Category Archives: Coffee Tastings

Coffee Education: Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia; Reserve Colombia El Penol; Geish La Ines; Anniversary Blend.

Yesterday, (10-18-14) I participated in a coffee tasting bonanza. It’s funny because it wasn’t totally planned as such but ended up being an amazing day of coffee tastings! I tried the following:

  1. Tasting Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia in a compare/contrast tasting with the Starbucks Reserve Geisha La Ines.
  2. Starbucks Reserve Colombia El Penol paired with food.
  3.  Anniversary Blend with rosemary smoked truffle salt popcorn.

2 - 1 - PhotoGrid_1413658726682 Hacienda2 - 1 - IMAG3229 pouring the Hacienda coffee2 - 1 - IMAG3218 Hacienda smell2 - 1 - IMAG3241 Geisha2 - 1 - IMAG3244 Geisha side by side with Hacienda coffeeHACIENDA ALSACIA and GEISHA LA INES:

Jocelyn (a friend and current partner) and I met up at the Bainbridge Island Starbucks. As we sat, several other partners dropped by where we were sitting to say hello and connect. There’s no better means of connecting than tasting coffee!

One partner brought us his personal bag of Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia coffee. This is a near-impossible coffee to come by. Starbucks owns a farm in Costa Rica called Hacienda Alsacia. This is a new venture for Starbucks. This Hacienda Alsacia coffee bag held the first crop ever sourced and produced from the Starbucks-owned farm. I couldn’t believe his generosity in leaving us his bag of it! He knew we’d love it, but still! This coffee was only distributed to Starbucks District Managers and above at the recent “Starbucks District Manager Leadership Conference” held in Seattle last week.

Later on in the day, a partner produced a bag of the Geisha La Ines coffee, which seemed to come out of nowhere. You may recall, I went to the roasting of the Geisha La Ines, in August this year. Being able to side by side compare these two coffees was fantastic. They’re both grown in Costa Rica but obviously are two different varietals and even their roast profiles were different.

I was getting over a head cold, so my own tasting felt a little off. I thought that the Hacienda Alsacia was pretty complex for being a non-blend coffee. I picked up a little spiciness in the Hacienda Alsacia. Jocelyn’s tasting notes were as follows:We did a side by side comparison with the Geisha La Ines. If you’ve tasted the Geisha, you would know that coffee is sweet, but in an exotic fruit type of way. This coffee could be a cousin.. Sweet, but with this beautiful floral aroma. Sparkling acidity with a hint of citrus.”


2 - 1 - IMAG3201 Brooke holding up the Colombia coffee2 - 1 - IMAG3204 Colombia with pocky2 - 1 - Untitled screen cap of colombia el penol 19 Oct 14The Colombia El Penol coffee is a new Reserve coffee, which will be available in Starbucks stores beginning October 21, 2014, and is already available on

Jocelyn mentioned that she gets a lot of cranberry and cranberry juice flavors out of this coffee. describes it as “black current and bittersweet chocolate mousse.”

She paired this coffee with the Berry Carnival flavor Pocky sticks, something that is easily found at Seattle’s iconic Uwajimaya grocery stores. (I realize that this is sort of a very local Seattle thing: Uwajimaya is kind of a Seattle institution and it seems like everyone who is a long-term Seattle resident has been shopping there and knows about it.)

This was a surprisingly great pairing. The Pocky treat is like a hard, unsalted pretzel stick, with a candy coating. The candy part of the treat has a rich flavor and helped make the “currant” flavor in the coffee come out more. I felt like the chocolatyness of the coffee went well with the pretzel-like part of the Pocky treat. I realize this is a really unusual pairing, but definitely well thought out!

I found the Pocky treats on, in case you really want to order a box.


2 - 1 - IMAG3198 Jocelyn popcorn I had so much fun yesterday that I forgot to take a lot of pictures! We paired Anniversary Blend with Jocelyn’s home-smoked rosemary, truffle salted popcorn.

I should have taken a photo of the bag of Anniversary Blend, but somehow neglected to in all the fun. Hopefully all of my readers here have tried and/or seen Anniversary Blend before. It’s a bold, spicy coffee that was originally introduced in 1996 to celebrate Starbucks’ 25th anniversary.

Popcorn and Anniversary Blend is a classic pairing option. This was an especially fabulous pairing as the smoked popcorn brought out the roastyness to Anniversary Blend. In general, Anniversary Blend will pair nicely with many savory food options. A buttery popcorn is perfect with Anniversary Blend.

I noticed that Anniversary Blend is now gone from, but you can still find a bag or two of it here and there at your local Starbucks stores.

