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It’s been eons since I’ve simply talked about Starbucks in the news. There have been a number of interesting stories lately.

Of course, the fact that Starbucks will soon be testing a mobile order and pay phone app (which allows customers to both order and pay from the app) is definitely one of the more interesting stories:

Starbucks has bigger plans in mobile payments than most people realize.

This is pretty interesting. The idea is that you wouldn’t have to wait in line at all to place a beverage order or pick it up. Starbucks is adamant that they’ll “get it right.” One can think of many things that could go awry with this. One simple problem would be when someone orders something that a store has run out of – e.g., it’s a hot summer day, and I order a Peach Green Tea Lemonade, however unbeknownst to me, the store has run out of their peach syrup.

Here’s my two cents on the mobile payment ordering: At least in the beginning, only a tiny number of customers will use it. There may be 8 million MyStarbucksRewards members, but not all of them pay with an app. In fact, people using the phone app account for less than one-fifth of transactions at the register.  I myself still hand a register barista a physical Starbucks card. On top of that, often when these things roll out, they’re available for iPhone users before those of us who are die-hard Android phone users. That again will narrow the pool of people who’ll use it. And there will be people who simply don’t want to give up ordering a great Starbucks beverage face to face.

I suspect that the app will only have functionality when within a certain number of feet of the store’s registers. In other words, there would be no way to order absent being actually in the store. Some device that picks up the order sends a message to a label printer, which will spit out a label for the bar barista to place in the queue of drinks. And then the beverage gets made. And possibly it gets called out, as it normally would.

Starbucks is keep it super-secret where this will be tested. (Though I think I know. ;)) My own detective work suggests that the stores that will participate in this test are just now receiving their special equipment, and by mid-September the test should be up and running.

Of course, don’t take any of the above as gospel. I probably don’t know any more than you do.

Also, I caught this tiny article in the news: In Japan, Starbucks’ Secret Menu Isn’t So Secret. I’ve never been a huge fan of the “Starbucks Secret Menu.” Actually, it’s not that I don’t support customers creating drinks that they enjoy. By all means, be creative and order a beverage you love. Rather, it’s the cutesy names that are the problem. Like speaking in tongues, they don’t clearly convey to the register barista what the customer really wants. How is a barista to interpret an “Key Lime Pie Frappuccino”? Rather, being able to actually say, “I’d like a Frappuccino with lime juice to the first line, whole milk to the second line, and add 2 pumps white mocha, 2 pumps vanilla, and one pump cinnamon dolce…” is much more useful. Being able to order correctly eliminates ambiguity.

That Starbucks Japan article features the “White Peach Frappuccino.” Whatever it is, it sounds delicious. Remind me again that I really should stay away from Frappuccinos… ;)

For news a little closer to the Pacific Northwest, Bainbridge Island will soon get its first Starbucks. It’s long over due! I’m voting for a special Bainbridge Island Blend to make its way to Starbucks’ whole bean wall.

As for a roundup of the recent articles that have been especially popular right here at StarbucksMelody, I’d point you in the direction of the following: 26 Signs You’re Hopelessly Addicted to Starbucks; Dear Customers, Beverage Size Clarification; and finally, Finding the Hidden Messages in the Whole Bean Coffee.

I get told all the time that I update often enough that people miss a lot of what I write. Don’t miss a thing! Subscribe! (Click on the box for future updates when leaving a comment). And this is an open thread. Feel free to discuss anything Starbucks related.

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At the beginning of this month, I made a promise that for every paperback of Tales of the Siren: A StarbucksMelody sold through Amazon.com, I’d donate one dollar to the CUP Fund. That promise still holds true. Today’s the last day where if you buy Tales of the Siren paperback, I’ll donate.

IMAG1349 copySince the book’s release in May, there’s no doubt hundreds and hundreds of people have read the book. I know that my Facebook PM box and emails have come to me with lots of positive feedback. It’s a must-read for the true Starbucks fan. One partner wrote me that it was an “extra shot of Starbucks kool aid” right when she needed it.

