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Tribute 2013

Please note, all opinions stated here are my own. They do not reflect my employer.

I think I may be in the minority when I say this. I do NOT like Tribute 2013. I’m very sad about this. For the past 2 years, Tribute has been my favorite part of springtime at Starbucks. The cherries, the spice, the hint of cocoa. This coffee is a celebration of all the magical things that Starbucks offers to the world.

To give a background on Tribute Blend, it was created in 2011 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Starbucks. The blend is a reflection of Starbucks past, present and future. It has four different coffee beans in it, and is a Post Roast blend, meaning that all four beans are roasted separately before being combined to become Tribute. It is a blend of Columbia, Papua New Guinea, Aged Sumatra, and Sun Dried Ethopian. These coffees represent all of the regions where coffee grows (Latin America, Africa, and Asia/Pacific).

Tribute was supposed to be a one time offer – available only in 2011 and then never again, but it was so well beloved and so requested, that Starbucks decided to make it available annually. We celebrated when the announcement was made that Tribute would be returning, and would continue to be a seasonal offering into the future, and I was so excited to see the Siren peeking out of that lovely white bag when the beans arrived in stores.

However, this year’s blend just isn’t doing it for me. I think that the thing that makes it so wonderful, for me, is the Cherry notes. Here in US, we only have two primarily African coffees in our core lineup, and both of them show off the more citrusy side of African coffee, so it’s a rare treat to enjoy the berry/cherry notes that come from the Sun Dried Ethopian. This year, though, those cherry/berry notes are secondary to the syrupy body of the Aged Sumatra. Now, I love Aged Sumatra as much as the next guy (Anniversary Blend and Thanksgiving are both AMAZING), but for some reason, it just doesn’t work for me this year.

What about you? Have you tried this year’s Tribute yet? Which year has been your favorite?

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


Casi Cielo Revisited: A Savory Tasting

In my previous posting about Casi Cielo, I had mentioned that I was incredibly interested in doing a coffee tasting with a savory food item, and I thought that Casi was the way to go. I finally got around to this about a week ago. While grocery shopping one day, I picked up a box of the Boursin spreadable garlic and herb cheese, and a box of water crackers.

Then I moved on to the task of convincing some brave souls that I work with to try this with me.

We all went in with a mix of curiosity and dread – could this be good? What flavors would it enhance? Would this just be terrible?

Surprisingly enough, it was delicious! This particular tasting made the lemony notes in the Casi Cielo really stand out a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something that I would do all the time. I still feel that coffee is a drink that goes best either on its own, or with something sweet, but this was a fun tasting and is definitely something I’d like to stage again with some other coffees. Maybe a smoky cheese with the French Roast? We’ll see.

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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


Caffe Verona

You never forget your first love. That’s how I feel about Verona. It was the first Starbucks coffee that I ever fell in love with, and I find myself going back to it whenever I need something familiar, comfortable. A coffee that will always bring back pleasant memories.

Verona is a dark roast coffee. It was originally created, like Casi Cielo, for service in a restaurant. In its origins, it was a blend of Yukon and Italian Roast coffees from Starbucks, but it has since evolved to become a new entity.

The more general searching I do about Verona, the more I find that I am not the only one to think of it as my first Starbucks love. I think it’s safe to say that Caffe Verona is a bridge, if you will, to the variety of coffees that are offered at Starbucks.

Verona is described as “Dark Cocoa and Roasty Sweet.” This coffee most definitely pairs well with decadent chocolate desserts. As a matter of fact, I must confess that sometimes, when I feel like having a bit of chocolate, I will pull out the Verona and organize a tasting, and I know I’m not the only one who does that! (Partners, am I right?)

In the photo above, you see one of the recent tastings that I participated in. We paired with Chocolate Cinnamon bread, which in this case, I actually would not recommend. The Verona actually tones down the Cinnamon in the bread and makes both coffee and pastry dull. My absolute favorite Starbucks pairing with Verona is the Double Chocolate Brownie, but I also love having a good piece of dark chocolate with it when I’m drinking at home.

