Today (2-26-2012) I dropped by the Starbucks at Fourth and Union in downtown Seattle and hoped to be able to do a quick coffee tasting. This was spontaneous. I didn't know who would be working and I didn't know if they'd be too busy. A little over one week ago, a partner in Canada (who had just been on a vacation to Mexico) mailed me a bag of Starbucks Colombia whole bean coffee. I drooled when I got it. Colombia is still a core coffee in a number of the international Starbucks markets. Since I had never had the opportunity to taste and compare Colombia Via side by side with Colombia whole bean core coffee, I thought that might work as a quick and fun coffee tasting.
Three partners were there working on this Sunday morning Starbucks visit: Helen, Aaron, and Jenny were all very interested in trying a quick coffee tasting. It was a Sunday morning, and luckily, I seemed to time this with a slower moment in the store. Aaron told me that he wants to start his coffee master training, and that he is really interested in getting more coffee tasting experience. He made a French press of the Colombia and prepared everything.
I have to say we loved the Colombia whole bean coffee. Aaron and I were totally impressed with the beautiful nutty flavor, and the smooth texture, and light cocoa notes too. This is a near perfect cup of coffee. Aaron commented that he liked it just slightly better than the Guatamela Antigua which had been a favorite core coffee of his.
The Colombia Via Ready Brew was also quite good, and held its own quite well. I could detect some nuttiness to it, though it lacked the beautiful aroma found in the whole bean version. Suddenly I did appreciate the Colombia Via more than I had before, and bought a pack of it to take home. Although I like darker coffees, I really do enjoy a nice 'medium' roast too, and the Colombia is definitely that.
Aaron and I chatted about tastings a bit, and I decided that I would do a roundup of numerous previous coffee tasting articles on this blog to make them a little easier to find. Here you go:
- The Roast You Love the Most media event - (Food pairing) This was a coffee tasting that I went to at Olive Way Starbucks, and it was produced by Olive Way and the Starbucks PR department. I was there with a number of other local bloggers. This was a superbly well thought out coffee tasting of Veranda, Pike Place Roast, and Italian. Anton at Olive Way is really good at putting on highly professional coffee events!
- Ethiopia Hararr, Aged Sumatra, and more - (Food pairing) This was one of the regularly scheduled Olive Way coffee tasting events. This again was an extremely professional, well thought out coffee tasting. The Hararr was paired with the raisins from the Perfect Oatmeal, and that turned out to be a superb choice. I hope you'll read this one too!
- The "butter" coffee tasting: Anniversary Blend - (Food pairing) This was a unique opportunity to try Anniversary Blend with some butter. It really demonstrates some unusual things you can do to learn about, and try coffee. Mikey (also known as "Mr. Opportunity" - Just look at the window cling) put on a world-class tasting.
- Sumatra Tapanuli and Rwanda Gakenke - (Taste and Compare - No food) At this Olive Way Starbucks event, coffee masters from the corporate headquarters hosted a special coffee tasting of new Reserve coffee offerings. (Actually, all the food at this event was provided after we tried the coffees, as to not interfere with the comparison of the coffees.)
- A barista earns her black apron - Christmas Blend, Pike Place Roast, and two Reserve coffees - (Food pairing) This was a coffee tasting event at the 6th and Union Starbucks (in downtown Seattle) produced by a barista earning her black apron. It was a really fun event featuring four coffees, and especially great to see a partner given her black apron!
- Casi Cielo coffee tasting at Olive Way - (Food pairing) This was one of the regularly scheduled Olive Way coffee tasting events. Absolutely wonderful food pairings with Casi Cielo. This store really has a knack for professional coffee events.
- Bali Blend and core Starbucks Sumatra coffee - (Taste and compare) This was another one of my spontaneous moments where I dropped by my neighborhood Starbucks (7th and Pike), and wondered if the partners wanted to try one of the rare international coffees - Bali Blend. This was a very classic, "taste and compare" style event, and we compared Bali Blend with the core Sumatra coffee at Starbucks. Really a fantastic fun quick tasting.
- Coffee tasting: Cupping Mexico blend - (Cupping) Mexico Blend is one of the international Starbucks coffee, and at this event we did a traditional "cupping" which is the coffee tasting method used by roasters to check for coffee quality. It's actually difficult to find a cupping at a Starbucks because most stores are not set up to do them. Although this is a very old blog article, I thought I'd shine a spotlight on it too.
- Galapogas Island Roasting event - This was not a coffee tasting really, but I wanted to mention this too. There are regular roasting events at the Starbucks headquarters, and this was one of the very few times that I had the chance to go to one. It was just a heck of a lot of fun, and something that I still look back very fondly on, and thankful that I had this opportunity.
- Three Region Blend and plums - (Food pairing) I asked two coffee masters at the First and Pike Starbucks to help me out in figuring out a way to feature Three Region Blend in a coffee tasting. This is a really old blog post, and those partners aren't even at that store anymore (I think they're both still partners, just at different stores) but what they came up with was an incredibly superb selection of foods that highlight the best flavors of Three Region Blend. Those two partners (Heidi and Jeremy) are true lovers of the bean, and have a natural knack for coffee tastings.
- Sumatra Lake Toba - (Cupping) - A quick cupping event at 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea Starbucks featuring Sumatra Lake Toba coffee.
- Organic Blue Java and a donut - (Food pairing) - This was an incredibly fast coffee tasting of Blue Java with a donut. I just dropped by the First and Pike Starbucks, and caught up with Emily who radiates tons of passion for Starbucks. She's still a partner, just a different store now. This is a really old blog post, but it shows how you can do a coffee tasting on the fly!
- Breakfast Blend Via compared with Breakfast Blend whole bean - (Cupping) - I dropped by 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea Starbucks, which in the past has had regularly scheduled coffee events. I suggested the idea of comparing a Via with its whole bean counterpart, and Amanda (who is an incredibly knowledgeable barista, and since then has been promoted in the headquarters) ran with the idea, and she set up this cupping.
There are more coffee tastings on this blog, but I think I'll stop right there. By the way, I mentally categorize coffee events into three categories: Cuppings, Food Pairings, and Taste and Compare. This is NOT an official Starbucks categorization, but it seems to work for me to describe the most common ways to learn about coffee. And, I am of the opinion that to learn the most about coffee, one should experience all three of these.
I am having some computer problems at the moment, and so I'm just using whatever computer I can right now. I took these photos (from today's Colombia tasting) on my phone on a low resolution setting so that I wouldn't have to use a photo editor to re-size them. Sorry that they're not great quality.
Thank you again Aaron and everyone at the Fourth and Union Starbucks for a great quick tasting!
(Edit: After I wrote this article, I realized that some U.S. grocery stores sell Starbucks Colombia coffee! That is a great find in the grocery store!)