Unfortunately, when you purchase Tales of the Siren from Amazon.com, the nice matching bookmark (shown in photo) does not come with it – that’s something I had made up for promotional use, especially for the Tales of the Siren street team.  If nothing else, I know it sounds like a little thing, but I have readers who have been enjoying this blog for years and years, and I would hope you’d consider purchasing a copy of the book as a thank you for years of this StarbucksMelody adventure.

Thank you again.

Melody

(PS: I’ve had people asking me how to subscribe to this blog. It’s true, I’m missing the big subscribe button that used to be in the right rail. Long and annoying story. If you want to subscribe, leave a comment – even if it’s something short like ‘I hope to read this book’ – and then before you submit, click the tiny icon box at the very bottom that asks if you want all future updates. Sorry that there’s no easier way at this time. You can also click “like” on the Facebook page, though unless you turn “notifications” on for the Facebook page, you’ll miss 90% of all the status updates, because that’s just the way Facebook works.)

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IMAG1304 - Whole Bean Wall - 4th and Union Starbucks - 29 July 2014Did you know that most every package of Starbucks whole bean coffee has a “clue” on it, which tells a story about the history of that coffee?

It’s been about one year since all of the new Starbucks packaging launched. Have you figured out all the clues on the coffee? The official Starbucks blog post on this is here. This came up as a conversation topic  recently when I was at a coffee education seminar for Breakfast Blend.

Take a look at the “clues” and hidden words you’ll find on the core whole packaging. You might look at the whole bean wall with new eyes:

IMAG1336 Breakfast BlendBreakfast Blend: I’ve written about Breakfast Blend thoroughly on this site. It was launched with other coffees, including Light Note Blend, Decaf Light Note Blend, and Serenade Blend as part of the “Milder Dimensions” category of coffee at Starbucks – an all new light roast coffee. Until Willow and Veranda Blend were introduced into the lineup, Breakfast Blend was the very lightest roast profile Starbucks coffee. It’s like as if the “Milder Dimensions” coffee lineup was Starbucks’ first attempt to lure in the coffee drinkers who would love the Blonde roast coffees.

IMAG1324 Pike Place Roast 29 July 2014 Everyday BrewPike Place Roast: Pike Place Roast was launched into the Starbucks whole bean coffee lineup on April 8, 2008. It was an all-new concept for Starbucks to begin offering an “Everyday Brew” so that customers would come back time and time again to the exact same flavor profile coffee.

Of course, this wasn’t without a small controversy that some customers wanted to be able to have old favorites like Breakfast Blend as the lighter roast profile option, or wanted more availability for the bolder coffees. At this point though, Pike Place Roast is here to stay. And in the Starbucks world of abbreviations, “EDB” stands for “Everyday Brew.”  (I assume that’s what the EDB stands for. This is my educated guess.)

IMAG1310 Espresso Roast - Emerson St. 29 July 2014 - 4th and Union StarbucksEspresso Roast: Espresso Roast is the heart of what they do. Customers all over the world love a great drink with Espresso Roast coffee pulled as an espresso shot. In my humble opinion, it’s totally underrated as a drip coffee, and stands up beautifully when made as a nice typical paper-filter brew method cup of coffee.

The hidden words on this coffee are “Emerson St.” I think this is the very most difficult one to figure out, of all the hidden clues. I think I’ve got it, but if anyone knows better, please tell me in the comments. My only clue to solving the Espresso Roast Emerson St. puzzle came from this official Starbucks blog post here. The blog article says this: “And who could tell the story about Espresso Roast better than the man who created the blend? Dave Olsen described how he and the original founders of Starbucks were at the roasting facility near Fishermen’s Terminal. They talked about what would be needed for a coffee that could carry its distinctive flavors through 6 to 12 ounces of steamed milk.” That episode would have been in the mid-1970s with the three original Starbucks founders, pre-dating Howard’s entry into the business in 1982. That article states that the original roasting plant was near Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal. It you look at a map of the Seattle area where Fishermen’s Terminal is, there is a West Emerson Street in that immediate area. I have to assume that the birth of the idea for Espresso Roast happened right there, in Seattle at Emerson Street.