2 IMAG3207 bainbridge island blendLast but not least, we also tried Bainbridge Island blend with the La Boulange Pecan Tart. That’s a perfect option of Bainbridge Island Blend! I just didn’t get enough pictures.

Hope you enjoyed these coffee tasting adventures! We spent hours at the store, just trying one coffee after another. I know I said it already, but it was an incredible day!

I’m always interested in hearing about your coffee tasting adventures. Please feel free to tell me about fun coffee events you’ve been to at Starbucks, or anything Starbucks coffee related.

If you like reading about coffee tastings, I recommend browsing past articles in this category. In particular, I thought this coffee event for the Panama Reserve coffees was fabulous.

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A look at Starbucks Reserve coffees from Panama.

PhotoGrid_1410323123826 copyTonight (September 9, 2014)  I attended a coffee seminar presented by Starbucks coffee headquarters partner Leslie Wolford.

We compared and contrasted three coffees from Panama, all sourced from different farms. All three coffees come from the Volcán growing region of Panama.

IMAG2351 All 3 Panama Coffees



Leslie Wolford is 24-year Starbucks partner who is part of a small team of people at the Starbucks headquarters who selects new coffees as Reserves and develops blend recipes as well.  The now-famous “Starbucks Micro Blend 11” was Leslie’s creation. (Scroll down for a picture of that Reserve coffee bag – I didn’t know until this tasting that it’s called number 11 because it was her eleventh iteration of beans to get the perfect blend that she wanted).

This was an incredible opportunity to hear Leslie speak. I wish you could have been there. She is incredibly knowledgeable and radiates her passion for coffee. And as a 24-year partner, she can talk about anything Starbucks.  It was inspiring to have this opportunity. At one point, we chatted about what Starbucks was like 24 years ago, and she commented that when she began in the stores, there were only three syrups: Almond, Vanilla, and Hazelnut and essentially customers could only buy coffee, lattes, or espresso.

All three Panamas are roasted to the lighter end of a Starbucks roast profile (think anywhere from a blonde roast to, at the darkest, Breakfast Blend), and all are washed-processed coffees. We tried all the coffees made by a French press.

Panama Los Cantares Screen CapWe began the coffee seminar with the Panama Los Cantares Reserve Coffee. This coffee is sourced from the a farm owned by Jackie Mercer Vallarino, who as a grower as won numerous awards for the Geisha  category coffees. This farmer has interesting practices when it comes to coffee cherry picking. The Nobe –Bugle are an indigenous people (native to this remove area of Panama) who live in the mountains and come down to harvest coffee. Jackie has created a system to house and look after the tribal families that pick coffee – including looking after the education and healthcare of the tribal member’s children.  And of course, they’re paid for their work.

The Panama Los Cantares Reserve had a lot of aroma – you could get the citrus notes even in the aroma. The acidity of the orange flavor notes hit upfront and then left you with a clean cup of coffee. It has a chocolatey mouth feel and soft flavors. What a great cup of coffee.

The coffees grown on this farm are influences by the microclimates created by a river that runs through this farm. It’s grown at about 4,500 feet to 5,000 feet. What a great example of how coffee is a farm product and the magic of the land influences the flavors.

Untitled-2 Starbucks Panama Carmen EstateNext we tried the Panama Carmen Estate coffee, grown at 6,000 feet. This coffee farmed is named after the woman who founded it in the 1960s, who was the grandmother of the current family farming this land.

This is the same varietals as the Panama Los Cantares coffee yet produces a completely different cup of coffee. Another perfect example of how the magic of the microclimates of a farm and the processing method will affect the coffee.

Our group noticed that this coffee has a lot less aroma than the Panama Los Cantares but was full of flavor. It has a praline sweetness to it and a lemony acidity.

The farm uses a high pressure washing method instead of the full fermentation step to wash his coffees.  (In a washed processed coffee, most go through a full immersion soaking, instead these coffee cherries are subject to high pressure water). The high pressure water is reclaimed and can be used for irrigation and the farmers find that they use less water in the washing of the coffee,  a sustainable practice.

This farmer sells his coffee beans lot by lot, with heavy competition to buy their coffee. Many independent coffee businesses are known to buy a lot here and there of this farmer’s green beans. Carlos Aguliera produces some of the world’s most renowned specialty coffees on his award-winning, family estate.

By the way, I loved this coffee tasting. It was amazing to taste the distinct and clear flavor differences in this small batch coffees, all of which retain their origin flavors.

