Coffee Master Materials circa 2006 – the Starbucks Aroma Kit

Between about 2004 and 2006, Starbucks sent stores some really interesting materials to use to teach partners how to become coffee masters.  One of the more rare finds these days is the “aroma kit.”  I often say that this blog is not Melody’s diary but rather about Starbucks, but I’ll share a bit on the story behind these pictures.  I am working on tasting a number of coffee pairings that were submitted from a previous blog article that I wrote.

Yesterday (May 30, 2011), I walked down to my own neighborhood Starbucks at 7th and Pike, and ordered about five of the pairing suggestions that had been submitted via email.  I’m not going to be preparing a million French presses of coffee! All of the pairings that I tried had coffee made through the Clover brewer.  Here’s what my coffee tasting task looked like:

I spent at least 45 minutes, if not an hour, slowly trying drink all that coffee and eat all that food.  Meanwhile, at times, I was carrying on a little conversation with the partners who were working too.  Adriana commented how much she really liked Guatemala Antigua through the Clover, and I agreed that  that coffee shines through the Clover.  At one point, as I was drinking and eating, I saw that Adriana and Ricky were pairing lemon loaf and Kenya from the Clover.  They invited me to try some but I had to decline because I felt like I had more than my fill of food and coffee.

As Adri and I were chatting about Yukon Blend, and she commented that she thought it has a bit of a “tobacco” aroma.  I hadn’t really thought of that before.  Actually Yukon Blend is not my favorite coffee.  I know it’s not labeled as an “extra bold” and it’s only considered a “bold” but somehow it always feel to me like that coffee will put hair on your chest.  As we were chatting about coffee and their aromas, lo and behold, next thing I knew Adri appeared at my table with this:


I began to drool a little.  Many stores have used up their kits, or no longer have them.  The “Aroma” kit was one piece in a series of tools sent to stores between about 2004 to 2006 to train baristas.  Obviously I couldn’t take the kit from the store, but I snapped a few photos while I was there visiting.  I have two other articles about these coffee master tools, and I highly recommend them:

Starbucks coffee flashcards – Learning the vocabulary of coffeeCoffee Master tasting book circa 2004

Coffee master tasting book 2004

Also, I have to apologize that I am still working on the coffee pairings blog post and winners from that contest.  I think I might have bit off more than I can chew with that one!

And now here are the rest of the photos of the “Aroma” kit by Starbucks:


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  • Mr. Who

    This kit is actually still available to order for most stores, unlike all of the other old Coffee Master supplies.

  • Michelle

    We have an aroma lab at our store and I always forget it’s there. Though, having said that, I was cleaning up some shelves the other day and came across it, so maybe I’ll dig it out today and we can have some fun with it.

    Thanks for the reminder Melody!

  • denise r

    Another very interesting post! I recently discovered that they still have this kit at my regular store, altho for most of the newer baristas, I get the impression they don’t know ‘enough’ about coffee tastings or pairings! (anywhere where I go)

    Thanx for the pics! Sbux needs to get back to more of this! (beyond Seattle;)

  • purple1

    Another great history lesson and these lessons I find so interesting because from my side of the counter I do not see new partners being trained in the same fashion as years ago. What a shame for sure! Again, an old record but what has happened to partner training and learning about customer service? Thanks Melody for this post.

  • Melody

    @DrWho – A store can still order these! Wow that’s so cool! @purple1 – The new coffee master journal training which replaced this is pretty intense. As to training, I think that a lot can still happen, and I see partners doing coffee tastings, and getting trained but since there is not much time, I think partners have to be pretty motivated to make it happen. Yesterday, I was just chatting with a partner at my local store who said she wants to do a coffee tasting on 6-10 and she wants me to come … it’s still happening. Just requires motivation.

  • Kristi

    I got giddy seeing this post. I had just earned my CM ( the first one, ehem) and we just received the kit. I must of had a formal tasting ( out in the lobby set up with multiple presses) once a week to “play” with the kit. It was so fun watching people get that experience when tasting the coffees. Now that I know it still available to order, I’m all over it for my team.
    What a terrific experience!!!

  • Kimmy

    I have a funny story about our Aroma Kit that happened THIS week. It had been a good year since I had sniffed the little bottles during a tasting — (SHAME ON ME!) One of our super new employees saw me sniffing the bottles while cleaning out a coffee drawer and looked at me like i had lost my mind. I used that opportunity to do a tasting with him –using the aroma kit — which was awesome because he said for the first time he was able to understand what we were saying when we said “floral” or “earthy” notes. YAY, another coffee breakthrough! :)

  • Marrion

    I still have one in my store! It’s a great way for partners with dietary limitations to enjoy a pairing

  • Jacqui H.

    I had no idea we could still order the aroma kit. Im all over it, three partners in my store, including myself will be starting the new coffee master program this month. Its gonna be really great if we can have the aroma kit to take along on our journey! Thanks Melody!

  • purple1

    I am totally amazed that there still is a kit around. I am glad that it is being used and shared by partners. Kimmy your story is wonderful.

  • GAStarbucksGirl

    This is what I used the first time I got my Coffee Master. Ahhh…. the memories :)

  • Nathan

    I also used this the first time I got my Coffee Master. We still have ours, but I forgot about it to be honest. Now that I’m reminded about it, I may just use it again.

