Thursday, November 26th, 2015
Home » Coffee Education,Starbucks Whole Bean Coffee » This year’s Starbucks Casi Cielo: Try with strawberries.
Coffee Education

The Starbucks store on East Olive Way in Seattle has regular coffee seminars.  I invite you to join in!  If you’re in Seattle, call ahead for their schedule – they’re usually every other Monday at 6:00 p.m.  You can browse through past seminars by clicking through the Coffee Tastings category on this site.

If you want to join a coffee seminar at East Olive Way Starbucks, here’s their contact information:

1600 East Olive Way
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 568 – 5185

Now on to the event: 

On January 22nd, I went to a coffee seminar for Casi Cielo coffee.  As many know, Casi Cielo coffee is a seasonal offering that returns every January to Starbucks.  It has always been, and probably always will be, one of my favorites.  It’s a medium roast Latin American coffee grown at high elevations in the Antigua region of Guatemala.

The big takeaway from tonight’s event was that this year’s Casi Cielo pairs perfectly with strawberries.  However, Casi Cielo is truly known as a versatile coffee that can be had with lemon flavors, caramel, cocoa, and even savory items like cheeses too.  This year’s Casi Cielo has a lot of dark cocoa flavor to it.  This is especially true of the aroma – open up a bag and stick your nose right in it! 😉

At tonight’s event, we had Casi Cielo both prepared as a French press, and from the Clover brewer also.  (This coffee is also known to work well pulled as a shot of espresso).

The press of it seemed a little spicier than the Clover cup of Casi Cielo.  The strawberries really helped to bring out the citrus-y side of this year’s coffee.  We also paired it with a chocolate fondue.  Here’s what’s interesting to me – the chocolate fondue felt like it melted into the flavors of the Casi Cielo.  The chocolate fondue was not a terribly dark chocolate.  I know that one pairing that I hope to do (or attend) someday would be to pair Casi Cielo with a range of chocolates from very dark to very milky.  I think that would be super interesting, and I suspect that you’d find that the dark chocolates are best with it.  By the way, this is something that I just now thought of as I am writing this out.

Josh and Donna did a great job of leading us through this coffee tasting!  The walked us through all the steps, and we really talked a lot about this year’s coffee. It’s interesting but a couple of people in the group felt like this year’s Casi Cielo was less lemony than in previous years.  I was still getting some lemon notes, though I got that much more with the Clover-brewed Casi than the French press Casi.

For those who don’t recall, the four standard steps to a Starbucks coffee tasting are as follows:

  1. Smell – Take in the aroma of the coffee.  What do you smell?
  2. Slurp – Slurp loudly and aerate the coffee in your mouth.
  3. Locate – Notice and locate where the flavors of the coffee hit in your mouth?  Do you taste it in the front of your mouth? On the sides?
  4. Describe – Describe the flavors of the coffee.  Is it mostly roast profile? What origin flavors do you taste?  Is it smooth?  Is it juicy?  What does it taste like?

Here are the rest of the pics from tonight’s fun event!

Decaf Casi Cielo:

I want to just briefly bring up the topic of Decaffeinated Casi Cielo.  It’s an interesting topic because it’s a coffee that Starbucks produces, but is NOT sold in any Starbucks-branded store.

Traditionally, Starbucks has roasted a very small amount of decaf Casi Cielo year-round.  It’s produced for a tiny number of “fine dining” establishments that officially participate with Starbucks in that program.  To be honest, I am not totally clear what the availability of decaf Casi Cielo really is.

One thing I do know is that occasionally, the “experimental” Starbucks-operated location known as Roy Street Coffee and Tea does get this coffee in.  If you are really looking for Decaffeinated Casi Cielo, all I can suggest is that you give Roy Street a call and hope that you can order some from them.  I make no promises as to whether that will work!

