I understand this may look weird, a post about Starbucks. I believe that as a barista and some one that wants to make coffee their career, we should always check out and do research on the latest trend in the industry. That’s with any industry. You must be informed with that latest trend, because if anyone asks you about it you should be able to give them an informed answer rather than assuming. If we assume what people are looking for then we could easily drive them in the wrong direction.
On January 10th of this year Starbucks released a new product in their coffee line. The Blonde Roast. It came in three of their different blends: Veranda, Willow, and Decaf Willow. According to their blog post about the Blonde Roast:
” The Starbucks®Blonde Roast is the lighter roast perfected. It is subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied, full of flavor, and delicious.”
As someone who has not enjoyed Starbucks coffee because their coffee is roasted WAY too dark. Their coffee could be good, I have done a post on a different blog about Starbucks coffee, and it was after I have been in this industry for a while and expanded my palate. I realized that Starbucks’ coffee could be good, when I tried to ignore the burnt bitterness of the coffee it had a nice flavor and nice aroma. To hear that Starbucks was creating a Blonde, I kind of got excited to know they might actually have a coffee that is drinkable, just as their blog said, “subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied, full of flavor, and delicious.” Although with Starbucks coming out with a new product then meant that it is going to be another item I was going to have to familiarize myself with, because I knew I would have customers that would ask if my shop had a “Blonde Roast.” I, then, decided to buy some of their Blonde Roast to compare it to the Specialty Coffee Industry’s medium roast. Why the industry’s medium roast? Starbucks medium roast would easily pass for the industry’s dark roast. So comparing industry’s medium roast and Starbucks Blonde Roast to me seemed like a reasonable comparison. Here’s what I came up with.
I bought a bought some of Starbucks Blonde Veranda Blend. The “Enjoy By” date was July 20th, and according the packaging, “Roasting this blend of specially chosen Latin American beans for a shorter time allows the delicate nuances of soft cocoa and lightly toasted nuts to blossom.”
To compare the Starbucks, I chose Stumptown Coffee Roasters based from Seattle, Washington. I had their Ethiopia Nano Challa roasted on February 13th. The coffee came from a farm that is located just west of where coffee was said to be originated, Jimma. Here’s how Stumptown describes this coffee, “Lemon and blueberry resonate well with chocolate notes in an extremely clean and complex cup doused with flavors of white peach, pear and cinnamon.”
As you can tell by the picture above, Starbucks Blonde Roast(on the left) looks very similar to Stumptown’s Ethiopia(on the right). If you look a little closely, you can even see a little shine on the Blonde Roast. Which means that it is a darker roast than Stumptown’s.
Why do you get that glossy look on the outside of the bean? It’s because when you roast coffee there are two cracks roasters talk about. The first crack is when the moisture in the beans releases to create a sound similar to popcorn, and that’s where most of industry’s medium roast come from, just after the first crack. It’s usually where you get the peak amount of flavors from the beans. The second crack is when the cellular walls in the beans are breaking down. When the cellular walls break down and that allows the oils in the coffee to release and coat the bean. The oils that coat the bean, is where the flavor comes from and being exposed to the air affects the flavor of the coffee.
Something you can kind of see from the picture was that in the Blonde Roast a lot of the beans were broken and not evenly roasted. Looking at the beans closely, I noticed that some of the beans were roasted uneven, half of the bean was darker than the other. Where as the Stumptown’s beans were whole, maybe a few broken beans, but were also evenly roasted.
I brewed these coffees as both a french press, and Chemex, brewing them at 40 grams of coffee to 600 grams of water. Water temperature at 205 degrees. I tried to keep everything as constant as I possibly could to make sure that the only difference in taste and aroma of coffees.
I brewed the coffees as a french press first. The aroma that came from Starbucks Blonde Roast was caramel like. I also got smokey from the aroma, but in the taste I also got the smokey but like from a campfire. It appeared to have a light body, but it had characteristics of being bitter, like it was a darker roast or an over extracted coffee. It was also nutty. The flavors also seemed to be muted.
Stumptown’s Ethiopia had a beautiful blueberry aroma. Drinking it though the blueberry disappeared. Instead I got honey and peach sweetness, and as it cooled I got some dry cinnamon notes. It was a clean, crisp cup of coffee, balanced, yet complex.
Next I brewed the coffees in a Chemex. Starbucks Blonde Roast was way more floral, but was still a heavy body. It was also weird, cause after a while the Blonde Roast had no aroma, completely muted.
Stumptown’s Ethiopia was a slightly lighter body than the Blonde Roast. The peach became much more predominant as a Chemex. You still got the cinnamon like we did in the press, but I also tasted a sweetness that came from a pear.
My conclusion is that Starbucks Blonde Roast is slightly darker than industry’s medium roast, but is still lighter than all of their other coffees. Compared to Starbucks other coffees, I would definitely go for the Blonde Roast, it is the closest I will get to coffee from any other specialty coffee shop. I think now that Starbucks has the Blonde Roast, their customers will be introduced to coffees that have more flavors than just bitter. It will be a great way to inform customers about coffee and the many flavor possibilities.
All things stated above are my opinions. This experiment was done to inform myself of Starbucks Blonde Roast, and inform others of my results.