A coffee tasting of Starbucks Bali Blend (Taste and Compare)

Thanks to a twitter friend in Amsterdam, I received a bag of Starbucks Bali Blend in the mail!  This is a limited promotional coffee, and it  is available only in select international markets.  It is not available in North America.  I have been eager to try it.  In 2009, Starbucks briefly offered a small-batch Clover coffee called “Bali Batur Highlands,” and I remember that I liked it a lot.

I walked to my neighborhood Starbucks at 7th and Pike at about 8:30 this morning with my bag of Bali Blend, hoping to try it with the real experts.  By the way, today’s mini coffee tasting was totally unplanned and as impromptu as it can possibly get.  I didn’t know who would be working or whether they would be busy.  I saw Nitza and Ashley behind the counter, and a new partner (named Simon) whom I don’t know very well.  There was another partner whom I’ve met many times and I absolutely should know his name, but I always forget it  (I am sorry!).   The store manager, Adam, also joined us.  He had been sitting in the back doing office work, but gladly came out to join in a coffee tasting.

I showed Nitza the Bali Blend, and told her I wanted to do a coffee tasting, and she enthusiastically said, “yes!”   We briefly talked about what kind of tasting, and quickly decided upon two presses of coffee.  I was pretty amazed that Nitza was already familiar with this Bali Blend coffee.  Coincidentally, one of the store partners had just come back  from a vacation to the UK, bringing home a bag of this coffee.  Nitza said that just a few days before she had been trying to figure out the best setting on the Clover for Bali Blend, and wasn’t sure that the Clover would be the best way to do a coffee tasting.

We compared Starbucks core coffee Sumatra with the Bali Blend in a classic “taste and compare” style of coffee education.  A “taste and compare” coffee tasting is exactly as it sounds.  It is two or three coffees in a French press, and it’s a real analysis of the origin flavors, and usually it is NOT paired with food.  The “taste and compare” style of coffee tasting is really be able to look at one coffee against another so that there is always a basis of comparison.  If there is food, it’s reserved until after the tasting is all done.

Just as a quick review of previous articles with a variety of coffee tasting ideas:

(1)  “Taste and compare” style coffee tasting:

(2) Food pairing coffee tasting – Learning about how food changes the way coffee tastes:

(3) A coffee cupping – Learning about coffee to compare flavors, and check quality – Cuppings are part of a coffee roaster’s process to create perfect coffees:

I really do not want to sound like I am the last word in coffee tastings or coffee education.  I am definitely not.  In my own personal experience (through a Starbucks education), what I have learned is that different kinds of coffee tastings all have different goals, and it is certainly not to say that one kind is better or more important than another.

Nitza made two French presses:

Store manager Adam took a minute to check out what the Bali Blend beans look like:

Nitza poured coffee in all our small tasting cups:

And then we got to work describing the coffees and comparing them.  Nitza commented that she liked the Bali Blend much better in a press than from the Clover.  She said that there had been spicy notes highlighted by the Clover, but in a press it was much sweeter.  The Sumatra brought out descriptions like “toasted cocoa nibs” and Adam commented that it tasted like “toasted marshmallows.”  I noticed that the Sumatra was much heavier in the mouth than the Bali Blend.  I loved the Bali Blend.  In fact, every single partner there loved it.  Adam, who has been a partner for years and years, commented that it reminded him of what he remembered Arabian Mocha Java to be like, back when that was a core Starbucks coffee.  The Bali Blend was full of origin flavor, and seemed to have a lighter roast profile than Sumatra. Both were delicious, but honestly, I wish I had like twenty bags of Bali Blend, not one. Love it.

I felt like I got to have a bit of a real international coffee tasting.  Shortly after I walked out of 7th and Pike, I tweeted about the coffee tasting and got this immediate reply from Laurence Winch, Starbucks Coffee Ambassador for the UK:

@SbuxMel Good tasting to do. Two Indonesian coffees – one washed, the other semi washed. Both delicious coffees with v diff characteristics

That’s all there is to it.  Coffee.  Passports. About fifteen to twenty minutes at most with two coffees.  Hope you enjoyed this.

By the way, I found this description of Bali coffee on the Starbucks Australia website:

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  • MarkDavid

    I love this coffee, got a few bags a few weeks ago. It goes great in a mocha! Perfect complement with its cocoa notes.

  • Shruti

    Sounds really good. I have been using a french press to make my morning coffee, and I must say I quite like it. Dont remember why I stopped using it in the first place.

