugar was also way above what I would normally drink too: far too sweet for me. Yes, I know some like their coffee with lots of sugar, but it was not for me.
I suspect that someone brought up with panela might have an entirely different reaction to the flavor.
This was a bit stronger than the Classic, but I found it was just as sweet and with just as much of a molasses overtone. However, the coffee flavor was discernible over the molasses.
I suspect that this one could be a response to feedback the company might have received, that the Classics are just too sweet and the coffee is drowned out. There is less molasses flavor, having been replaced by a noticeably stronger coffee flavor. It was still too sweet for my liking of course, but apart from that I would say it could be tolerable if you don’t mind the amount of sugar. Once again, it is a matter of individual taste.
Mocha is a blend of coffee and cocoa. There was less smell of molasses, and I found the taste was acceptable as a mocha blend. It was still very sweet of course, but that is more acceptable in a mocha blend. I could drink this at times.
I assume this is a coffee with vanilla flavoring added. I have no idea why one would do this to good coffee. Obviously, I am a shade biased in favor of plain coffee. It was overly sweet as usual, with what seemed to be a vanilla overtone, but it was hard to discern the coffee flavor. On the other hand, the molasses flavor was not very apparent.
This one had a definite caramel flavor and smell, but was still very sweet. The molasses flavor was fairly well hidden. I have to add that the claim that molasses has a “caramel-like flavor” is not one I could ever endorse! Frankly, I do not think caramel and molasses have much in common.
I cannot say what this flavor was really. The drink was very sweet of course, and there was not too much molasses apparent, but neither the “hazelnut” flavor nor the coffee was very obvious.
This drink was very sweet as usual, with a fair bit of ‘chocolate’ flavor as well. The dregs showed a lot of what I guess was moderately coarse-ground cocoa bean, with a definite cocao flavour. I suggest you need to stir this one as you drink. It was acceptable as a cocao, although I prefer the less sweet drinking chocolates like Alpin Blend and Chocochino.
Caramel Hot Chocolate
This seems to be a blend with some cocoa (but not a lot) and some caramel. It was much less “chocolate” than the Hot Chocolate, and the sugar was far more evident. I thought it was a bit “thin”. The molasses flavour was however less obvious. Perhaps it would work if you add a little milk and treat it as a cocao flavour rather than as “hot chocolate”. Alternately you could try a double dose, but then the sugar might be overpowering.
It could be fair to say I was biased against all the sweetness. After all, I normally take my coffee with no sugar at all. Someone who prefers a spoonful of sugar might find the sweetness to be fine. However, the molasses flavor was a bit too much for me in many cases, although that too might depend on whether you were brought up to the panella flavor.
I think these Jiva cubes might have to be classified as an acquired taste. The Espresso (albeit too sweet), Mocha and Hot Chocolate were the most acceptable to my palette, but I am sure others will have different preferences.
Their website is: jivacubes.com.
Available as boxes of a single flavor or as a box of a couple of each flavor.