How Starbucks Chooses, Roasts And Blends Their Coffee

Oct 19


Gary Gresham

Gary Gresham

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... Coffee knows the perfect cup of coffee starts with only the best beans. Finding and ... the best green beans in the world is the first step that ... them from the rest of


Starbucks® Coffee knows the perfect cup of coffee starts with only the best beans. Finding and purchasing the best green beans in the world is the first step that differentiates them from the rest of the coffee industry. They are well-known for exceptionally high quality coffees,How Starbucks Chooses, Roasts And Blends Their Coffee Articles care in selection, and expertise in roast. Each coffee is selected for the defining qualities that distinguish its origin. This careful selection process illustrates Starbucks passion for buying and roasting the world's best coffee.

Starbucks combs the world for the perfect combination of climate, soil, elevation, and agricultural practices that come together to produce a great coffee. When searching for coffees, they ask these questions. Which coffees from a given location best represent the perfect intersection of climate and skilled horticulture? It is a search for unmistakable regional flavors, what a French wine-maker would call goût de terroir, the taste of the place. At Starbucks, coffee is a fresh produce, not a commodity. When the inevitable happens and a given coffee estate or region has an "off" year, they simply don't offer that coffee. They make this tough decision rather than offering a lower quality selection. They buy coffee solely on its performance in the cup.

The coffee Starbucks buys is truly special, spectacular coffee. Their coffee buying team evaluates over one thousand "offer samples" each year. The evaluation process includes roasting small batches of coffee and tasting these batches in a process called "cupping." Only a very few of these sampled coffees make the cut. Starbucks coffee buyers spend approximately 18 weeks per year traveling to countries of origin. The purpose of these travels is not necessarily to buy coffee. The goal is to continue to learn about coffee and to strengthen relationships with growers and suppliers. These relationships are critical to their future success. They solidify the company's role as champions of quality and progress at every level of the coffee business. It is because of these relationships that Starbucks gets the first pick of the best crops worldwide. And thus Starbucks is able to procure the world's best coffee beans every year.

Harvesting Starbucks Coffee

At harvest time, coffee trees are laden with bright red coffee cherries. Ripe coffee cherries are cranberry. An unroasted coffee bean is simply the pit of the coffee cherry.

The skin of the coffee cherry is very thick, with a slightly bitter flavor. The fruit beneath the skin, however, is intensely sweet. The texture of this layer of fruit is similar to a grape. Beneath the fruit is the parchment, covered with a thin, slippery, honey-like layer called "mucilage." The parchment of the coffee cherry serves as a protective pocket for the seed, much like the small pockets that protect the seeds of an apple. Removing the parchment, two translucent bluish green coffee beans are revealed, coated with a very thin layer called the "silverskin."While most coffee cherries contain two beans, 5 to 10 percent of the time, only one bean is produced in the cherry. This is called a "peaberry."

The Starbucks Roast®

Starbucks is passionate about the way they roast their coffee. It's called the Starbucks Roast®. It's more than a color: it is the cumulative, positive, and dramatic result of roasting each coffee in a unique way, helping each one reach its maximum flavor. The color can be duplicated, but the taste cannot.

All roasters, including Starbucks, roast green coffee beans by heating them in a large rotating drum. After about 5 to 7 minutes of intense heat, much of their moisture evaporates. The beans turn a yellow color and smell a little like popcorn. After about 8 minutes in the roaster, the "first pop" occurs. The beans double in size, crackling as they expand. They are now light brown. Very sour one-dimensional flavor notes are dominant, while more complex coffee flavors haven't yet developed. Many roasters stop the roasting process after the "first pop".

After 10-11 minutes in the roaster, the beans reach an even brown color, and oil starts to appear on the surface of the bean. At this roasting time (different for each coffee, but usually somewhere between 11 and 15 minutes), the full flavor potential begins to develop in the beans, bringing all of their attributes into balance. The "second pop" signals that the coffee is almost ready. The moment that the coffee is released into the cooling tray is a memorable one. The smell of freshly roasted coffee fills the air, along with the sound of applause created by the final clapping of the "second pop." Starbucks roasts all of its coffees to the "second pop".