    I hope they bring out the Bali blend in Canada.

  • kara86ster

    Finally you got to taste Bali! We here still got the whole bean coffee, one partner here also said he love it very much compared to other coffee he have tasted, during our coffee tasting session. Maybe its because of the fertile volcano soil there, he speculated. By the way, keep coming with more coffee tasting here!… =)

  • camspi

    Oh! I think Taylor picked some up when he was in Austra. I’m seeing him sometime this month, I hope he’ll have some left over so I can try it! It’s a pretty bag!

  • Melody

    @Shruti – I often forget how good a french press can be. My boyfriend is a huge fan of the pour over, so we brew with a Melitta often at home.
    @Kara86ster – This is such a treat to have this coffee. Such a treat. I hope to eventually get another bag of it. Sometimes I’m sooo jealous of the great coffees that the international markets get!
    @MarkDavid – I saw on twitter one person recommended trying it with a Rocky Road cake pop – I might have to do that next! I’m still trying to get comment luv working so that you can show off your most recent blog posts here without having people click through your name.

  • Hayley

    I like the idea of pairing the Bali Blend with a rocky road cake pop…that sounds like a good combination with the description I read. These international coffees (and pastries) are always so intriguing! :)

  • Coffee Beans

    Omigoshh..this sounds really delicious! Is this like available in any Starbucks?

  • Melody

    @CoffeeBeans – Hi there. The Bali blend coffee by Starbucks is NOT available anywhere in North America. It’s an international offering – Certain international markets – UK, europe, Australia, Indonesia, and I think a few others.

  • denise r

    How excitng and fun this must’ve been. Those side-by-side coffee tastings, with no food, can be very tricky, and interesting. I realize that food always pairs, with somethig or other, but I also always felt that the food with coffee tastings, in a way, almost is kind of cheating. The food may ‘enhance’ but also disguise a bit. There are plenty of coffees that I think are ‘good’ with certain food…..but when you have a cup straight up, and black…that’s possibly a whole other story.
    I, too, would love to try this coffee…as well as many others! But, if it at all resembles Arabian Mocha Java, I think it would not be a favorite. I’m not crazy about that one and/or any ‘herbal-ness’.

    This did make me long for Ethiopian Yergacheffe….I love that coffee soooo much.

    Pretty bag, on the Bali..I agree.

    Thanx for the thread Melody, and good luck with that dui beeper. I’m sure it could be a hell-ish time to have it. (altho I’ve noticed..seems fewer people out and about than usual…maybe you’ll be lucky)

  • purple1

    Melody how wonderful that the partners at your store are willing to do the coffee tasting at such short notice. I am pretty sure the partners at my local store would just ignore the request.

  • Melody

    @purple1 – Then someone (store manager, district manager, regional manager ?) needs to infuse your partners with a little passion. There are stores all over that would say yes to this. At my store, I was pretty impressed that most partners could grab their passports, and stunned they were familiar with this international coffee offering already! On my blog, I visited a Starbucks in Austin, Tx where I think this would happen, and walked into a coffee tasting in Laguna Hills, Calif. It’s not just Seattle, though coffee passion might be more common here. ?

  • Pam

    Hi Melody — Not exactly sure where to post this on your blog, but I want to give a “shout out” to the manager at Starbucks Store #6754, Bristol St. and Memory Lane, in Santa Ana. We came in with empty bags of the grocery beans, and they gave us a complimentary coffee in our Starbucks thermoses. We also got a free refill!


  • Amy in Boston

    This is great. How nice of the Store to let you do a tasting there. I am always intrigued how you can get three different tastes of coffee depending on how you brew it (clover, drip or frenchpress). It makes the flavor and complexity of coffee that much more amazing.

  • Diele

    I would have freaked in excitement! I usually offer to do a tasting and most customers do not want to wait. *sigh*

  • Darkkatpouncing

    So I’m reading this after midnight and I shouldn’t be thinking about seriously making some coffee but I am. I have some Sumatra in the kitchen and after reading this it’s calling my name. *smile* While I do like the Sumatra I’ve experimented with putting less of the coffee in the press to lighten it a bit. The Bali sounds more my speed :) I won’t stop drinking the Sumatra thought I’ll be dreaming of Bali 😉 I do enjoy your descriptive writing because I have a very good feel for what the tastes and smells are like. EXCELLENT! Thank you again! :)

  • Melody

    @Diele -I am always hopeful that there are great stores and great partners everywhere, and with a comment like that, I am sure it is true!
    @darkkatpouncing – Enjoy your midnight coffee! Jim and I have made a 10 pm pot of coffee many times! Right before bed!