IMAG2355 Panama Geisha coffeeThird we tried the Panama Geisha Auromar coffee, which is not available in stores and sold out online at This was a floral and complex coffee. Starbucks sourced about 1,000 pounds of this harvest of it, and sent some to Reserve stores in Japan, and sold the remainder on, until gone.  This coffee had lots of tropical flavors and floral flavors. It explodes as a sweet and juicy cup of coffee. The farm offering this produces coffee on about 17 hectares of land, but owns in total about 30 hectares the remainder of which is native forest creating shade and micro growing climates. This farmer is known to pick the coffee cherries just slightly later than many farmers do – in other words, the coffee cherries are slightly over ripened. This creates risk of spoilage but the farmer has been able to create great coffee with wonderful berry notes.

This kind of coffee tasting is sometimes called a “vertical” coffee tastings – tasting and comparing across one growing region.

This was superb for my coffee education. I could have written more. I learned more about the farms, micro climates, and truly was able to appreciate how three coffees all from Panama can all taste totally different from each other.

Thank you Leslie for volunteering your time to walk us through an inspiring and education coffee seminar!

We had a pretty good turn out too:

IMAG2348 Group in attendence - Coffee Seminar 9 Sep 2014


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Roy Street Coffee and Starbucks Fall Blend (2 wonderful things, not related to each other).

IMAG1767 - Sign pointing into Roy Street from the parking garage 17August14At about 8:30 AM today (Sunday, August 17, 2014) I dropped by Roy Street Coffee and Tea. It’s been way too long since I spotlighted this store. This location is entirely owned and operated by Starbucks. In fact, it’s one of just a few stores that are considered to be “Inspired by Starbucks” stores. An “Inspired by Starbucks” store will have Starbucks coffees available but that’s almost where the similarity ends. You can use your Starbucks card at Roy Street and earn a star per transaction. There is no way to redeem a reward. There are no Frappuccinos. Neither the food nor the beverage menu looks much like Starbucks at all. You can a “Reserve Pour Over” or a Clover-brewed cup of coffee. With the Reserve pour over, partners take extra care to make sure that no step is missed, such as pre-wetting the filter and doing a very slow pour. (When making a pour over, a small amount of hot water should be used to rinse through the filter. That water is tossed out. The pre-rinse step helps eliminate any paper filter taste and improves the extraction of the coffee.)

I ran into partner Matt, whom I’ve known since about 2007. When I met him, he was a baby barista at the Columbia Tower Starbucks in downtown Seattle. He moved to “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea” which at one time was also an “Inspired by Starbucks” store. In January 2011, 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea reverted back into a standard Starbucks location.

Matt is the kind of guy that always leaves you smiling after you talk with him. He knows how to have a good laugh and smile a lot too. I know that Matt is a musician in a band, so each time I see him, I follow up with him on how he’s doing. I appreciate the hard work that any creative output requires (and for me this blog counts as that as well as my book). Matt mentioned that he’s recording an album. The conversation went something like this:

“We’re recording an album Melody, and maybe a band tour starting in October.”

“That’s awesome! I’ll buy a copy of your CD. I’ll buy a copy even if I don’t like the music!”‘

“I appreciate that! You know I’m going to hold you to it. We’re looking at ways of fundraising. Maybe Kickstarter. We’ve talked about doing an auction and having the band members auction of kisses!”

I laugh: “You bring out the cougar in me!” Matt laughed. He knew I was joking around.

But back to the topic of Roy Street. It has a beautiful Simonelli Black Eagle espresso machine. Every latte is handcrafted with your choice of a single-origin Reserve coffee or a more standard Espresso Roast. I was surprised that the store was fairly slow when I dropped by. I don’t consider 8:30 AM to be very early. As far as I know, Starbucks currently operates three “Inspired By” stores. One is in Tokyo. I believe that the Herald Square Starbucks in New York City is considered an “experimental” store but it doesn’t have the Inspired By branding. I’m not actually positive about that, and if you know better in the comments, do tell. And of course, Roy Street is an “Inspired By” store.

I end up mentioning the older 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, as well as Roy Street several times in the book Tales of the Siren: A StarbucksMelody – If you haven’t picked up a copy, I hope you’ll do so.

