About a week ago (7-30-12), I went to a coffee tasting at the Olive Way Starbucks featuring the Starbucks Reserve coffees 100% Oahu and Brazil Peaberry. Look for these coffees at your local Clover Starbucks location:
This seminar was presented by coffee masters Anton and Megan, both of whom I've featured on this blog before. If you get the chance, get yourself to an Olive Way coffee tasting seminar. They're every other Monday night, at 6:00 p.m.
Olive Way Starbucks 1600 East Olive Way Seattle, WA 98102 206-568-5185
I took a ton of notes about flavor and aroma but really, there are only two things that I want to really highlight from this event:
1. Starbucks Brazil Peaberry rocks.
2. The Chemex brewer is a must-try brewing method for true coffee aficionados.
Although the Chemex brewer is not sold at Starbucks stores, you can easily shop for it online: Chemex home page and product page for the classic Chemex brewer. One thing I've learned is that true coffee enthusiasts will seek out great products, regardless of where they're sold. I would like to see Starbucks sell the Chemex in their Clover locations. Those stores offer an elevated coffee experience, and there's no harm in really seizing that elevated status by offering premium coffeeware.
The purpose of this coffee tasting was to compare the above two coffees (Brazil Peaberry and Oahu) prepared via a French press versus prepared with a Chemex. How you brew a coffee makes all the difference in the world as to how it tastes. That's very elementary, but worth repeating.
Here we are just before getting started:
Back to point number one in this article: Brazil Peaberry rocks. In this photo, you can compare the two coffee beans side by side. When you think of a coffee bean, imagine a peanut. A peanut can be split into two halves. Coffee beans naturally grow in this kind of formation, and the roasted beans represent the halves of a peanut. However, a "peaberry" coffee bean does not grow in a formation of two separable halves. Rather, the "peaberry" is one whole small bean. It's very round, and typically smaller than a normal coffee bean. About 5% of the world's coffee grows as a "peaberry." This kind of bean is highly prized by roasters. They tend to roast extremely evenly since they lack the flat side like the half of a peanut would have. The peaberry coffee bean is known to be very flavorful, and as I mentioned, they roast very uniformly and smoothly. The end result is a highly prized wonderful coffee.
I've noticed that a number of the Starbucks near me are already selling out of the peaberry, so if you're going to get this coffee, do so right away. Here's the photo I mentioned earlier. Hopefully you can pick out which little bowl contains the Brazil Peaberry Reserve coffee, and which one contains the Oahu:
The Brazil Peaberry Reserve coffee is known to pair well with hazelnut flavors or cinnamon notes. It's a beautiful, well-rounded, medium-bodied coffee. Try it!
Now for point number two: Try a Chemex brewer. First off, one of the unique things about the Chemex is that is all one solid glass device, rather than having a removable pour over atop your coffee mug. The solid structure allows for nice retention of heat, and even heat distribution. The Chemex filters are much thicker than a normal coffee filter. This slows down the coffee extraction time.
I have to comment that I know some Starbucks partners who are hardcore Chemex fans. There are Chemex fans all over. You might be wondering if I use a Chemex at home. I DO like the Chemex but it is a little slower than a pour over. One can always get a pretty nice cup of coffee with a traditional pour over, and it's super easy to use, and super quick. Since usually I'm preparing coffee in a complete rush to get ready for work, I default to the ordinary pour over almost every morning.
Whether you're using a traditional pour over or the Chemex, your first step should always be the same. Run hot water over the empty filter. You want to remove as much paper aroma and flavor as possible. Pre-wet the filter, and then of course, toss out the water you used to try to remove the paper flavor. Here, Anton starts off correctly pre-wetting the coffee filter of the Chemex:
After you've gone through the pre-wetting step, you'll put your coffee in the filter, and pour water over it. True coffee aficionados tell me (and I've heard this from a number of great Starbucks coffee masters), that there should be a small hole or indentation in the center of the coffee grounds before you pour over the water. This helps to ensure an even coffee extraction. Also, you pour water by starting from the middle and spiraling to the outside. Don't rush the process. Stop for about 30 seconds in the middle of your pour, and then re-start your pouring.
All good things require patience. Your best beverages, and your best coffee is going to be slow and relaxed. (Actually, on a separate topic, I'm often amazed that many customers around me seemingly want their espresso beverages instantaneously. Please don't do that to me when I'm in your store. Take your time and make it perfect. Quality takes time.)
Here you see the coffee in the filter, and Anton waits patiently for the coffee to brew:
The process of brewing via a Chemex brewer should take about four and a half minutes. At a Starbucks, ask for your coffee to be ground on the #5 setting of their Ditting grinders to get the right grind.
And then enjoy your coffee! You'll find that a Chemex produces an extremely smooth and flavorful cup of coffee. It's a little hotter than a pour over due to the single unit construction of the brewer. The slower brewing method brings out the wine-like body to the coffee. You can enjoy a very intensely flavorful cup of coffee with very little sediment in the cup. The French press (and to some degree the Clover brewer as well) produce a little sediment at the bottom of your coffee cup. This brewing method manages to capture flavor with little sediment.
Enjoy! Here we are at the end of a fun evening:
I want to finish up this blog article with a number of thoughts. If you are interested in coffee tastings, please do browse the whole category of them:
I want to thank the many partners at the Olive Way Starbucks who make these events come to life. I've noticed that only a small number of stores really succeed at regular coffee events that attract their local community to join in, and inspire passion in the partners. This store does this. Please follow Olive Way on Twitter, and /or "like" their Facebook page.
This particular event on July 30th was especially delightful. I was joined by a partner (Nathan) visiting Seattle from Edmonton. I love his passion for coffee, and excitement to participate in this event. I'd met Nathan previously and I know him to a be knowledgeable and capable partner.
Lastly, I really am asking you to comment and share these articles. The comments below are how I know what you like and don't like, and it's very inspiring for me to know that I'm reaching people all over. It does help keep me going. I'm almost at three years of blogging, and somehow I haven't run out of things to say about Starbucks! When all is said and done, I am counting on readers to make the blog a success. I know that there are many Starbucks blogs out there (all very different from each other) and I appreciate that you're reading this, and ask you to share on Facebook or Twitter or Stumbleupon or whatever your favorite social media is.
If you try a Chemex, please let me know! :)