The Tweet Up Event At the Starbucks Headquarters on April 28, 2010

The Roasting Oven at the Starbucks headquarters (SSC)

Last Friday, the Starbucks Twitter profile tweeted about a tweet-up, at the SSC, with limited space available.  This was the tweet:

“We’re hosting a tweetup next week in Seattle! Free next Wed morning? Limited tickets available:”

When that tweet was tweeted, I completely missed it. It never crossed my radar. I did not get a ticket. Later, I was twittering with my friend @lyracole, who mentioned that she managed to get one of the precious twenty tickets.  I didn’t think much about this again until just this morning at about 7:30-ish when again I was twittering with Lyracole about the tweetup. She offered to GIVE me her ticket.  She really thought I should go since I’m a friend, and extreme Starbucks enthusiast, and a blogger, and she wanted me to have her ticket.  After much conversation with her, twittering back and forth, we decided that we would both go to the Starbucks headquarters and find out if it would be okay for Lyracole to handover her ticket to me, or whether somehow, we’d both be able to go.  I want to make it unambiguously clear the Lyracole was absolutely ready to turn over her ticket to me. I was very thankful for her generosity, and told her I would owe her big time.

We arrived together at the SSC at about 9:30-ish roughly, and a friendly receptionist printed  “visitor” tags for us, and told us to have a seat.  At about 9:45 Brad Nelson (the official twitter voice for Starbucks) came to meet up with the tweet-up group, accompanied by a PR person whom I also know (and she definitely knows me).  Brad had a definitely look of surprise on his face upon seeing me (obviously my name wasn’t attached to a ticket), and Lyracole made it absolutely clear again that she wanted me to go, and asked if she could give her ticket over to me.  Brad and the PR person were both very welcoming and said that we were both welcome to attend the event. Brad said there was space available and it would be no problem if I attended. By the way, I should make it totally clear that I was either prepared to not attend and walk away (as the ticket could have been non-transferable?) or believe it or not, I was mentally prepared to take Lyracole‘s ticket, knowing that I would owe a big debt to her. (And I would have found some nice way to reciprocate).  Here’s what the tweetup event information looked like:

The event started shortly before 10 am with the roasting of some Organic Shade Grown Mexico coffee on a smaller-sized roasting oven at the SSC.  One thing I learned, that I hadn’t realized before is that Organic Shade Grown Mexico is one of the lighter roasts, and is even lighter than House Blend. It is pulled out of the roasting oven right at the second pop.  The smell of the roasting coffee – and freshly roasted coffee – was fabulous.  A number of speakers gave brief presentations, as a crowd of people, mostly corporate partners, and a few customers tasted their Organic Shade Grown Mexico.  The tweet-up group included about ten guests total, and the remaining very large crowd was entirely partners.  The Starbucks Support Center routinely does this kind of monthly event for their partners, and once in a blue moon will invite a small group of customers to attend. The speakers were Ben Packard and Heidi Durham from the Starbucks Support Center.  One of the two of them (I’m embarrassed that I don’t remember which one of them) spoke at length about the success of the previous promotion where if Starbucks customers brought in their own cup or tumbler, they would receive a free drip-brewed coffee or iced coffee in it (up to a maximum of a Venti size).  For example, the typical Starbucks store in the United States has about ten customers a day bringing in a re-usable cup or tumbler, but on April 15, 2010 (the day of the free coffee event) that number jumped to about 94 personal cups per day, per Starbucks company-operated store.

Following the tasting of Organic Shade Grown Mexico, our small group of ten twitterers all met up in a side alcove for a specially-prepared coffee tasting which included Organic Shade Grown Mexico (Core Coffee), Sun Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (periodic Clover offering, and Sumatra (Core Coffee).

Jason from the coffee team lead the coffee tasting.  It is always an education attending one of his coffee tastings. I learned a few more things that I either didn’t know or had forgotten.  The best coffees are grown at an elevation of about 3000 feet to 6000 feet.  There actually is such thing as “low elevation Arabica coffee” but Starbucks does not purchase it.  One of the reasons that the finest coffee is grown at such a high elevation is that there is less oxygen in the air at that elevation.  As the trees are, metaphorically speaking, ‘suffocating’ their cherries respond by produce more sugars in the actual cherry.  Another thing that happens is that trees growing at such a high elevation also tend to be denser due to the lack of oxygen.  A dense, hard coffee bean means that it can withstand intensive roasting without catching afire.  I counted ten tweet-up customers participating in the event. One woman to my right didn’t like the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee. I wanted to visibly shake my heads, and say, “why, why, why, how could that be?” but I bit my tongue.  As we all know, what people like in coffee is extremely subjective.