Enjoy the photos:

IMAG1769 Roy street seating - comfy red couches - 17August14IMAG1773 Roy St - The Black Eagle Espresso Machine - 17Aug14IMAG1774 Roy Street Coffee and Tea - 17 August 14IMAG1776 Roy Street Coffee and Tea Reserve Pour Over set up 17Aug14IMAG1778 Pastry case at Roy Street - 17 Aug 14IMAG1785 Roy Street Coffee 17 Aug 14IMAG1787 Roy Street backroom seating area 17Aug14


IMAG1815 Fall Blend - Coffee packaging 17 August 14After Roy Street (and a few more scheduled stops), I headed to a Starbucks for a coffee tasting with partner Jocelyn. She’d mentioned that she was working on a perfect pairing for Fall Blend 2014. This was incredible. Fall Blend exceeded my expectations. The bag states that it’s classified as a “medium” roast coffee but I would guess that it’s on the darker spectrum of medium, heading into dark. It’s a complex, savory coffee with dark cocoa and spicy notes. It’s perfect with cheese and dark chocolate. Actually, the packaging describes some nutty flavors though I think the darker, complex Sumatra notes were more prominent. As the coffee cooled, the citrus component of Kenya came to life. After it’s cooled just a bit, it picks up a juicy finish. The master coffee blenders at Starbucks get two solid huge thumbs up on this coffee. If I had more thumbs on my hands, they’d get more than just two of them.

We paired Fall Blend with cheese from the Starbucks bistro box. The idea was that the cheese added creaminess and brought out more savory notes yet calming the peppery, spicy notes. This was a pretty good pairing, though the chocolate pairing we did was even more fantastic. Jocelyn picked out a Vosges Peppercorn and Parmesan chocolate bar. This may be a hard to find chocolate bar – I’ve heard that it’s exclusive to Whole Foods stores. This was amazing. The subtle peppercorn notes made the spicy notes in the coffee pop yet the dark chocolate balanced it well.  Our coffee was brewed with the standard Starbucks pour over kit, found at Starbucks stores everywhere. I hope you get the chance to pick up some Fall Blend 2014 too. Look for it at any grocery store.

IMAG1804 Fall Blend pairing - dark choc - 17 August 14IMAG1817 Dark Chocolate with Parmesan and PeppercornIMAG1815 Fall Blend - Coffee packaging 17 August 14

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2 new Starbucks Reserve Coffees: Maui Mokka and Malawi Peaberry Sable Farm.

Two new Starbucks Reserve coffees are here! They’re available in Starbucks Reserve locations or at

Untitled-1 Screen cap - maui mokkaThe first is the Maui Mokka Reserve, which as the name implies, is a mokka varietal coffee, grown in Maui. The website describes it as having flavors of candied fruit and chocolate. I went to a coffee seminar at the East Olive Way Starbucks (on June 16, 2014) and we paired it with the chocolate brownie. What an amazing coffee.

It’s a dense, creamy coffee with just a ton of natural flavor. In the coffee tasting event, people around me stated that they picked up hints of pineapple and nutmeg in the coffee. One thing that makes this Maui Mokka so revered is that it has a one-of-a-kind processing method. (The processing method refers to the farmers process and treatment that involves removing the fleshy coffee cherry from the bean itself). This coffee is allowed to dry in the sun, on the tree itself. In a typical sun-dried coffee process (sometimes called “natural” processing) the coffee cherries are picked from the trees and then laid on tarps to dry.

This is a very limited supply coffee. I’ve heard that many stores are running out already, as demand is high and supply is low. It appears to be still available on

Untitled-2 Malawi on StarbucksStore 25 June 2014 screen capThe second new Reserve is the Malawi Peaberry Sable Farm Reserve coffee.A peaberry is a coffee bean that doesn’t develop into two halves. Normally, coffee beans grow in a form very similar to peanuts. When you look at a peanut, you can see the two halves that can easily be split apart. Each piece has a flattened side and a rounded side. Typically, when you’re looking at coffee beans, you’ll notice that each roasted bean has that shape – a flattened side and a rounded side. This is because the normal form of coffee is like a peanut. A peaberry is an anomaly. It’s one rounded, single bean, and is NOT a coffee bean that spits into two pieces. Usually, peaberry coffee beans are a little smaller than typical coffee beans. I’ve heard it said that below 10% of all coffee grows in the peaberry form. These also tend to be high density beans, withstanding roasting temperatures well.

The Malawi Peaberry brewed coffee has a lot of lime notes to it! The aroma was sweet spice. Coffee Master Megan paired this coffee with key lime pie. The smoothness of the pie complemented the tangy-ness of the coffee. This coffee is a little juicy and tangy.

It was really an enjoyable pairing! I gained a whole new appreciation for a basic Safeway frozen key lime pie too. This coffee tasting made me want to pick one up and take it home.

I want to thank Starbucks partners Megan and Alex for doing a great job at this coffee seminar. You too can join in! They’re free and offered every other Monday night at 6:00 PM at the East Olive Way Starbucks. You should call ahead to verify their schedule.

