Of all the brands making a big push into new markets, the last I would have thought of was Tia Maria, a coffee liqueur developed in Jamaica in the 1940s. The brand was recently sold to Saronno, and it’s currently made in Italy. Recently the brand added two new expressions, one built around matcha tea of all things, and the other a ready-to-drink coffee concoction.
We recently got the entire lineup of Tia Maria products to taste, which we will attend to presently.
Tia Maria Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur – This is the standard Tia Maria bottling (as it is branded in 2021), made with vanilla and 100% Arabica coffee, built atop a base of rum. The nose is expressive with coffee — dark roast with some dark chocolate elements and a bit of red fruit evident. The palate shifts gears quickly, popping with intense, sugary sweetness, lots of vanilla, and — after all that — coffee. The sweetness on the finish is overwhelming, able to cling to the tongue for the better part of an hour if you don’t have something to wash it down with. It’s even sweeter than Kahlua, despite the considerably higher abv. At this price, I’d reach for a more elegant craft coffee liqueur instead. 53 proof. B- / $28
Tia Maria Matcha Cream Liqueur – The only green cream liqueur I’ve ever encountered, this has no connection to coffee whatsoever: It’s cream and matcha powder — “natural matcha extract” — about as far from Tia Maria’s coffee expression as you can get. It’s also a lot better. The nose is creamy and muted, but the palate is popping with racy matcha notes, offering a slight lemon-lime acidity that balances the rich cream character. The bold matcha notes at the core are hard to imitate, the finished product offering a balanced blend of green tea, white chocolate, and a dusting of spice. Surprisingly well made. 34 proof. A- / $25
Tia Maria Cold Brew Iced Coffee Frappe – What it says on the label is “Grain, cane, and molasses neutral spirits with natural flavors and caramel color.” What it says in the marketing is “3 simple ingredients… 100% Arabica coffee, cream, and the sweet taste of Tia Maria.” I won’t try to reconcile all of that, but this nitrogenated RTD offering certainly tastes like a Starbucks concoction, incredibly creamy, well-sweetened (but not too much), and more chocolaty than coffee-like. I’d definitely suggest sipping it after dinner rather than, as the company obliquely suggests, as part of your breakfast. 4% abv. B+ / $2.30 per 200ml can