While I was there I took a few pics, and my friend Lyracole took pictures too. I will be adding some of her photos to this blog post later.  My camera battery was running low, but I still managed to get a few pics.

This next section is a little off topic for this blog post:

One more thing: Coincidentally, early this morning (4-28-2010) I was catching up on some blog reading, and read an article by Valeria Maltoni, called Understanding and Activating Your True Fans.   I was just reminiscing about my last event at the SSC (Starbucks Support Center, their headquarters) – It had been two years (actually about 18 months because the Thanksgiving Blend event was November 2008, as I recall)! I recommend that blog to anyone who is looking for a general marketing and PR type blog.

As I think about what it means for Starbucks to reach out to their fans – which is essentially what this day’s event was – I imagine the challenge is the scale of the business. With the millions of customers cycling through their doors, it becomes really difficult to reach down and make contact with any sizable number of them.  My blog isn’t busy enough to make any difference to Starbucks, and I want to make it completely clear that my attendance had nothing to do with this blog.  I just got very lucky that my friend Lyracole had a ticket.  I suppose that if Starbucks wants to figure out who to keep in contact with someone who is really influential, they then would woo Ellen DeGeneres and not a tiny little blogger in Seattle, or even ten customers in Seattle.  (Ten customers were in attendance).

Thank you Brad Nelson and my PR friend for letting me join in the fun today! I am ever-delighted to have been able to participate, and thankful for the opportunity. The small size makes it all the more precious that I got to attend.

I think legally now I have to say something like, “Starbucks may have provided promotional consideration for this blog post” which really means that I tasted coffee, and took home a freshly roasted half pound of Organic Shade Grown Mexico and a travel tumbler from the event.  I am a little overwhelmed with tumblers, so I gave mine to Lyracole so that she ended up with two tumblers.

Enjoy a few pics:

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  • Nob

    Thank you for a good article!

    I want to participate in it. Haha.

  • Turner

    It sounds like a really great event, and I’m glad you got a chance to attend!

    However, I’d challenge Starbucks that their event was more of an internal PR activity than a Tweet Up. Of course, the definition of a Tweet Up isn’t set in stone. But the general purpose is to get a group of people who normally only interact on Twitter to meet in person, and is typically a public event. It’s a bit of stretch, in my opinion, anyway, to call a private PR event open to only 10 special ticket holders a Tweet Up. How does that “activate” the fans?

  • denise r.

    Ohhhhhhh, I would have soooo loved to be there. (with Yirgacheffe yet!) You lucky dog! I did get an invite from MSI to attend a ‘Chicago VIP’ and media Sbux frapp. event today…..invite only but it’s a ways for me……like a commuter train ride (about an hr) and then a taxi or very long walk…. so I declined. I’m hoping something similar will be offered more toward me. The Sbux this is being held at is in the ‘elite’ Gold coast neighborhood…. actually Oprah lives about 2 blocks from this store. But, that’s where all the media stations are, or near….so. I’ll be watching the news tonite and see if anything comes of it. wish I could have been at your event…but am glad Sbux is making some attempt for events outside of Seattle.

  • Sebastian

    That sounds really cool!
    Would love to be there…and I really like Brad, he is so funny!

  • CD

    @denise r – you live in Chicago? I’m in the western suburbs! I’ve heard that Chicago is getting two Clovers. Do you have any idea where they’re going to be (I’m missing Yirgacheffe)

  • Clark Kent

    It was so great to meet you in person and glad you enjoyed the event. Can you “where’s Waldo?” spot me in the top photo?

    Starbucks rules!!

  • purple1

    It is funny you wrote about this meeting on your blog today because as I was sitting this morning at my local SB I was thinking how neat it would be if my local SB invited the regulars to get together and really meet each other. We chat often when we see each other but those of us that are regulars are not always together at the same time but yet know each other.