We really had such a great time. There was a girl sitting next to me who was also named Melody! I heard her say to Alex and Megan (in a very kidding voice – the two of them are already friends) “Hey pretend like you like each other!” and next thing I knew the two of them had burst out laughing. I snapped one very quick, in-the-moment photo and got this amazing picture. Even if I had written nothing else about this Starbucks event, I would have wanted you to seen this picture!

2 - 1 - Alex and Megan having funNow that’s a great coffee seminar!

And here are just a couple more pics:


2 - 1 - IMAG0388 Brownie pairing with Maui Mokka2 - 1 - IMAG0380 Malowi and Maui Mokka beans

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Starbucks Brezza Coffee Blend: cold brewed iced coffee sangria recipe.

Enjoy your drinkA reader of this site sent in her photos and recipe for Starbucks Brezza Blend made as a cold brew, sangria-like beverage (lots of fruit in it).  I haven’t tried this but the pictures were so stunning and it sounded so delicious that I thought I would share her recipe here.

Starbucks Brezza Blend is a new summer seasonal coffee.

Untitled-1 Brezza Blend on Starbucks storeYou can find Brezza Blend in Starbucks stores or at

To get started, here’s what you will need:

  • 125 grams of coarsely ground Brezza blend.
  • 5 cups of filtered water
  • A large mason jar.

To get started:

Weigh out your coffee. (You want to weigh out the 125 grams as a whole bean coffee. Roughly about one and one-third cup of whole bean coffee.) Coarsely grind the coffee. Combine coffee and cold water into mason jar. Stir it to make sure that all of the grounds are saturated. Screw the lid on, and give it a good shake. Now place the jar on your counter (away from the sun) for 18 hours.

After the 18 hours is up, your coffee is ready. Next, strain the grounds from the coffee. Many people will want to use a paper filter to do this. Try using a Chemex paper filter or standard cone paper filter, as used with a Melitta brewer. Once the coffee is strained, add two cups of ice cubes and let the ice coffee rest. While your coffee is resting, you can start slicing your fruits.

The reader who sent me this recipe used heirloom navel oranges, ruby red grapefruits, Meyer lemons, and limes to garnish. Other fruits that would complement are blood oranges and raspberries. Traditionally, sangria is sweetened with honey or orange juice, so the recipe creator decided to make a Minneola tangelo simple syrup. A Minneola is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, and has an incredible sweetness to it.
Minneola simple syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 minneola
Dissolve the water and sugar together on the stove. Add the juice from the Minneola. You can shave the peel of the fruit and add it to the mixture for a little zest. Cook on a medium low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken up. Pour into a squeeze bottle to cool.
Fill your sangria pitcher with ice, add the sliced fruit and then add the cold brew coffee. Let steep for about 5 minutes before serving. Sweeten to your taste. For added fun, garnish each glass with lime slices or fresh grapefruit segments.
(As with every blog post, do not re-use photos or content without permission).
Measure out coffee beans brezzastrain the coffee brezza sangriaadd your cold filtered watergarnish and use plenty of fruit

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Now Available: New Starbucks Reserve Coffee Brazil Bourbon Rio Verde

IMAG0562 brazil beans 2There is a new Starbucks Reserve coffee now available in stores! I went to a coffee tasting at the East Olive Way Starbucks last night and had the chance to try this new coffee. This is an outstanding new Reserve. It’s so smooth and creamy. I bought a bag of it while I was there, and I will be ordering this in the stores! We had the Brazil Bourbon Clover brewed, which surprised me how round and full-bodied it came out. As many know, the Clover sometimes brings out the acidity in coffee.

Coffee Master Megan paired the Brazil Bourbon with plums and the new Espresso Chocolates. The new Espresso Chocolates are part of the food menu exclusive to the Evenings Starbucks stores. I really enjoyed the new Brazil Bourbon Rio Verde with the chocolate. The milk chocolatey deliciousness of the mini truffle chocolate paired perfectly with the chocolate flavor to the Brazil coffee. At tonight’s coffee tasting, several other participants said they got some of the juiciness from the coffee, but my own tasting was that the chocolate was the more predominate flavor note. I thought the plums were a little bit overwhelming to this coffee, though others loved how it brought out the Brazil’s juicy notes.

IMAG0551 plums and chocolate 2Megan did a great job with the event! Here are a few more pictures:

IMAG0558 Brazil Side of Bag 2IMAG0556 megan leads coffee tasting 2Please come join me at an East Olive Way coffee seminar! All are welcome. They’re open to the public, free and held usually every other Monday at 6:00 PM.  Call ahead and confirm their schedule. This Starbucks is located at 1600 East Olive Way, Seattle,WA 98102. The phone number is 206 568 5185.