You may be wondering the story behind the photo of the bag of Decaf Casi Cielo.  A loyal California reader sent that to me – She said she saw it in her local Ross store, and immediately took a picture, knowing how odd it was.  About all I can assume is that a Starbucks roasting plant accidentally tossed a bag of the Decaf Casi Cielo into a box that was supposed to have retail coffee.  The photo dates from September 2012.

So now you know: Decaf Casi Cielo is real.  And yes, I’d love to see it offered in Starbucks stores.  I can even imagine that it would make a great offering for the Clover Reserve Starbucks locations.


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  1. Purple1 says:

    Nice post. Still not brewing Casi here but sounds like a great choice of strawberries with the coffee.

  2. Chgo. says:

    @Melody – Thanks for steering me over to your website about the Casi Cielo. I don’t have much to add regarding the tasting and pairing it with Strawberries. I feel that the pairing is only as good as the quality of the strawberry, but I do enjoy the Casi Cielo as always. I sure do wish the decaf was available to customers like myself. Just knowing it’s so close, yet so far away is annoying, but what can I do about it? It would be of no benefit to me to seek this out for home, as I drink little if any coffee made at home. It sure would be nice to get just one Venti on a Clover just once as a tease.

    Nice read BTW as usual…

  3. Melody says:

    @purple1 – It seems that Starbucks has already stopped brewing Casi Cielo here too. :(
    @Chgo – I can really only suggest one thing: You could call Roy Street and see if you could pay for it over the phone and that they would mail it to you. Since they don’t have to follow all of the same Starbucks rules, they have the freedom to do that kind of thing. The real catch is that they only get decaf Casi Cielo in periodically. That’s my best suggestion.

  4. Purple1 says:

    Melody my local store has not brewed Casi at all not that they stopped. SM told me they would start brewing in 2 weeks as per instructions (that was a few days ago) so it will be interesting to see if we start brewing it.

  5. Chgo. says:

    @Purple1 – They haven’t brewed it over at the Starbucks I go to. The only way I have been able to get it is on the Clover. Blondes seem to be what’s important these days.

  6. Melody says:

    Hey Chicago readers and friends – I know this is off topic but I know that I have a number of readers in the Chicago area. I saw this in the news:

    A shipping container Starbucks is coming to the Chicago area. I hope someone will keep an eye out for this and send me a few of their photos. (Or dear Starbucks, feel free to send me on a trip to Chicago. ;))

  7. Chgo. says:

    I have job history with that corner. My job actually took me to the old building that once stood at that corner, the day before it was to be demolished. It seems like only yesterday that they knocked down the old building on that corner to make way for a Rally’s Hamburgers that had failed rather quickly. It’s changed hands many times. Nothing is successful on that corner. That is probably why it will not be a bricks and mortar store. It’s only possible saving grace may be it’s proximity to the Loyola University Campus, and that it leads into Sheridan Rd., which leads to the north end of Lake Shore Drive. That area is rather iffy. Starbucks has been reluctant to get it’s feet wet in better areas of the City. They have ignored better areas than this location in the City. I know because I live in a great area of the City that would kill for the worn and dated store you wrote about earlier in the week, or a cargo container store like this. This is a location where vagrants will probably be hanging around begging from customers. I hope it works out for them.

  8. Chgo. says:

    My bad! It was a Checkers not a Rally’s, although I believe they are the same company.

  9. jocelyn says:

    oh, this sounds interesting! and as luck would have it, i have a coffee tasting on monday. i was thinking about pairing the casi cielo with dark chocolate garnished with burnt lemon, but i’ve never paired a coffee with strawberries before, so i’ll try it!

    melody, every time i go to ross (which is often) the first thing i do is go over to the home/food section and look for decaf casi cielo! 😉

  10. WO says:

    Casi Cielo is one of my favorites. It is the versatility of this coffee to pair with everything. I’m not joking. Strawberries are a fun start, especially if they are dipped in chocolate. But then move to cinnamon cake. Maybe lemon cake.