What about you? Have you tried Verona? What are your experiences with Verona?

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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


Guatemala Casi Cielo

Almost Heaven.

Guatemala Casi Cielo is a blend of coffee that fits its name. For me, at any rate. It’s not a coffee that is beloved by all, but it does have a loyal following of people, like myself, who do not lament the end of the Christmas Blend season as much as others, because we know that Casi Cielo is close behind.

I found this video on YouTube recently which explains a bit about the origins of Casi Cielo and how it came to be –

I think it’s amazing that it was created in partnership with this restaurant as a coffee to pair with their evening desserts. Especially since, as was said in the video, most people think of Starbucks brewed coffee as a morning thing.

So in this post, I wanted to focus on the flavor profile of Casi Cielo and some of the food pairings that I have found go really well with this coffee. We have been trying the Casi Cielo a lot since it’s come out, both because many of the partners in my store were excited about its arrival, and because our store is currently certifying another Coffee Master, and part of his last 10 feet project is a “learning station,” with increased coffee tastings designed to increase our knowledge of the coffees we have available, so that we all can find something positive to say when we talk them up to customers.

So far I have tried this coffee paired with the following – the Double Chocolate Brownie, the Chocolate Cinnamon Bread, and homemade “Samoas” bars (recipe found at this link), which I brought in to our recent meeting as a treat and because it hit more than one of the flavor notes in the profile of Casi Cielo.

The Brownie and the Chocolate Cinnamon Bread were okay. They brought out the rich chocolate notes, and accented the body of the coffee pretty much in the way I expected. They are a good pairing and a nice recommendation to anyone who is looking for something to nosh with their Casi, or looking for a coffee to go with their brownies.

The “Samoas” bars paired beautifully with the Casi Cielo, for me. They did a beautiful job of bringing out the caramelly sweetness, and those chocolately undertones that make Casi such a beautiful dessert coffee. While I don’t recommend making these bars yourself unless you have a lot of patience, if you can get your hands on those flavor combinations (read: find a Girl Scout before the season is over), it’s definitely worth trying. Particularly if you love coconut as much as I do. It enhanced the coffee in a remarkable way.

I love this coffee, and I especially love it paired with a sweet treat. I think for future adventures, I’d like to explore some savory coffee pairings as well, and you can be sure that I will blog those experiences as well.

Have you tried this year’s Casi Cielo? What do you think of it? For more reading, check out Starbucks Melody’s blog where she tries Casi with Strawberries (YUM).


Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


Coming Soon

My plans to revitalize this blog begin with a detailed post about Casi Cielo.

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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Coffee Terms – Cocoa

I’m intrigued to see that, in spite of my lack of updates, my blog gets viewed regularly. Hopefully my very few posts have been inspiring to those who have stumbled upon my little endeavor. I promise to try to update more regularly.

I’ve had to rethink my in store Last 10 feet project, mostly due to my own scheduling conflict. It was hard for me to make sure that everyone was reading and understanding my posters when I wasn’t physically there to see a lot of them, so that means that I have to rethink a little what I’m doing here, but I do have at least one more “coffee terms” themed post I can do before we have to face that reality. Or perhaps I’ll just keep going. We’ll see.

So a coffee that is described as having a cocoa flavor refers to two different things – the texture and the taste. It’s interesting to think about a liquid having a texture other than “wet,” but again, think about the lingering notes here, rather than the taste when you are in the process of drinking it.

A “Cocoa” coffee will seem a little drier towards the end – it should remind you of the cocoa powder that you bake with – not a sweet chocolaty flavor, but hints of bitter chocolate and the dry, powdery texture.

Truth be told, there isn’t much more to say about cocoa than that. It is what it is. The coffee that I recommend you try to see this is actually one of my favorite core coffees that Starbucks has to offer – the Guatemala Antigua. It is a medium roast, Latin American coffee with a medium body. This has become one of my go-to coffees when I don’t know what I want. It’s a delightful cup.