  • jetBlue711

    This coffee sounds incredible: Toasted Cocoa Nibs and Marshmallow, I can imagine drinking this on the beach with some s’mores!
    I just happened to notice that there is no Gazebo Blend coming out this year! :( This is very sad.
    I was looking at the Summer 2 promotion and it has a “Iced Coffee Blend” but it appears to be the new name for Terazza, not Gazebo. :(

  • Melody

    Hi JetBlue – You have a great nickname! The Bali Blend was a lot like Arabian Mocha Java! There is a HUGE discussion in the “Iced Coffee” thread about the new Iced Summer Blend. I have heard from fairly reliable sources that it is just Gazebo renamed, but I can’t really be certain:


    ^ The comment discussion in that thread is amazing!

  • denise r

    I don’t think I have ever had a bag of ‘special’ coffee, or even, more recently “Reserve” that I didn’t bring to my regular store and offer some up for a small tasting. Usually it works out…if too busy then I tell them take however much they need to at least make a press for themselves.

    I love doing that, or being able to share. I just wish there were more times of the other way around. This kind of goes back to feeling ” I have to make it happen’. I know it sounds I am not doing it in the right, good spirit, which wouldn’t be true. I am. I just delight in being on the other end, too! (like it used to be for many yrs, quite regularly.)

  • Tina

    that’s so neat, that you got the coffee sent to you! :)

    Glad you got to do a tasting!

  • Mr. Who

    The Iced Coffee Blend is another part of our lineup renamed – but it isn’t Gazebo. It’s the Terraza Blend that we have brewed as iced coffee since the Summer of ’06. It is going to be part of our core year-round lineup now. Hopefully they will give us back Gazebo Blend next year.

    Also, the Bali coffee isn’t a blend, it’s just “Bali.” A blend generally refers to coffees from different regions being put together, like “Gold Coast Blend” or “Tribute Blend.” Bali is a single-origin coffee, like Guatemala Antigua or Rwanda Gakenke.

  • Melody

    @Mr Who – I know you are right. I have had these conversations with Starbucks coffee people: Estate coffee is from a single farm. Single-origin is from one growing region. A blend is usually a multi-region blend. I just got Bali Blend stuck in my head. Starbucks makes a coffee called Brasil Blend which is sold in Brazil. It is all Brazil beans from about 4 different farms. Technically, it’s a S.O. coffee too. Yep though, you’re right, It’s just “Bali” coffee.

  • denise r

    re: Gazebo or not-Gazebo???? I really hope it’s not the “Terraza” and IS Gazebo. There’s alot of confusion about this out there. Surely, some “official” Sbux person could say??? or, maybe they have and we don’t know it. This is not some big new over-all launch like the whole Tribute days so I really don’t know why the secrecy surrounding this.
    I bought “Terraza” a couple yrs ago and ended up, eventually, tossing what was left. I can’t remember if I brewed it hot…..in any case, I wasn’t crazy about it I’m not even “crazy about” Gazebo but I like it ok and it’s a nice switch for summer. I really used to like Costa Rica Bella Vista, that was a nice switch.

    I hope someone clears this up: what excatly is the ‘newly named summer coffee’? Is it, or is not, Gazebo. ???

  • denise r

    ps: re this newly named summer blend …or whatever its official name is….. keeping it around all yr as part of the core line-up…… what does that mean, another name change for the same thing( whatever it is)? It doesn’t seem likely they would have a coffee with the ‘summer’ name in it all yr round. ?

  • denise r

    final answer: I am told assuredly: the summer-whatever-they-call-it-blend, which will stay around all yr, is NOT GAZEBO. and, likely Terraza. boo. :(

  • Sammy

    The Bali Blend is one of the best Coffees this year at Starbucks. I love this coffee.

  • Vicki

    How can I get some?? I was in Amsterdam airport, saw the Bali coffee – but didn’t buy it, I thought I would just get it when I got back to Canada. I haven’t seen it anywhere, can’t buy it on line :( How did you get it in the mail?!

  • gordon

    just found this blog by accident, but i live in Bali so if you were intrested in some coffee from here i could pbobably post it over espc the Luwak coffee which is my personal favourite

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