IMAG1314 French Roast - 475 - 29jul2014 - 4th and Union StarbucksFrench Roast: The French Roast clue is pretty easy. It says 475. This is the temperature of the roaster to roast coffee beans to a very dark French roast. This is the darkest Starbucks roast, and pretty much for any coffee retailer, when a French roast is offered, it’s their darkest option. It’s interesting the extremes in the Starbucks roast profile from Blonde all the way to French.

This coffee is going to be extremely low acidity, and very smokey and dark. I don’t mind a cup of French roast now and then, but it’s probably not my go-to coffee.

IMAG1322 Yukon Blend 29 July 2014 4th and Union StarbucksYukon Blend: On the packaging of Yukon Blend, you’ll find the words “Big Hat Blend.” I Googled this and learned that once upon a time, Yukon Blend was sold in Texas as Big Hat Blend. To be honest, I don’t know any details of that – I’d love to know when that happened and why.

If anyone knows more about the Big Hat Blend story, do tell!

(Edit on July 31, 2014 – A reader sent in an image from one of her very old coffee master books. It shows the coffee stamp for Big Hat Blend! I feel privileged to be able to add that image to this article. Thank you Stephanie!)

photo-12 big hat blend

IMAG1326 Willow Blend - Starbucks 29July2014Willow Blend: Willow Blend has the word “Terroir” on it. This is another coffee where I’ve simply had to make an educated guess as to why that’s on the packaging. I don’t know the full story, and would be happy if you can share more details in the comments. I’ve heard coffee masters describe a coffee’s origin flavors as “Terroir.” In other words, the coffee shows off the flavors of the earth.

I would assume that Willow Blend has Terroir on it because it’s so light roast, you get a lot of origin flavors when drinking it.

There’s probably a lot more to the Willow Blend story, but that’s my guess.

This just gets you started. If you pick up each package of coffee, you’ll find there’s a story in the packaging, if you know how to decipher it. Here’s the old Caffe Verona coffee story. I only wish the new Verona packaging had some way of honoring that beautiful bridge that was on the older version of the coffee.

What do you think? Hope you enjoyed this lesson!

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IMAG1285 Bags of coffee - 28 July 2014As many readers of this site know, the East Olive Way Starbucks has regular coffee seminars, every other Monday evening, at 6:00 PM. They are free and open to the public. I always hope that I will see you there!

Tonight, Coffee Master Megan G. and Coffee-Master-In-Training Lindsey walked us through tasting and pairing for two coffees:

Untitled-1 Brazil Screen Cap 28 July 2014Starbucks Reserve Brazil Fazenda Apucarana – This is a limited Starbucks Reserve coffee. It’s available until supplies run out. You’ll find it in any Starbucks Clover – Reserve location, or online at StarbucksStore.com.

 

Untitled-2 Breakfast Blend - Starbucks store screen cap 28 July 2014Starbucks Breakfast Blend – This is a core Starbucks offering, widely available. You’ll find it inside Starbucks stores, online at Starbucksstore.com, and you’ll find it at some grocery retailers. By the way, I highly recommend that you read this previous StarbucksMelody.com article on a little history behind Breakfast Blend. It’s been in the Starbucks coffee lineup since 1998.

 

Megan and Lindsey walked us through the four steps of a coffee tasting. About seven people turned out for the East Olive Way coffee tasting.

I have a weakness for an excellent “smell” photo. Here are Megan and Lindsey smelling the coffee:

IMAG1290 Megan and Lindsey lead coffee seminarBoth coffees were prepared via a French Press. We tried the Breakfast Blend first, and paired it with the Reduced-Fat Berry Coffee Cake. This was such an excellent pairing. The coffee cake is quite light and doesn’t overpower the Breakfast Blend. The sweetness of the lemon crumble atop the coffee taste adds just a hint of sweetness to the coffee. The Breakfast Blend has very little lingering mouth flavor or feel to it, and with the coffee cake, it’s finish was very clean.