If you’re looking for this Brazil Bourbon coffee, look for any Reserve – Clover Starbucks or visit Click here for the Starbucks Brazil Bourbon Rio Verde on

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Coffee Tasting Fun: Recent Events at Starbucks.

Anyone who’s been reading this website for a while knows that I genuinely love a good coffee tasting. I thought I’d share a few different events that I’ve been to recently.

On April 26, 2014, at the Seventh and Pike Starbucks, Coffee Master Soo explained the four reasons why Starbucks coffee tastes great. I thought his presentation was really great. He explained that customers often ask him, “Why doesn’t my coffee at home taste like the Starbucks coffee in the stores?”  To answer that, Soo explained the four “R”easons why (which are really the Starbucks four fundamentals of a great cup of coffee): fReshness, gRind, pRoportion, and wateR. Now you have an easy way to remember the four fundamentals of a great cup of coffee.

IMAG0285 Soo talking about the four reasons Starbucks coffee is greatDuring this coffee tasting, Soo answered customer questions about how quickly coffee should be used, once the bag is opened. Use an opened bag of coffee within seven days from the date you opened it.

IMAG0280 Soo at 7th and Pike StarbucksOn April 27, 2014, at the Sixth and Union Starbucks, Coffee Master Aaron also walked customers through a tasting of Veranda prepared via a French press. Aaron did a great job of explaining how to make the perfect cup of coffee!

IMAG0319 - 2 Aaron pouring from a french pressAnd then on May 5, 2014, Coffee Master Jordan at the East Olive Way Starbucks compared Guatemala Antigua prepared by several brew methods, and paired it with the chocolate croissant. This Starbucks is located at 1600 East Olive Way, Seattle, WA, 98102, and the phone number is 206 – 568 – 5185. I hope you’ll join me at a coffee tasting at this store! There are regular coffee tastings every other Monday night at 6:00 PM, and they’re open to the public and free. I always suggest calling ahead to double check their schedule.

It’s always the case, in my experience, that the French press gives you the roundest body, and a big bold flavor. Guatemala Antigua is a core coffee – it’s squarely a medium roast, medium body coffee. It’s kind of an under-rated gem in the lineup. Whether you have it via the Clover (which may bring out more of the acidity) or whether you make it drip-brewed at home with a paper filter, it’s always an enjoyable coffee with lots of cocoa notes and a clean finish.

Come join in at an East Olive Way coffee tasting! Hope to see you at the next one, on Monday, May 19th.

IMAG0431 Jordan French Press Guatemala AntiguaIMAG0436 Guatemala Antigua CoffeeLast but not least, I happen to drop by the Kelso Starbucks not too long ago and noticed this sign on the store’s community board. It’s a listing of planned coffee events at area Starbucks in southwest Washington. Some of the events are still coming up this summer. I thought you might like to join one, if you happen to be in the area:

IMAG0399-1Hope you enjoyed this look at fun coffee events!

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IMAG0156 EOlive Way - Peru coffee - 21 April 2014

Coffee Tastings This Week: Zambia, Peru Chonti, and Deschutes Inversion IPA.

I went to two coffee events this week that I want to tell you about.

The first was a coffee seminar at the East Olive Way Starbucks. As a reminder, the East Olive Way Starbucks offers free seminars on Monday evenings at 6:00 PM. They generally have them two Mondays each month, so call ahead for the schedule. (Their phone number is 206-586-5185). On Monday the 21st, Starbucks partners Topher and Jordan presented the Zambia and Peru Chonti Reserve coffees. We compared and contrasted them, and tried them with the La Boulange Double Chocolate Brownie. The Peru was a surprisingly wonderful coffee. It was full of cocoa notes, which absolutely popped with the chocolate brownie. The Peru Chonti is grown at a very high elevation. We tried it Clover brewed and noticed that it had a fairly clean aroma, a rounded chocolately flavor, and a medium body. This coffee is roasted just past medium to a dark roast profile (but on the light spectrum of dark roast). The Peru Chonti is an in-store only coffee, and not found on, unlike most Reserve coffees. You have to try it! The Zambia coffee was much more brighter, juicier, and floral. I didn’t think the brownie was all that amazing with the Zambia.

One interesting thing about the Zambia coffee is that it is a peaberry formation. Most coffees grown like a peanut – they have two halves that come apart. A peaberry is generally a very small, rounded bean, that doesn’t have the two halves. Only about 5% of the world’s coffee grows as a peaberry.

