in Reviews

Starbucks – now with less charcoal and pee pee

Well over a year ago I described Starbucks coffee as “Kingsford soaked in hot pee.” It’s not some sort of revelation. Virtually every homo sapiens I know thinks Starbucks coffee is on the licking-the-campfire side of the flavor spectrum. Well, it appears someone very high up at Starbucks marketing reads my blog (or, you know, has identified a tipping point in customer sentiment) because this press release from yesterday announces they’re going to do something about it, starting today.

I came across the press release via this post at Serious Eats, which I only skimmed because Serious Eats updates no less than eleven and a half thousand times a day. I didn’t read the press release at the time either because press releases are dumb. Basically, I saw the Starbucks logo, read that they are going to experiment with not over-roasting their beans, thought, “It’s about time,” and moved along with my morning.

My building, like all office buildings in America, has a Starbucks in it. As I was fleeing the building for lunch, I was accosted by a woman on the street in a Starbucks uniform holding a tray of small coffee cups.

“WOULDYOULIKEAFREESMALLCUPOFCOFFEE?!?!”
“IT’SOURNEWPIKESPLACEBLEND!!”
“WEJUSTRELEASEDITTHISMORNING!!”

If I hadn’t taken one of her cups of coffee, she would have committed seppuku right in front of me, so I obliged. I was actually pleasantly surprised. They managed to take the edge off without losing that deep, dark-roasted character that seems to be unique to Starbucks. I don’t happen to care for that signature flavor, but a lot of people love it and it makes for strong brand recognition, so I understand why they retained it. Acidity is low, and the dominant flavor I got was nuttiness, almost buttery. I doubt the triple-caramel, half-caf, soy latte set will care much, but this is a step in the right direction for black coffee drinkers. If anything they may have toned it down a little too much, but I will be a little less dis-inclined to drink black coffee from Starbucks now.

UPDATE: Initial reactions to the Pike’s Place blend are up at Serious Eats.

  1. I have always hated starbucks burnt coffee, but I do not despise the company. My neighborhood starbucks actually works very closely with our grammar school, giving them loads of money and displaying their artwork in the store. So- good for starbucks I say.

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