I'm very excited to talk about the whole bean Starbucks Puerto Rico blend coffee! It's not inside physical Starbucks stores, rather you have to order it online at StarbucksStore.com. It's a limited, current offering at StarbucksStore.com, and hopefully it won't sell out too fast. Background on Starbucks international series of coffees:
First off, I should explain that this coffee is part of what I loosely dub the 'international series' of whole bean offerings. For many many years, Starbucks has been sourcing certain coffees which are reserved exclusively to those specific countries. In other words, if you were in China, you might find Starbucks South of the Clouds blend on the shelves. South of the Clouds includes coffee beans sourced from the Yunnan province of China. And if you were in Brazil, you'd definitely find Brasil blend, also a Starbucks coffee sourced with beans from the origin country, and sold exclusively in that country. (By the way, if you can ever get your hands on some Brasil blend, that is a must-try Starbucks coffee; it's known for having both wash-processed Brazil beans blended with sun-dried Brazil beans. I've had it. It's fantastic.) There is indeed a blend called 'Mexico' that is sourced with beans from Mexico and sold only in Starbucks stores in Mexico. The Starbucks Kape Vinta blend is sourced and sold for the Phillipines. And there is also the Muan Jai whole bean blend, sourcing beans from Thailand, and sold only in Starbucks stores in that country. (Obviously, you can also purchase this Puerto Rico blend coffee at Starbucks stores in Puerto Rico.)
Coffee Tasting of Puerto Rico blend:
Quick tasting on December 8, 2012, with Deb and Marlene:
When I received my bag of Puerto Rico blend coffee, I ran to a neighborhood Starbucks and asked some partners there to try it with me. My initial tasting of it was Clover-brewed, and paired with some nuts and fruits. I really liked this coffee from the Clover. We all agreed that it paired nicely with the cashews, though a little less so with the dried fruits. Almond and walnut, and a very slight tang were some predominate flavor notes.
Both Deb and Marlene are coffee-masters-in-training. We had a lot of fun with this impromptu tasting, and I appreciate that they took a few minutes out of a busy afternoon to try some coffee. Marlene suggested that this coffee might be good with a honey-yogurt, and I thought it would be nice with oatmeal.
I left the bag of whole bean coffee behind at the store, and indicated that I would be back early in the morning to try it again with coffee master Jess. (I knew Jess would want to try it, and one coffee tasting is never enough! It's actually true, and a philosophy that I subscribe to, that it is good to try a coffee more than once, and by a few different brew methods. And of course, it's great to try coffees side by side with other coffees.)
Coffee tasting on December 9, 2012, with Jess:
When I caught up with Jess this morning, she'd already planned out our quick tasting of the Puerto Rico coffee. We tried it both hot and iced. The hot version was prepared by a pour over, and the iced coffee was prepared using the Clover coffee brewer. Jess has been a partner for years, and is definitely a coffee master with a sophisticated palate. She described it as having a "hint of cinnamon" and having a "nice balance between smooth and bright." (Jess, you had me at 'coffee.') One thing I noticed, as I had the day before as well, the coffee has a light aroma coming from the prepared cup. I definitely picked up the almond, and walnut notes. The nutty flavors become a little more pronounced as it cools down a bit.
One nice thing about this coffee is that it is squarely a medium to dark roast profile. This is not a coffee for those who are fans of a blonde roast. I noticed that as a hot coffee from the pour over, one can taste a bit of that dark roastiness coming out - like the nice flavors of toasted nuts.
The Puerto Rico coffee is very good iced. There are no big high or low notes in it iced (that quote came straight from Jess), and it still has a nice brightness to it.
Jess and I got into a great conversation about the roast profile. Contrast this coffee with Costa Rica Finca Palmilera which has almost no detectible roast profile, and is very light. You can even see the difference in the beans. As I took a picture of the beans side by side, I realized that the shadow from my little camera interfered with the accuracy of the photo. In real life, this difference is more obvious. I wish we had had placed some French Roast coffee beans in the spectrum. You would notice a visible oiliness to French Roast, which is far less present in the Puerto Rico coffee.
So, if you're looking for a nice Latin American coffee that is medium to dark, with solid origin nutty flavors, this is your coffee. This coffee would not be ideal for the hard-core blonde roast addicts, or perhaps those who want an all-roasted flavor profile, such as French Roast coffee drinkers. This coffee is also versatile for those who want to experiment with it as either hot or iced.
Try pairing this with walnuts, almonds, yogurt, oatmeal, and anything nutty. Per the StarbucksStore.com site, this coffee pairs well with flan also. I bet it would work well with an oatmeal cookie too!
I realize that this would have been a fun coffee to compare and contrast with something like Pike Place Roast. I would suspect that you'd find Pike Place Roast to be a little thinner in body, and has fewer nice origin flavors.
(A quick unrelated note for Seattle readers only: December 9th through December 15th, the Seattle's Best Coffee located near Fourth Avenue South and South Lander is offering free brewed coffee, all day from open to close. No coupon needed. Since it's a new store, they're introducing themselves to the neighborhood. This offer is only good at that one location.)