Coffee Liqueurs Round 1 – Kahlua VS. Tia Maria


Greetings! Tonight we have one well-known coffee liqueur going up against one that you don’t normally see served in bars, clubs, etc.. ABVs are identical in addition to price, at least here at the BCL stores. Note also that the they also have common ingredients. (At the end of this tasting I ended up with a pulsing headache…strange?)

1) Kahlua –20% ABV – 750ml, Mexico, ~$27 CAD

  • Ingredients: sugar, kahlua concentrate (coffee extract, rum, caramel, vanillin); water


2) Tia Maria – 20% ABV – 750ml, Scotland, ~$27 CAD

  • Ingredients: sugar; water, alcohol (Jamaican rum), coffee extract, coffee flavour, vanillin, citric acid, caramel


Nose: Taking a whiff of the Kahlua, I get sugary medium-roast coffee mixed with very detectable tingly medium-burn invasive alcohol.  I have to say that alcohol eventually overpowers the pleasant coffee aroma and becomes offensive after several more nosings. With Tia Maria I get much cleaner coffee, caramel, and slight nutty vanilla nose with only minor alcohol detection, about a 1/5th burning level of the Kahlua. No doubt the winner is Tia Maria.

Taste & Texture: The Kahlua in my mouth has a syrupy mouthfeel. It goes down with 9/10-sweetness, cascading waves of roastcoffee flavour, caramel mixed with nasal numbing from the alcohol, light-medium burn (which is a surprise since the nose was so aggressive in alcohol) and finishes sugary cloying. Tia Maria is noticeably thinner in viscosity. Going down Tia Maria starts off with more intense and bolder flavours of coffee, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, nuttiness, 7/10-sweetness, with the mid-palate and finish consisting of medium alcohol warmth and and long bittersweet roast coffee finish. In my mind it’s crystal clear: the winner by far is Tia Maria.

Final Notes:

  • Kahlua is more syrupy, aggressively sweeter, less smooth/more nasal burn, less depth and length of flavour, and a sugary cloying finish. I WILL NEVER BUY KAHLUA AGAIN
  • Tia Maria has a better nose, better flavours, and goes down smoother.