  • Lori Carlson Pierson

    Thank you for your blog about the tasting event today. I must say that I was living vicariously through you when I enjoyed reading it. I wish so badly I could’ve been there! You know, here in Indianapolis (several years ago) several Starbucks locations would periodically have a “tasting event.” I always loved those and you can learn so much about the beans, taste of the coffee, and pairings. I remember there were even designated baristas called “black apron” baristas that had specialized training and would do the tastings. Do you know what ever happened to this program? I know locally they never have tastings any more. =(

  • Melody

    Just want to say many thanks for the comments! I know this blog post looks horrible: typos, grammar etc… I wrote it between about 10 & midnight & it shows. I’ll fix it later, after wotk today.Sorry!

  • elly

    this was an amazing event (yep, hi all, i’m lyra :)

    i will definitely be getting all the photos off my phone today to send over…i’m kind of afraid that there’s going to be far too many, but hopefully melody can whittle the selection down to the best few to show all of you!

    next time i see one of those invite links, i will be sure to forward it on to melody right away, just in case she misses it!

  • Karl Dahlquist

    I have talked to two managers asking why they don’t Tweet or FB their favorite customers for when they do tastings or hand out samples…or even an informal mixer.

    Zero interest.

    I dunno…if I were a manager, I would use every opportunity available to connect with super regulars to meet the sales goals.

  • denise r.

    to CD: I’m in Mt Prospect… originally from the west side of Chicago….grew up there, (many yrs ago) Where are you? I’m pretty familiar with most of the area.
    Back to the Clovers: sadly :( we did only get two and for some crazy reason right now I can only remember where one is, which is Piper’s Alley (Old Town) and the other one was somewhere NOT close to me at all……just blanking on it but will find out. Was supposed to be one in Deerfield and one near Woodfield…..neither came thru. I know what you mean about Yirgacheffe…..I was soooo looking forward to having it within reach.

  • CABarista

    wow! Thanks for the reminder on coffee info-makes me want to re-read through the coffee manual…my brain is very tired and I do not think that is the right name, blah-anyway!
    Love the pictures too :)

  • Emma Woodhouse

    Sounds like it was a lot of fun! I can’t tell you how often I wish I was closer to your coast- such cool coffee stuff going on. :) So, what does Ethiopian Yirgacheffe taste like?

  • CD

    @ Denise R: I’m in a little suburb near Oak Brook and Downers Grove called Clarendon Hills. I was in Highland Park a few weeks ago and a barista mentioned that they thought Deerfield would be getting a Clover because their sales are so high. I’ll have to venture to the one at Piper’s Alley but I don’t go to that part of the city much these days.

    I was hoping to get Yirgacheffe iced. I’ve had it hot through the clover but not iced.

  • Darth Sidamo

    @Lori Carlson Pierson. What side of Indy? I myself am actually a black apron (for three years). What happened in your market is the program was actually discontinued for a short period to redesign it and make it more relevant. Then about the time it was reintroduced the mass labor cutbacks happened.

  • Darth Sidamo

    Ahh it cut me off. Anyways. I work at a store that has usually 2 man and sometimes 3 man deployment with a VERY steady never ending flow. What happened with labor cutbacks is that we now are only able to do the bare minimum of store operations. My last coffee seminar (which nobody ever shows up to) was a good year and a half ago. While I do not like seminars because they are not as personal as a coffee tasting was, I have tried very hard to keep my passion going for coffee.

    I have actually boycotted doing coffee tastings anywhere but home for this reason as every french press leads to 15 seconds for the next two hours to actually get there and taste the cold coffee. Coffee tastings are very stressful because they are constantly interrupted and very non personal now.

    So that is what happened in Indianapolis. Stores have just about 9 partners with 35+ hours a week and unobtainable expectations.

  • Lori Carlson Pierson

    Darth Sidamo: Thanks for that info Darth. I totally understand what you’re saying. It is unfortunate. I live on the North side of Indy. Currently, I frequent the 126th & Meridian SBUX. So do you currently work in the Indy area? Please let me know if you ever decide to bring tastings back….I’ll be there! 😉 I do understand though how frustrating and stressful it can be. Your hands are tied and it’s impossible to do with the cutbacks.

  • camspi

    What a cool event. It reminds me when a roaster from the Kent Roasting Plant came up to my store during a Summer Coffee Tasting Tour. It was so cool to talk to a guy who roasts the coffee and see what his opinion was on stuff. At the time Pike Place Roast had just come out, and he talked about how they had been working on the blend for a while. When the “corporate” people connect with the store partners one-on-one (And genuinely), it truly makes a huge difference. It makes the store partners realize the purpose of Starbucks a little more and understand the richness of Starbucks culture.