We had quite a discussion about Breakfast Blend. As it turns out, it’s one of Lindsey’s favorite coffees. I know that I personally spend too little time re-tasting the core coffees, so it was super fun to compare Breakfast Blend with the Brazil. As Lindsey commented, “We’re having a little tour of Latin America.”

Also, in comparing the whole bean side by side, one can easily see that the Breakfast Blend is roasted to a much lighter profile than the Brazil Fazenda Apucarana. Up until the introduction of Willow Blend and Veranda Blend, Breakfast Blend was the lightest coffee in the Starbucks core coffee lineup.

IMAG1294 bags of coffee with whole beans 28 July 2014 East Olive Way StarbucksWe paired a traditional Spanish flan dessert with the Brazil coffee. You can see the food for pairing here. Sorry that it’s a bit blurry of a photo:

IMAG1284 Food pairing 28 July 2014One thing that came up in the discussion of the Brazil coffee is that it’s very full-bodied for a “medium” profile coffee. We agreed that it seemed medium to dark roast. The big flavor profile lingers on your tongue, even after you’re finished. A few people in our group commented that the brown sugar flavors in the flan complemented the coffee, making it seem sweeter. One person called it “custard-y magic.”

I enjoyed the flan quite a bit! It was so delicious. The one thing about this pairing is that I thought the big flavor of the Brazil seemed to overpower the flan a bit. It seemed that everyone got something different out of this pairing!

Have you tried this coffees?

Hope you enjoyed your quick coffee tasting event for these two coffees. Looking forward to your comments.

 

 

 

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Chips, Crisps and a big Starbucks/ La Boulange Potato Chips Conversation.

July 27, 2014

Currently, as part of the lunch food test happening right now in select locations, some Starbucks stores offer a new kind of potato chips. A La Boulange version of potato chips is available in the lunch test locations. Just as a reminder, the current nationally-offered potato chips at Starbucks comes in two flavors: Smokey Sweet […]

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The new Woodburn, Oregon drive thru Starbucks: One of just 19 special stores.

July 24, 2014

Recently opened on June 16, 2014, in Woodburn, Oregon, there is a special drive thru Starbucks that is part of a design platform shared among just 19 stores in the corporation. These stores are all either built from prefab modular construction or made with reclaimed shipping containers. Here’s the full list (as of July 24, […]

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The Starbucks Treat Receipt Returns: July 22nd through August 17th.

July 22, 2014

The annual Starbucks treat receipt returns, starting today. The way the treat receipt works is that you go to Starbucks before noon, hang on to your morning receipt, and then return the same afternoon and get a Grande-size cold/ iced beverage for $2.00. The “Treat Receipt” was first introduced as a summer promotion, August 2008 […]

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Be on the look out for new Barista Promise Starbucks cups.

July 19, 2014

Be on the look out for new Starbucks white paper cups! The new version of the iconic white Starbucks hot-beverage cup will include the Barista Promise on it. The cups say on them, “Love your beverage or let us know. We’ll always make it right.” I think it’s a nice addition to the cups! What […]

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“What Customers Mean to Me.” (Guest post by a 4-year partner).

July 18, 2014

A few days, I put out an inquiry on my blog’s Facebook page asking for people what they wanted to read on this StarbucksMelody blog. I did receive a number of interesting replies. One person wanted me to talk about the difference between the Teavana and the Tazo teas. Another person emailed me with a […]

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Commentary: On Why Selling 60-shot Frappuccinos is a Bad Idea for Starbucks.

July 16, 2014

It’s been in the news that a woman in Florida recently ordered a 60-shot Frappuccino using her MyStarbucksRewards reward. Here’s a link to one such news story: Grub Street link. Why is a 60-shot Frappuccino a bad idea at Starbucks? Is it because she used a Lucky Dozen MyStarbucksReward for her beverage? I say absolutely […]

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