    But wait! Now time to blow your mind. Bust out those Pringles. Ya, those BBQ ones. How about that bag of chipotle ranch Doritos in the cupboard? I am not kidding. Go ahead. Try it with everything.

    WARNING: You should NOT try this with any other coffee that I know of. Only with Casi Cielo.

    …just my 2 beans

  11. Melody says:

    Whoa! BBQ Pringles pairing with Casi Cielo!!! Oh I want to try that one!

  12. Deborah says:

    We are going to start brewing Casi Cielo on Monday in our store in Newport Beach. Happens to be the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice~some dark chocolate with your cup of “almost heaven”, Mr Darcy?

  13. Melody says:

    Deborah – I hope that it is true for downtown Seattle too. It’s funny – I realize that I didn’t really take full advantage of the “January tumbler” this year partly because I’d been so looking forward to having Casi Ciel in the tumbler, and often it wasn’t brewing. Thanks for weighing in Deborah!

  14. denise r says:

    They’ve already stopped brewing Casi Cielo around me at most ‘regular’ stores……they’re ‘out’ they say. So, now we’re getting alot of French Roast. I did however get a pour-over of Casi yesterday in Woodfield mall. (not ‘Streets’ or I’d be talking Clover…)

  15. denise r says:

    I am totally in agreement with @chgo re: that ‘container store Sbux’ location. That’s been (in my memory) just an eternally difficult corner. I think, too, that the only saving hope will be the students from Loyola. But, who knows?

  16. Chgo. says:

    @Denise – They still have a lot of Casi Cielo at the PR store, but as of today, they still haven’t sold any as a drip. I had to get mine on the Clover today. We’re entering a heat wave as you know over the next couple of days so I ordered mine iced. 😉

  17. Becky E says:

    Very interesting post. Love the Casi Cielo this year. I hope the container store works out for the Chicago area and I think Starbucks should definitely send you to the grand opening, Melody!

  18. Melody says:

    I’m on my Kindle, sorry this is sloppy. oh Becky it would make my heart sing if Starbucks sent me to the new shipping container store. I’ve alluded to this many times, but until my current job uncertainty ends, no fun trips for Melody just to go to Starbucks.
    @Chicago and Denise, I think Starbucks shouldve consulted with you about that corner before committing a store to it. 😉

  19. Chgo. says:

    @Melody – I think they should consult with me about getting a Starbucks or 2 in my locale! I live near a major State Route that has nothing but one Licensed store in a Target buried inside an indoor mall. The street known as Harlem Ave. is miles of strip malls and shopping and not one Corporate store on it for miles. It links 2 major expressways and crosses some of Chicago’s public transportation hubs. It makes no sense how Starbucks chooses their locations in Chicago.

  20. denise r says:

    @Melody: you’re right, they should’ve consulted with some one born and raised here! especially as opposed to many of the dms who are not even from this area, let alone the city itself! (and I LOVE our dm) I actually have no idea where they get their info from re: where to put a new store. Like many things and projects, it’s obviously often not from the people who actually know the most. (referring to much more than just Sbux) I think I read there would be a ‘walk up window’ at this new ‘container’ store? That’d make sense…..kind of like the gas stations in many areas where you cannot go inside, have to pay ahead etc. (security bars on the windows, etc.) Let’s put it this way: if you were here, I would definitely NOT feel comfortable for you to be walking around that corner alone. (and I definitely wouldn’t want to be there!) ha. ;/

  21. Becky E says:

    Well that’s just crazy that Starbucks would put a store of any kind on that corner. Sounds unsafe for customers and baristas. Who would want to work there?! Seems like there would be so many places this container store could go other than in such a questionable area. They definitley need to do more homework before they decide on locations it seems.