To Blend or Not to Blend

Starbucks procures both single-origin coffees and regional blends from around the world. Single-origin coffees showcase what is possible in individual coffees. Blends weave together coffees from different origins to create a taste tapestry for your tongue. Some coffees are purchased solely for blending while others are purchased as single-origin offerings.

Single-Origin Coffees

Starbucks offers specific, individual coffees from 10 to 15 different countries. Each of these coffees displays an assortment of distinctive flavor characteristics. Starbucks calls these "single-origin" coffees.

The term "varietal" is often misused. Arabica is one species within the genus of coffee (robusta is another species). Each species has varieties ranked underneath it, and there are many varieties of arabica coffee trees. While "varietal" is a botanical term, "single-origin" is a geographical term, and the most accurate way to describe coffees from a specific country. As green coffee beans are often grown by multiple farmers and then mixed at their place of origin, a "single-origin" coffee from a specific geographical area may have coffee beans from multiple varieties of arabica plants.

An example of a pure, single-origin coffee is Colombia Nariño (Supremo). This Colombian single-origin comes from the province of Nariño, a rugged, mountainous area known for active volcanoes and natural beauty. "Supremo" denotes the largest bean size classification for grading and sorting coffee in Colombia. Its dry, nutty flavor and smoothness is the best coffee from this area of South America, and is exclusive to Starbucks.

Starbucks Blends

In addition to great single-origin coffees, Starbucks core lineup also includes blends of different single-origin coffees. The blends as a group make up a significant percentage of Starbucks whole bean coffee lineup, and each is as special in its own way as the most exotic single-origin coffee. There are many reasons to blend coffee. Starbucks strives to showcase the signature style of a particular growing region, as in House Blend or to combine various qualities found in different regions into a harmonious, balanced whole. Whatever the case, each Starbucks blend offers a cup of coffee that no single-origin coffee can duplicate.

Dark Roast Blends

Starbucks also offers three dark roast blends: Espresso Roast , Italian Roast, and French Roast. These blends vary both in constituent coffees and roast intonation. Espresso Roast is the foundation of the company's beverage business, while Italian Roast and French Roast are among Starbucks more popular coffees.

Starbucks Coffee Growing Regions

Most of the world's coffee is grown between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn on plantations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Americas.

Africa and Arabia
From the mountainous eastern half of the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula come some of the world's greatest coffees. The coffees from this region are alluring and complex, sometimes causing even seasoned specialty coffee drinkers to wonder who dropped the blueberries and spices into their cup. Some of our favorites are Kenya Coffee Beans , Ethiopia Sidamo Coffee Beans and Arabian Mocha Sanani Coffee Beans. They have intense berry or floral aromas and flavors of berries, citrus fruits, cocoa, and spice.

Latin America
Central and South America produce more coffee, by far, than any other growing region. The beans grown here are generally light- to medium-bodied with clean, lively flavors. They are prized for their tangy brightness and consistent quality. Both these features make them ideal foundations for blending. Coffees from this region include: Organic Shade-Grown Mexico, Guatemala Antigua, Colombia Nariño (Supremo).

The Pacific
Often called Indonesian coffees because most of the beans from this region are grown in that country. These coffees are on the opposite end of the taste spectrum from the Latin American coffees. They are typically full-bodied, smooth, earthy, and occasionally feature herbal flavor notes. These are the 'heavyweights' of the coffee world, providing deep, sturdy 'low notes' when used in blends. As single-origin coffees, they are perennial favorites. Starbucks Indonesian coffees include: Sumatra, Sulawesi and Komodo Dragon Blend which is a blend of wholly Indonesian coffees.

Starbucks is dedicated and passionate about buying and roasting the world's best coffee.

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