This was a 'sure - why not' moment. I was flicking idly through the PR e-mails looking for something exciting and decided that it was indeed the right time to look at different hot drinks. Barley Cup sounds to me like a bed-time drink like Ovaltine, or Horlicks which taste like the middle of a Malteeser when you've bitten the chocolate off. These tend to be a bit sweet for me. What it actually turned out to be was quite different.
Coming in the same style of containers as the instant tea you get from the pound shop when you are a student wasn't a great confidence builder - and it was similar texture too.
Made with hot water not boiling means that it's not too hot to drink right away, unlike black coffee. The aroma wasn't as strong as I'd initially suspected it may be, but this turned out to be part of it's charm. Instead of being a malty (barleyey?) hit it's actually quite a smooth and earthy taste - not too dissimilar from a non-bitter decaf coffee. This was quite surprising, and as I had the first one without milk (as it wasn't mentioned) it was like an enjoyably smooth, almost Columbian blend - but without that sharp aftertaste. I'm not sure my grain palate is refined enough to spot all the subtle flavours, but this is pretty nice. It's nowhere near the sweet bedtime drink I'd been expecting by name alone - this is pretty sophisticated and I'm sure you could use this as a decaf coffee substitute!
The following day I tried it with a decent helping of milk. This made it look more like a dark coffee and for me enhanced the flavours a little. I'm taking this to work and it may slot in as an extra early afternoon drink before my green tea that I tend to have at about 4pm to get me to the end of the day. Most of the hot drinks I have these days are decaf (good quality green tea is my one exception) so this is a really good find, and one I'm sure i'll be experimenting with (this feels born to be pared up with Hazelnut Alpro) as the light fades and the days get cooler.