  22. Chgo. says:

    @Becky E – It’s not a bad location where it is riddled with a lot of crime, as much as it is an area, with a lot of lost souls because of its high rate of large apartment complexes with cheap subsidized housing. They have been trying to gentrify the area for years and there are a lot of yuppies that have moved into the area, but the neighborhood is riddled with people with mental issues and drug problems, whose families and the State have long deserted them. Its an area where lost people seem to wander the streets. It has a high rate of Methadone clinics. Most of these lost souls are harmless, but it scares some people. It is a great high traffic area for a drive thru. It could succeed very well as a drive thru or walk up. My only beef is that Starbucks continues to ignore better areas to place new stores than this location.

  23. Purple1 says:

    Chgo what an interesting history about the site for the container store. Do you think SB did a marketing study and feels the site will produce enough revenue to make it worthwhile to build there. Long range I assume the area is going to change? I do agree that SB can pick other areas that are better.

  24. Chgo. says:

    @Purple1 – I haven’t been up there since the winter of 2011. There is mention of the Alderman in the article Melody provides the link for. The last time I was in the area, I was in the company of the Alderman and other local Politicians actually. I don’t know him personally. I do know they have worked hard over the past 20 years to change things up there. Its been slow but gradual. Its hard to displace a lot of people with nowhere to go. The Politicians in the area are very liberal and progressive so they are between a rock and a hard place. Its hard to balance change and money vs those that are needy. There are indeed some positives to the area, don’t get me wrong. Loyola University is big money and right there. The lakefront is a block or so away. Evanston and Northwestern University are close by. It kind of makes sense if there is a plan. I think a container store is a safe bet for now. This store should get adequate drive thru business. That area changes so much block by block. Its an area going through change. Maybe its time for a Starbucks. I’m just jealous maybe…..

  25. Becky E says:

    @Chgo.-thanks for more clarification of that area. It still seems like an odd place for the container store unless the students at Loyola will go there. If it is easily accessible to drive thru traffic then it sounds like that would work too.

  26. Chgo. says:

    I would like to get back to the coffee. Starbucks just sent me an email basically introducing me to the Maui Mokka. It came out 2 weeks ago (tommorow) with the Casi Cielo and the Guatemala Antigua Finca Medina. They seem to be behind with all their emails, just like the email notification that come after you have redeemed your latest reward. I kind of expect something better than this from them.

  27. Chgo. says:

    @Becky E – The true secret to it’s success, is probably going to be Lake Shore Drive. Lake Shore Drive leds to Downtown Chicago and continues south. The corner this store is going on is described as Devon and Broadway, but it also can be called the corner of Sheridan Rd. and Broadway. Devon turns into Sheridan Rd east of Broadway and Broadway turn’s into Sheridan north of Devon (Sheridan does an “S” a few times) Mapquest Devon and Broadway, Chicago Il. Darn it’s confusing!!! Sheridan also goes south and links to LSD (not that kind). But when Sheridan goes North at Broadway & Devon, It leads to Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs. I know it sounds confusing, but plenty of Porcshe’s, Ferrari’s, and Jaguars make their way to LSD this way to work.

  28. gregthebarista says:

    Cielo has always been my favourite coffee! So delicious…. We are doing a valentines evening at my store where we will be sampling cielo, verona, & Guatemala antigua. Strawberries, chocolates, lemon cakes. You name it!

    So romantic.
    (I also want to have these aprons!)

  29. purple1 says:

    Melody they just started brewing Casi here. Come here for your cup!

  30. purple1 says:

    Melody just thought you would like to know my local SB is now finished brewing Casi. The partner told me they only got two bags to brew! I thought that was interesting given they wanted to promote it.

  31. WO says:

    I am finding all this talk about stores not having Casi Cielo to brew kinda weird.

    My store, received an auto shipment of 8-5lb bullets. That is 40lbs for brewing. We got the second lowest amount in the district. Some stores got 80-100lbs for brewing. On top of that, we also have regular retail bags.