Nicely done Topher and Jordan!

Enjoy the photos from the East Olive Way coffee tasting!

IMAG0158 EOliveWay - Zambia CoffeeIMAG0156 EOlive Way - Peru coffee - 21 April 2014IMAG0168 EOliveWay - Jordan and Topher lead coffee seminar - 21 April 2014IMAG0169 EOliveWay - Peru with brownie - 21 Apr 2014




On April 22, 2014, I went to a coffee seminar at the University Village III Starbucks. This store does coffee seminars most Tuesday nights, at 6:00 PM. Again, they’re free to the public but call ahead for the schedule. Their phone number is 206-523-1718.

Both the East Olive Way and University Village III Starbucks are “Evenings” stores, meaning that customers can purchase beer and wine during the late afternoon and evening hours.

Stephanie walked us through a coffee tasting the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (Bialetti brewed) compared with a Deschutes Inversion IPA. Just having the coffee made via the Bialetti was a great experience. The Yirgacheffe was rich with berry notes and had a very jammy mouth feel. I felt like the Bialetti brought out a lot more texture and character to this coffee than a Clover brewed Yirgacheffe does.  The Bialetti also produces less sediment than a French press does. If you’re making coffee with a Bialetti at home, grind your coffee for about a paper filter (#6 on an official Starbucks grinder).

We paired the Yirgacheffe with the Deschutes Inversion IPA, hoping to see how the sweetness and floral notes of the IPA highlight the sweetness of the Yirgacheffe. I sometimes think that it’s easy to forget that one can do a very valid coffee pairing by trying coffee with another liquid. It doesn’t always have to be the case that you try coffee with food. (And in fact, one should get the habit of doing many coffee tastings that don’t involve food to learn to compare and contrast coffees.)

Lots of people around me seemed to think that this worked to bring out the lighter notes of the Yirgacheffe. I think my palate is still warming up to the idea of a beer/coffee tasting but I wouldn’t mind trying this again! If you try this, let me know what you think. Brew the coffee, and then drink the coffee, then a small sample of the IPA and compare when you drink the coffee again.

Hope you enjoy the photos!

IMAG0210 UV3 IPA 22April2014IMAG0197 UV3 - Stephanie smiling before the coffee tasting starts 22 April 2014IMAG0204 UV3 Ground Yirgacheffe for the Bialetti Coffee Maker 22April2014IMAG0206 UV3 Steph pours coffee 22 April 2014

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Today is Pike Place Roast Day.

IMAG9943 Pike Place RoastToday is Pike Place Roast Day.

Six years ago today, Starbucks introduced Pike Place Roast into their coffee lineup. In honor of Pike Place Roast Day, I asked Coffee Master Jordan if he would use Pike Place Roast for an East Olive Way coffee tasting. He was happy to do so. We tried this coffee and Pike Place Special Reserve made via a French Press and compared it to Clover-brewed versions of the two coffees.

Pike Place Special Reserve is a different coffee than Pike Place Roast. The Pike Place Special Reserve is sold exclusively in two stores: First and Pike Starbucks and 1912 Pike Place. It’s Reserve for the two Starbucks at the Market. (First and Pike is right at the entrance of the Market). Here’s what the Pike Place Special Reserve packaging looks like (note, the brown bag is the exterior packaging. It’s a bag inside a bag.)

IMAG9921 Pike Place Special Reserve Coffee

Pike Place Special Reserve is roasted darker than Pike Place Roast. You can see it when you compare the beans side by side.

IMAG9955 Pike Place Special Reserve next to Pike Place Roast coffee 6 April 2014Jordan and Marlene presented tonight’s coffee tasting. They walked us through the four steps of a coffee tasting: Smell, Slurp, Locate (the flavors on your tongue), and Describe. At one point, I got a fun picture of the two of them smelling the coffee:

IMAG9950 Jordan and Marlene smell pic 7 April 2014We paired the Pike Place Special Reserve with the La Boulange chocolate croissant. This was a great pairing and the chocolate in the croissant brought out the dark chocolate flavors in the Pike Place Special Reserve coffee. The Pike Place Roast (the everyday brew) was paired with the La Boulange Classic Coffee Cake. The Classic Coffee Cake was delicious with the Pike Place Roast, as it brought out lots of cinnamon flavor notes.

I really liked the Clover version of each of the two coffees. I’m always amazed at the stark difference in sediment between Clover brewed and French pressed. Can you tell which is which here?

IMAG9946 clover brewed next to french press

I appreciate Jordan doing Pike Place Roast for the coffee event. I wanted to write more and put in more photos but I’m having some WordPress problems.

