Perfect for the busy professional who wants coffee and a bagel on the drive to work, without the usual worry of drink drippage, Einstein Bros. has introduced the Espresso Buzz Bagel. It's a soft, brooding round, as dark as pumpernickel, that contains 32 milligrams of caffeine.
You'll need to eat about five of these bloated rounds to equal the caffeine content of a single two-ounce pull of Starbucks' espresso. Good luck with that, and don't forget what cookbook author Michael Ruhlman recently wrote for The Washington Post: Refined grains can be as hard on your body as sugar.
I'm trying to imagine the meeting between Einstein Bros. test-kitchen chefs and the executives who ultimately greenlighted the Espresso Buzz Bagel:
Chef: We've developed a bagel that will make your morning coffee obsolete!
Executive: I like coffee.
Chef: Of course. We all like coffee. But who has time for it anymore? Plus, when you're driving, how many times have you spilled coffee on your freshly laundered white shirt?
Executive: I never drink coffee and drive.
Chef, getting nervous: That's smart. Really smart. But America is not as disciplined as you, and they're lazy. They can't drive to the grocery store without checking their Facebook app 10 times and uploading two photos to Instagram while sucking down a grande coffee from Starbucks. This bagel will help American consumers save millions on dry-cleaning bills.
Einstein Bros. launched the caffeinated round just ahead of National Nurses Week, so that on May 11, the company could give every nurse an “Espresso Buzz Bagel and shmear to jump-start their day or give them a boost after a long night on the job.” No doubt a stack of the caffeinated bagels has replaced the coffee machine in every emergency room across the country.
Actually, the Espresso Buzz Bagel is just the latest way to inject caffeine into your system. For those who don't like the bitterness of coffee or don't have the patience to steep their own tea, companies have developed countless products to get their blood pumping with caffeine. There are soft drinks, of course, but there are also caffeinated bracelets, soap, gum, toothpaste, bottled water, hot sauce and face wipes, to name a few. Personally, I'm holding out for a caffeinated earpiece so I won't fall asleep the next time Comcast puts me on hold.
The bagel is also the latest example of a product that insists on combining two tastes, to the detriment of both. I'm thinking of McDonald's line of McGriddles, that mash-up of breakfast sandwich and pancake; Taco Bell's engineering fail, the biscuit taco, in which the tortilla stand-in wouldn't wrap around the ingredients without breaking apart; and the Pizza Hut's super creepy Hot Dog Bites Pizza, which looked like an alien space ship with scallop eyeballs.
True to form, the Espresso Buzz Bagel has none of the pleasures of espresso — the crema, the silken sweetness, the electric jolt of caffeine — but all the qualities of a mass-produced round: a squishy interior with absolutely no crackle. It has a sweet, somewhat earthy chocolate flavor, which I guess is the closest thing you'll taste to coffee, which often smacks of cocoa. The bagel is, like so many of these products, a triumph of marketing over quality. I'll take a good homemade coffee and a homemade bagel any day.