    Please keep in mind, that if there is ANY coffee in the store, 5lb, 1lb, even 1/2lb, it is Starbucks policy that it is available for brewing in a French Press and/or pour over. But more importantly, it is available for purchase, to brew at home & work.

    Now get out there and enjoy some great coffee. 😉

    …just my 2 beans

  32. Michelle says:

    There was some confusion in my area and stores brewed the Casi before they were supposed to, so now they don’t have it when they’re supposed to be brewing (I admit to being one of those stores). It seems extremely strange to me that we’d launch the coffee for sale and then not have it on the brewing calendar till two weeks later.. I know I’m not the only one who was confused by this. We got enough to brew, but I know a neighbouring store did not and had to make some calls to get more in so they would have enough for the week.

  33. BCav says:

    Casi Cielo is on the same level as Tribute Blend.

    Seriously, every time one of those rolls around, and the shipments start arriving in store, I get as giddy as a 5 year old on Christmas Morning in front of a tower of unwrapped gifts.

    This post is awesome! I never thought about a strawberry pairing with this! I can’t wait to try it out!

  34. Chgo. says:

    There have been a recent rash of crimes against Loyola students within 3 blocks of the proposed store location, in the past week or so.

  35. Hayley says:

    Mmmm Casi Cielo is still one of my favorite Starbucks coffees! I’ll be sad to see it go, and I love that they offered it in k-cups too…but nothing beats just the whole beans!
    I decided that Verismo just wasn’t for me, the milk wasn’t hot enough and I could not get over the taste of the powdered milk. So, I’m sticking with my normal coffee maker and my Keurig for now. I haven’t ever paired this coffee with strawberries, I’ll have to try it!

  36. Hayley says:

    Also, @WO – it’s a small world. I don’t know exactly what store you work at in Phoenix, but somehow I have figured out (through fb I think) that you work with Amina who was one of my absolute favorite baristas at my favorite Starbucks in Tucson. She’s a doll! You’re lucky to have her! You can tell her I say hi!

  37. denise r says:

    @chgo: (I continue to engage in ‘off-topic’ with you;) That’s what we’re talking about…the Loyola area situation. If you didn’t know the area, you’d never realize.
    Saw your other post…I’m good, btw….except my transmission which WENT OUT!!!! so, it’s in for a BIG fix. The lucky thing was I’d JUST gotten off I294 and crossed a busy intersection and was right at a gas station which I was able to just make it into. So, didn’t get slammed on I294, or at River & Rand….but otherwise……has created some unfortunate worry. :( Can’t be helped. Hope you and your family are well!

  38. Melody says:

    @Chgo and Denise – The rash of crimes at that site worries me. Aside from the obvious worry of both partner and customer safety, there is one more thing. I notice that when Starbucks opens stores in questionable neighborhoods, it >can< be tough for partners to stay upbeat. I can understand – If it feels like 'you're slinging lattes' for hobos, I get that would be a drain. I could write more, but don't have time.

  39. Melody says:

    @Hayley – It definitely felt like Casi Cielo came and went too fast.

  40. Andy Schwarz says:

    Starbucks should switch their house blend to Casi Cielo. I have one half bag left…

  41. Vera Baker says:

    Just browsing to see when Starbucks might have their Casi Cielo back in next year and stumbled across your blog. I always buy about 15lbs of Casi Cielo when it comes out each year (been doing this for years) and store it in a cool, dry location. This usually lasts me almost until September (usually the stamped expiration date each year). I buy whole bean, grind as I go and press it. I usually never share it with guests unless I know they appreciate coffee. The remainder of the year until it comes out again, I try to source Kauai Coffee. Starbucks used to be the exclusive vendor for Kauai Coffee when I lived in Hawaii until 2010, then it disappeared. They do have a coffee club and will mail their coffee. Luckily, I’ll be in Kauai this weekend and am going to tour the plantation and load up on enough to last me ’til Casi Cielo reappears. Mahalo for your blog.

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