Today (August 21, 2012) is the official launch of two new Starbucks Reserve coffees. They are Jamaica Blue Mountain and Colombia Supreme Valley of Gold. I had the chance to try these at the Olive Way Starbucks during one of the regularly-scheduled coffee seminars held at this store. For those who don't know, the Olive Way Starbucks holds coffee tasting events every other Monday evening, at 6:00 p.m. They are free to the public! Please join one soon! It really is a great opportunity to learn about coffee! Olive Way Starbucks 1600 East Olive Way Seattle, WA 98102 206-568-5185
Coffee-Master-In-Training Donna and Coffee Master Megan guided us through tonight's tasting. All the coffees were prepared via the Clover brewer.
There are four standard steps to a coffee tasting:
- Smell - Smell the aroma of the coffee. Take in a deep smell, and describe the aroma.
- Slurp - Take a big slurp of coffee and be sure to aerate the coffee throughout the mouth. It's okay to have a very loud slurp! The louder, the better.
- Locate - Where does the coffee hit in the mouth? Are you locating the flavors in the front of your mouth? All over? On the sides?
- Describe - Describe the various flavor notes of the coffee, and consider the weight and the mouth-feel of the coffee too.
To find many more coffee tastings on this blog, take a look at the Coffee Tastings category.
Colombia Supremo Valley of Gold:
First off, I really liked the Colombia even better than I thought it would. I have a feeling it is going to sell out fast. At only $12 for a half pound, it's not all that expensive for a Reserve coffee offering! And tonight I learned that only 10% of the coffee beans grown in Colombia are the "Supremo" varietal. The Colombia Supremo beans are little larger than most other coffee beans.
(By the way, for others, like me, who are obsessive about spelling and grammar, please note that Colombia is spelled correctly with two Os in it, and there is no "U" in Colombia.)
This coffee is a classic medium roast profile and body, and has some acidity and juiciness to it. The aroma was very powerful and smelled strongly of baking spices like cinnamon, and brown sugar. One person thought it had a strong molasses aroma. Starbucks describes another flavor note as "walnut" and I definitely got a lot of walnut aroma in the whole bean coffee.
Here's the Colombia coffee side by side with the Jamaica Blue Mountain:
We paired this coffee with the Brown Sugar Walnut Tart which was absolutely perfect for this coffee! The food pairing cut down some of the acidity and made it even smoother! All the nutty notes came to life with the food pairing. I thought it was interesting that Megan said that as she was working through food pairings, she first tried the Colombia with the banana walnut loaf, thinking the walnuts in that would work well with this coffee. Megan said that she discovered that the banana was too overpowering, and it actually did not work so well as food pairing for the Colombia.
Starbucks has offered Colombia coffees in the past. I think that currently there is a Colombia Starbucks coffee which is a grocery story only offering. I totally recommend trying that coffee - unfortunately the grocery store Colombia is only sold as a pre-ground coffee. I realize this is a little confusing the way I have described, but the Colombia that is the grocery store offering only is pre-ground only but that same Colombia IS offered as whole bean in a few international Starbucks markets. I just think it would be hugely interesting to do a tasting of the Colombia Valley of Gold compared with the Starbucks grocery store Colombia.
All of the beans in the Colombia Valley of Gold coffee were sourced from the "Cauca" growing region. This is the coffee for you if you like a solidly medium, nutty, but very flavorful coffee. I am really impressed with this one!
Try this coffee. It is available also through StarbucksStore.com.
I snapped this photo of Donna, and I think she was talking about the Colombia at the moment I took the picture, though I don't recall for sure! In any event, I love how you can that she is smiling as she is talking about coffee! She will be a great coffee master someday. Her enthusiasm for coffee was very real:
And one more picture of Donna hard at work during tonight's event:
Jamaica Blue Mountain:
Next we tasted the Jamaica Blue Mountain Reserve offering. Starbucks has indeed offered Jamaica Blue Mountain before as a Reserve coffee, though I think it has been a couple of years. This coffee is priced at $30 for a half pound, so it is a little spendy.
One of the things that is remarkable about the Jamaica Blue Mountain is that it is shipped to Starbucks in big wooden barrels, unlike other coffees, which are shipped in burlap sacks. It is best known for its citrus and chocolate notes. I definitely noticed some chocolate in the aroma, though I thought it was almost a creamy chocolate aroma, like a milk chocolate. The customer to my left thought that she detected cherry notes in the aroma.
The body was definitely light to medium. I was surprised but it felt like a lighter and more delicate coffee than the Colombia. There was very little roast profile notes in the coffee, and a lot of origin flavors like the chocolate notes to it. I detected less of the citrusy/orange notes than what I remembered from year's past. Several people around me felt like the coffee had some slight spicy notes, like a Teriyaki sauce or a jerk chicken sauce!
We paired the Jamaica Blue Mountain with the Chocolate Fondue which is offered as one of the Evenings food offerings. The buttery notes in the chocolate fondue really gave this coffee bigger backbone and mouth-feel, and brought out the chocolate notes. (And I totally enjoy the chocolate fondue!)
I definitely enjoyed trying this coffee. However, at the moment, I'm in love with the Colombia. It's been years since Starbucks has had a Colombia coffee anywhere in their stores' whole bean lineup, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the nicely-balanced medium Colombia coffee.
Here's the chocolate fondue:
Have you tried these two new Reserve offerings? What do you think? By the way, your neighborhood Clover Starbucks probably still has some of the Malawi coffee left from the last offering, if you didn't get a chance to try that.