One of the interesting things I learned when working on my coffee master certification is the importance of the Guatemalan volcanoes in the flavor of the beans produced there. The volcanoes produce a rich soil, full of nutrients that can be absorbed into the coffee tree, and allows for a development of flavor that is almost beyond compare – Guatemalan coffee is used as a mixture in a lot of blends as well, most notably Casi Cielo, one of my all time favorite coffees, available only in the winter time at Starbucks. I look forward to it every year.

However, the Guatemala Antigua, available year round, is also a fantastic cup of coffee. I have tried this coffee with chocolate treats (a doughnut and a brownie), and it brings out a cocoa flavor. I have also tried this coffee with an apple fritter, but I didn’t think that it did anything special for the coffee. If you are a big fan of the apple fritter, it might be worth a go.

Another thing I did, at the recommendation of another partner, is try it with a spoonful of honey. This was pretty awesome – there’s some floral notes and a sweetness in the honey that bring out something pretty special in the Guatemala Antigua. It’s definitely worth trying out for the curious. One of my favorite fun things to do is find new and interesting ways to try coffee. ‘

For the comments today – What is your favorite food pairing with your favorite coffee? I’d love to hear it and perhaps try it myself!


Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


Spotlight on: Indivisible Blend

Indivisible Blend Package, a French Press of it, and some of the merchandise.

So, today my focus is on the newest offering presented at Starbucks – Indivisible Blend. This is a great thing, and one of the reasons why I find my employers to be among the best I’ve ever worked for. Starbucks truly cares about community, and has stepped up to prove it with this blend, and this line of merchandise. A little bit more about the coffee itself in a moment, but here is what this line is doing that I think is great – every purchase helps Opportunity Finance Network in its mission to create jobs in communities through grants to local businesses. You buy a wristband, that whole five dollars goes right into the funding. You buy a pound of Indivisible Blend, a donation is made. You buy a cup of it in your local Starbucks, a donation is made. You buy one of the mugs, sleeves or travel mugs offered, and a donation is made.

Starbucks launched this initiative last year with a five million dollar donation to the Opportunity Finance Network, and the sale of the wristbands (pictured above) that customers received with a five dollar donation. So far, between the wristbands, and sales of the new products, $11.5 million has been donated, and that money has been used so far to create and sustain 3,800 jobs (source).

So there’s that aspect of it. Now on to the coffee itself –

Indivisible Blend is the third Blonde Roast coffee offered by Starbucks. Blonde Roast was launched in January 2012. It is the lightest roast of beans that Starbucks currently offers, and was created with the hope of bringing more people “home” to Starbucks, by offering a coffee with a lighter flavor that still maintained the integrity that Starbucks is known for with its coffee. The response so far has been awesome, and the Blonde Roasts we launched with, Veranda and Willow, are both great coffees that truly exemplify their regions of origin (more on that in another post).

Indivisible Blend is an African Blend, with beans from Kenya and Ethiopia. I was excited to try this blend as soon as I read it, because I was expecting a citrusy, berry flavor that we don’t see much here in the states. I was not disappointed. Immediately upon pouring out that French Press, I could smell the citrus, and the berry notes were right behind it (I remind you, when you first start tasting coffee, you generally smell “coffee.” This is normal). Tasting this coffee revealed a bright acidity (think of how you feel when you drink orange juice), light body, and those berry undertones. After tasting, we decided to pair it with the Iced Lemon Pound Cake, which brought those citrus notes right out to the forefront.

I loved it, but most of my peers did not care for it. This is pretty reasonable, because, as I said, coffee blends that are primarily from African beans are not prominent in this country. I find that a lot of people I know are turned off by coffee that is citrusy or has a high acidity. Regardless, if you are a fan of the Blonde Roast, particularly the Willow Blend, this is a great coffee to try, and even if you are not, it’s definitely worth a sample, which should be made available to you if you ask.

Have you tried Indivisible Blend? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Uncategorized