"This might make hair grow on your chest," the bald barista at Mocha Bianca tells me, as he prepares a mix of coffee and espresso he calls the "Depth Charger."
"Of course," he continues, rubbing his smooth dome, "It hasn't worked on my head yet."
Mocha Bianca is just a few miles from where I've lived in northwest Phoenix for the past eight years. Surprisingly, I didn't even know the place existed until my girlfriend noticed it on a drive to my local KFC last week. It's tucked inside a strip mall between a liquor store and a Burger King, adjacent to Paradise Valley High School and across the street from a hospital. It's definitely not the kind of prime location Starbucks always moves into. But somehow, Mocha Bianca has survived its inconspicuous presence in an obscure strip mall.
We figure this is for two reasons: one, the employees at Mocha Bianca are friendly and well informed about their products, and two, their products are supercharged exercises in yumminess. We tried two of the coffee shop's more popular brews: their signature Mocha Bianca, and the aforementioned Depth Charger.
4001 E. Bell Road, #112
Phoenix, AZ 85032
The Depth Charger was touted as Mocha Bianca's most caffeinated drink, and it more than delivered on its hype. A blend of drip coffee and espresso, even sipping on a 16 ounce cup of Depth Charger is a big kick in the butt, and chugging it could give you the shakes. But while this brew gets an A+ for energy boosting, it barely earns a C- in the taste department. Not only is the Depth Charger extremely bitter, but it has a strange, waxy aftertaste, as well. This is really not unusual, since the beans for highly caffeinated coffees often do not undergo heavy chemical or water processes to remove caffeine -- processes which also remove some of the waxy bitterness of the beans. The Depth Charger's good if you want a quick, intense caffeine high, but it's definitely not a "savor the flavor" type of drink.
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The signature Mocha Bianca, however, is a coffee big on taste and built for sugar freaks. It doesn't have as much caffeine as the Depth Charger, but the flavor -- a smooth blend of coffee and chocolate with a hint of caramel and topped with whipped cream -- is delish. The sugar rush is pretty impressive, too, but it'll be over in about 15 minutes.
In a Utopian world, our dream brew would probably be half Depth Charger (for energy) and half Mocha Bianca (for taste), and Mocha Bianca would have a way more prominent place on the street.