  • Melody

    @GaStarbucksGirl – Does your store still have their aroma kit?
    @Kimmy – That is a great story!!! Thanks for posting that!

  • Jenni

    Yes! My store only opened in 2008, but we have one of these aroma kits! It’s hidden somewhere…

  • Dan

    We still have this at our store. It’s a little outdated and some of the scents don’t work but I still whip it out EVERY time a partner says “this just smells like coffee”. We love the kit and it has helped to create some really passionate partners.

  • Hayley

    I feel as though I don’t have any unique input on this, but it certainly is a great was to start the process of sharpening your skills. I know the first tasting I attended I had a hard time being able to pick out some of the notes I hears the baristas talk about…this would have been great to refer to.

  • Anthony

    I really wish something like this would be available for coffee laypeople who want to learn more about their coffee.

  • Melody

    @Anthony – I know exactly what you mean. I guarantee that if this were a merchandise item on the retail shelves, it would FLY off the shelf both because of its incredible uniqueness, and because it would be so fun to use. People naturally love things like this – Little bottles of aromas!! I think I’ll be checking ebay now and then to see if one of these kits ends up there, but it seems unlikely.

  • LatteRose

    I agree with Anthony – I’d love to have one of these kits!

    (btw – @denise r. – thank you!!! :) )

  • Amy in Boston

    I like that kit. I wonder if they have updated ones ( I realized that some of the coffees aren’t offered anymore) and at Starbuck Harvard Yard opening, I realized lemon squares so perfect with Rwanda. In fact, one of the partners there, told me that they have made Rwanda sangria (putting lemon slices in Rwanda) and also putting grapefruit in Kenyan. I love how I never thought about doing that with coffee.

  • denise r

    Can I mention here that in Melody’s Chicago visit (before this thread was posted! but obviously after it’d been ‘put together’)), ironically at my little regular Mt Prospect Rand Rd store, TJ, the barita put in charge of treating us like royalty, actually brought out two of these, to use with the Sumatra tasting, and give a little of his history with the kit. Was very interesting and altho Melody already had experienced what she wrote in this thread, she hadn’t posted it yet! So, shout out to T.J. for bringing out some history in our tasting experience!

    Also, I know a store manager who would love to get one of these kits for her very new store. Do we know for sure where and how and if these kits can still be acquired for stores? anyone? thanx!

  • denise r

    well, I guess, upon re-read, I had my dates mixed up!

  • Melody

    @Denise – I don’t really know for sure if the aroma kits can still be ordered. One store manager partner on twitter told me that they’re working on a new version of them. It is a funny coincidence that TJ brought out the two little bottles. I had heard about the aroma kits many moons ago but hadn’t seen a full complete one with the instruction booklet until Adri pulled it out that day I was at 7th & Pike Starbucks. TJ did a great job with his coffee tasting! Sumatra is a great choice and he’s right that it does pair with oatmeal!

  • Michelle

    denise – if the store manager you know can’t find the sku for the aroma lab listed in IMS, they should contact their CSR, they should be able to tell them how to get it. :)

    purple1 – I just wanted to respond to your comment about baristas not being trained about coffee anymore. With our new training program (launched in the early part of 2011), there are actually 3 coffee modules. One in each learning block. As well as learning about growing, processing, sourcing, cafe practices, etc… these modules each contain a comparative tasting. The first compares 4 different coffees, and the second and third compare 3 different ones. By doing the comparison tastings it seems that new baristas are able to pick out the different flavours easier than if they were tasting a single coffee on it’s own. My partners who have started since the new training program launched are very interested in coffee and they all make sure that they’re doing tastings on a regular basis.

    Melody – my favourite food pairing with Sumatra is a butter tart. I understand that these are a Canadian thing (I had no idea they were not known in the US till recently) so you might be going ‘huh?’ But when we paired Sumatra with the mini butter tart (we sold them for a while before we launched petites) I thought I might die and go to heaven.

    Melody & Anthony – Did you see French Kiss? Kevin Klein’s character made a kit similar to the aroma labs to be used when tasting wine. I wonder if wineries sell this kind of thing? If so, I bet it would work. :)

  • Melody

    @Michelle – Oh my gosh Kevin Kline has been in so many great movies. I didn’t see that, but it is worth it for me to dig it up. Maybe wineries do use the same sort of tools!

    And there’s no butter tart in Seattle. :(

    Interesting, on the blog we’re talking coffee, but the facebook page has totally different conversations going on.

    I finished the final touches on the coffee pairing blog post, and it will post tomorrow morning.

  • Diele

    I transferred stores and couldn’t order an aroma kit. =( I miss how it helped new partners understand the subtle aromas in coffee.

  • Michelle

    I discovered something interesting in my store today. There’s this satchel bag of stuff that has been way up on a high shelf in the store. Someone (I’m not sure who) brought it down to a level where I could reach it, so I went through it today.

    It’s an entire Coffee Master Kit. Not the current kit, but the previous version. It has a tasting book and a flavour deck, a full set of ceramic tasting cups and a couple of other things. Everything is still shrink wrapped. When I have a little more time I plan to go through it all. Especially since I’ve just started the current Coffee Master Program. Also, the actual bag is fantastic…I want to bring it home. :)


  • tamtam

    thank you for some cool artifacts!

  • Yana

    Wow! Cool. An Aroma Kit. But we dont have it here in the Asia Market

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