Posted Sat Jan 14, 2012, 7:22am Subject: Re: Starbucks Newest Big To Do
Well, I tried it at a sample in a Target location, and it was too weak to judge. Yesterday I had a meeting at Starbucks, and ordered a pour-over of the Veranda. Too weak to judge.... They gave me a sample pack which I made in my V60 this morning... There isn't a lot going on here, just kinda bitter. The package says "mellow," which is just a positive way of saying "plain" from *$'s point of view. It was a bit more interesting with some underlying nuttiness and a touch of acidity than my parent's Folgers, but it didn't come close to anything one can get for $6.50/lb and a popcorn popper... I will order this over anything else they sell when forced into their store, though. Just my opinion... ~Nick
There's a big difference between drinking coffee to wake up and waking up to drink coffee.
From the article: "Many coffee snobs say they can only drink the dark brews at Starbucks or Peet's, and that anything else tastes like dishwater."
That sentence is an excellent illustration of how what the general public considers a "coffee snob", this corner of the internet would consider a "poor, misguided fool". We are so out of touch with the masses. :P
Also, off topic (but not, since the OP led things in that direction), the other day I was drinking an Ethiopian Harrar. The tasting notes on the bag said cherry. I tried as hard as I could to find that cherry, but all I could taste was... blueberry. I'm not sure if it was the power of suggestion or self delusion that lead me to spontaneously discover blueberry (those are both well documented phenomena so it must be one of those two, right?) but it was there to stay, no matter how much I wanted it to be cherries.
I think that specialty coffee is still in a stage of development where roasters are working very hard to convince the average customer that a good cup of coffee can be as complexly nuanced as a fine wine or single malt scotch. I see tasting notes (whether for coffee, wine, scotch, etc.) as being a way to describe to others what one is experiencing on their palate. I doubt that many scotch aficionados have chewed on a mouthful of dirt, yet even a casual scotch drinker knows what is meant when a malt is described as "earthy" or "peaty". Would any of us here on this forum deny that a good single-origin can be very layered and complex and that the taste of one coffee can be hugely different from another? If we want to share our experiences with each other and with non-coffee-geek friends who are interested in learning more about good coffee, what do we do? Try and describe how ANYTHING tastes (even an apple or a bowl of cornflakes) without comparing it to something else and you will realize it is impossible. We could say "This Ethiopian Kaffa Forrest tastes exactly like a Kaffa Forest. This Brazilian Anesio Contini tastes like an Anesio Contini" but that is in no way helpful or interesting. So, we must use metaphors. If a coffee is described as a "blueberry bomb" I'm not expecting to mistake it for fresh squeezed blueberry juice, but rather that "blueberry" is the best word we have to describe the coffee. Personally I am not (yet) very good at articulating the nuances I taste in a coffee, but that doesn't mean I don't perceive differences. It just means I do not have enough experience with the "language" of coffee tasting to describe what I'm experiencing. That, and the fact that I don't take the care to maintain my palate as someone such as a professional coffee copper or sommelier might. (By avoiding things like sweet desserts and very spicy food, for example.)
However, some of the more specific and obscure descriptors that are sometimes given are indeed rather silly. The coffee I enjoyed this morning has "jasmine scented coffee flower" (???) included in the notes. Things like that remind me of the scene in "Sideways" when the protagonist plugs one ear to help him assess the nose of a wine he is tasting, and then proceeds to list of an exhausting array of characteristics that include "smoked Gouda" and "pickle". ;) I think when tasting notes get that indulgent it is generally because the roaster is trying to advertise that their coffees are of high quality and worthy of a price tag higher than what you'd find in the grocery store. Again, this is to a certain extent symptomatic of where the specialty coffee industry is at in it's development.
All that being said, I think the more general descriptions such as chocolate, smoke, spice, berry, citrus are EASY to detect by anyone with a bit of coffee experience (providing they are not a cigarette smoker) and I'm pretty confident I could distinguish between a chocolately, smoky Brazilian and a fruity Ethiopian while blindfolded any day of the week.
On the other hand, isn't good coffee meant to be an indulgent and sensual experience? If a good cup makes our imaginations run wild and encourages us to wax poetic isn't that a GOOD thing regardless of if various psychological phenomena are influencing us (which they no doubt are, at least partially)? It's part of the experience. And, the flip-side of the psychological phenomena part is that if you're convinced that it's not possible to detect any of these flavors, you most certainly will not detect any. So, I'd suggest that Leonard is suffering from "self delusion" every bit as much as Josh and the other posters arguing against him.
Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012, 8:13am Subject: Re: Starbucks Newest Big To Do
Keep in mind, a lot of these taste notes come from the cupping table. Different brew methods will highlight different notes - same coffee, side by side, one cup from a french press and the other from a pour-over could taste quite different.
Didn't our own Mark Prince do an article to this end a while back (one he (in)famously got stiffed for)?
Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012, 9:38am Subject: Re: Starbucks Newest Big To Do
Great point, Josh. That is why I have an ever growing collection of different brew methods. :)
The past few days I've been drinking a Tanzanian peaberry that illustrates this quite well. The differences between a press pot and my cloth dripper have been quite interesting and surprising. Also, I think it's important to remember that the cupping is often being done in the region of origin during trips to source beans. The green beans are as fresh as they're going to get and this likely lets more of the subtle differences to come through that may disappear as the beans age.
I would be very interested in reading that article if you'd be able to provide a link? I haven't come across it during my reading of CoffeeGeek...
OwnCoffeeTech Senior Member Joined: 9 Feb 2012 Posts: 11 Location: San Francisco Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012, 11:17am Subject: Re: Starbucks Newest Big To Do
I've heard many people state, and I do agree, that Star*bucks coffee (at least bold blend) carries a potent "burnt" note in its flavor profile. In San Francisco I have access to some of the finest coffee and roasters in the industry. I'm a huge advocate of speciality coffee, and a lot of of them have really tasty pastries (a little too good...). However, there's a Star*bucks in the lobby where I work, outside the door, around any corner, down the street and over the hill. So for sheer convenience, and I guess being slightly prone to burt coffee, I do indulge on occasion. Not sure if I'll try the Blonde since I typically go with a bolder blend anywhere I go.
They may not have discovered, produce or really care about top notch coffee but they sure did find a lucrative audience that they appeal to.
Having said that I fully support my locals (except of occasion)! The quality is apparent not only in the coffee but the knowledge the staff has. Plus it seems to me like the baristas that work at Star*bucks don't really enjoy it. Unlike most of the other coffee shops I've been to in the Bay and elsewhere where the staff is friendly and knowledgable.
Why do you think so many people go to Star*bucks? What fuels their customer retention? Loyalty system? Do people just like coffee with their sugar more?
boots Senior Member Joined: 31 Jan 2012 Posts: 10 Location: Atlanta Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Mon Feb 20, 2012, 6:20am Subject: Re: Starbucks Newest Big To Do
A have a friend that lives at Starbucks, so I go with them for social reasons. They gave me a sample packet of both new blonde blends. I made them at home with pour over Hario ceramic/Hario white filter.
At least they are not burnt. Biggest issue I have with SB.
Willow is better than Veranda. For grocery store coffee, it will do in a pinch.
I made it stronger than SB is likely to in their coffee shop.
I ended up mixing Veranda with a dark roast that I had (and did not like).
I think a lot of coffee people think Starbuck's burns their beans, and the blonde offerings is their way to address this. Smart marketing, to get people back in to try SB.
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