The Real Reason Jack In The Box's Coffee Tastes Different

"The sensation of flavor is actually a combination of taste and smell," according to University of Colorado-Denver Medical School professor Tom Finger (via Live Science). So it may seem reasonable to assume Jack in the Box's coffee has always tasted like caffeinated fear. After all, the chain's nightmare-faced mascot, Jack, probably haunts your mind's eye as you drink the coffee. Like any figment of horror, Jack can probably smell your fear, and that frightful aroma presumably imbues your brew, too. Yet customers had nothing to fear when Jack in the Box began serving Kona coffee.

Grown solely on the soil of volcanoes on the Big Island, Hawai'i, per Atlas Obscura, Kona coffee roasts boast such an enchanting flavor that the iconic Mark Twain erupted with praise in an 1866 letter: "Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and call it what name you please." Jack in the Box first used Kona coffee to shake up its menu in 2008 when it introduced the Kona Coffee Shake. As described in a press release posted by Businesswire, the shake was made with real ice cream and a maraschino cherry. 

The real cherry on top for coffee fans didn't arrive until 2010 when the company announced that it would brew iced and cold coffee with Kona beans (via AOL). But like a bad dream for coffee drinkers, a major change to the chain's coffee was brewing on the horizon.

Jack and the bean swap

Much to the likely chagrin of Mark Twain's ghost, the halcyon days of your Kona coffee at Jack in the Box are no more. We can't pinpoint precisely when it happened and can only assume that the public blacked the exact moment out of its collective memory. But the chain evidently decided that Kona coffee was a weak link and swapped it out for Arabica.

Lee Breslouer of Thrillist certainly didn't seem thrilled in a 2020 review, writing, "Jack in the Box uses 100% Arabica beans, which is a step above the Robusta varietal used in supermarket instant coffee." And it's a steep step down from being able to offer coffee grown on a Hawaiian volcano. Of course, Jack in the Box markets its brew as "High Mountain Arabica "coffee, which almost sounds like something you'd find growing on a volcano.

Even quality arguably dropped, your caffeine levels can still play the role of mountain climber with the help of Jack's new Boosted Coffees, which apparently pack a stronger punch than two cups of coffee. That might sound more like a slap in the face if you're still smarting from the loss of the Kona coffee, but in life, you've got to roll with the punches. And these coffees come in multiple flavors: French Vanilla, Hershey's Chocolate Caramel, or black. So hopefully one of them would hit the spot.