  • denise r.

    to CD: I know exactly where you are….Oak Pk was, and still often is, my old stomping grounds (I grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago…..just next to Oak Pk) One of my sisters lives in Downers. I talked to the manager of the largest Deerfield store about a month ago (when we all thought we’d be seeing one somewhere ….Clover) That is what they were expecting but I was later told by my manager that they’d just had a meeting and there would only be 2…..the Piper’s Alley and the one I can’t remember. (I’ll find out)
    I’m in Highland Pk about once a mnth or so….used to work at the hospital there (HPH…which later merged with Evanston….where I worked for many yrs) Oh well, let me know if you find a Clover here… I will you. I love love love Yirgacheffe. (had it by Clover once at Intelligentsia, downtown. they don’t have it anymore)

  • CD

    I love Oak Pk! I used to live there before I moved further out. I always imagined I’d end back up there sooner or later. Did you ever know LaDonna from the downtown Downers store? She sold me my Saeco (I loved that machine but it kept breaking). She’s been gone a while now.

  • denise r.

    CD: I read your earlier post too quickly (very bad habit I have)…I was wondering why you were relating Oak PARK to Downers, and then Clarendon Hills. Obviously, Oak BROOK makes much more sense ! but, that haste on my part did lead us back to Oak Park. It is a neat place….it just barely did manage to hold on, as everything close to it (east and south) went ghetto. I’m at my mom’s right now (Berwyn…where they moved to from Austin back in’72, to be close to my dad’s job in Cicero) and will be driving home via River Rd., to avoid the Ike :( so will be stopping at the newer Sbux in Oak Pk on the way home……Harlem & Lake.
    I never knew anyone in the D.G. store….mostly I go to the Woodridge store when at my sister’s….75th & Lemont Rd. She’s closer to that.

  • CD

    @denise r: Berwyn – you gotta go to Gina’s (I think she’s open for the season now!) I like that store on 75th & Lemont. It always has a good crowd and they’re open until 10 pm. Have you seen the remodeled store in Elmhurst? It’s got a lot of the recycled materials that Starbucks is starting to use in their remodels.

  • CD

    @denise r: P.S. I know it’s a competitor but you should check out the Intelligentsia roasting tour (once a month). You have to pay, but they give you a pound of coffee.

  • denise r.

    CD: (sorry to everyone else, this is so back &forth) I DO intend to do the Intellig. roasting tour…I know all about that…just have to get it done. It’s a for sure.
    I did stop in the Oak Pk (newer) store yesterday….it’s very big, lots of space but very good feel. As I ordered my tall BOLD, a woman next to me started asking me about ‘ordering BOLD’, and then I got into the whole PPR ’08 thing…..that just goes on and on, and now and then a barista would quickly add a word or two…then this woman says: this is why I SO love Oak Pk., only here could I hear this kind of conversation. (she was from the east coast at some point, now nw side of the city) I don’t know what she really meant…..maybe the very not-so-careful way I rapidly was talking about all this…… This is all way too much for this blog but it just showed, as this shows, how much connection there is. (then , to top it off, I notice she’s carrying a Marshall Field’s plastic bag…..I’m a part of that ‘’ group that has protested the M store since they took over Filed’s in ’06…… it’s just all connected sometimes) It was funny, she was very calm and kind of amazed (I am generally amazed but not so calm)
    Maybe Melody can send you my e-mail address, and we could not bother everyone else with all this? Melody???? thanx. :)

  • denise r.

    ps Melody: I gave that lady in the Oak Pk store one of your cards…she seemed very interested. maybe she’ll appear.

  • Melody

    Hi Denise and CD – Since the traffic numbers on this site are fairly small (well, I don’t even know what’s considered big and what’s considered small) – or at least it still feels like a small community of people – I’ve been very lenient about hijacked threads. It’s part of becoming a community. There might be a day when I have to police that more. (who knows? I doubt I will ever get the kind of traffic that Jim R. gets). But anyway, I will send you both a virtual introduction via email, with email addresses. Denise, I’ve met CD in real life once, and he’s a very nice guy!

  • denise r.

    yikes Melody! so sorry…..I talked too much, wrong direction. I should’ve thought and been more considerate. sorrrrrrrrrrrrry. :(

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