Here’s the short version of story behind Pike Place Roast:

April 8, 2008, Pike Place Roast was launched into the Starbucks coffee lineup. The coffee masters at the headquarters wanted to develop an “Everyday Brew” to be served all day, everyday in stores. Starbucks Coffee Masters know that flavor is a geography: A motto that used to hang on the whole bean menu signboard in the 1990s era of Starbucks. But for customers who didn’t understand how growing regions and processing methods can change the coffee flavor, the ever-rotating flavor profiles in stores confused them. It was an unsettling surprise to one week drink a bold, caramelly coffee, and then next week drink a coffee that was lighter in flavor with lemony or fruity flavor profile notes.

Some customer’s thought, “Starbucks is messing with my coffee.” And so six years ago today, with great historic fanfare in Bryant Park in NYC and on the red bricks in front of 1912 Pike Place, Pike Place Roast was introduced into the world. Then-Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels dubbed April 8, 2008, “Pike Place Roast Day” in Seattle. Howard Schultz proudly introduced the new coffee to the world.

PikePlaceRoastDay-HowardSchultz-08April2008-Greatphoto copyStarbucks made history with a coffee! I was there on launch day at Pike Place Market and snapped this photo of Howard just after he finished his speech about the all-new coffee.

Please share and enjoy.

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The Three Coffee Seminar at the Elliott Drive Thru Starbucks.

IMAG9815 sign for coffee tastingOn Monday, March 31st, I went to a coffee seminar at the Starbucks on Elliott in Seattle. Kristina, a coffee master in training, invited me to her event. She did an amazing job of putting on a dynamic seminar. About twenty people appeared. Kristina walked us through trying three coffees: Starbucks Reserve® Finca Nuevo Mexico, Starbucks Sun Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe™, and the core Starbucks Sumatra coffee, which is in stores year-round.

One thing Kristina did was awaken all our senses to the coffee. The first step of a coffee tasting is to smell the coffee. You put your hand close to the cup of coffee, holding it very close to your nose, and taking a deep whiff of the aroma. What Kristina did was have us smell the coffee, and then provided many smelling-facilitator cups. For example, for the Finca Nuevo Mexico, Kristina passed around tasting cups containing toasted pine nuts, orange zest, and brown sugar. This was brilliant step. It really helps one’s coffee education to be able to smell the coffee again a second time after having smelled the aroma notes separately. It’s like as if your brain is awakened to what you’re supposed to be smelling. You can see the small cup of aroma facilitators in this picture:

IMAG9807 Mexico 31March2014I’ve been to many coffee events, but rarely do the presenters prepare something to awaken the sense of smell in this way. The cup with mushrooms, clove, lavender, cardamom, rosemary and sage was for the core Sumatra coffee. It’s amazing how one really smells mushrooms – it makes that aroma pop – when provided with this kind of smell facilitator. The strawberry with baker’s chocolate and celery (for the lemon grass aroma) was for the Sun Dried Yirgacheffe coffee.

IMAG9813 Smelling container Elliott DT

One of the other things about this coffee event was that she totally prepared and organized. Each coffee had a guide sheet which told you exactly what you’re smelling and tasting with the coffee.

IMAG9803 Sumatra coffee tasting with smelling containerWe also discovered that Kristina is a brilliantly good cook. I told her that she could be a master chef! She prepared mushrooms stuffed with artichoke hearts for the Sumatra tasting as well a lavender butter cookies. The butteryness of the lavender butter cookies worked beautifully with the savory flavors of Sumatra. And for the first time, I started to pick up lavender in Sumatra, which I never had before.

IMAG9805 Mushroom with Sumatra coffeeThe three coffees each represent different growing regions. The Mexico coffee is from Latin America. Sun-Dried Yirgacheffe is sourced from Africa. And Sumatra coffee comes from the Indonesian growing region. My favorite coffee was still the Sun-Dried Yirgacheffe but that’s largely because I’m in love with that coffee.

Kristina drew a large crowd:

IMAG9800 Kristina coffee tasting at Elliott DT 31March2014I highly recommend that you browse the Coffee Tasting articles on this site. It’s interesting to me to look back at all the past coffee event and see what partners have done for pairings. I also strongly recommend that article: What is a Coffee Master?

Congratulations Kristina P. on a fantastic coffee tasting!

Here are just a few more photos:

IMAG9882 Elliott Drive Thru coffee semianrIMAG9790 coffee seminar March 31 2014 - Elliott DT StarbucksIMAG9782 coffee is brewing in french presses

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