IMAG0723 Coffee Workshop NineI took Monday, July 7, 2014 off from work. Previously, I had contacted my regular contact person inside the Starbucks Support Center (the headquarters “SSC”) and mentioned that I wanted to drink Starbucks Root Beer and see the new coffee education area of the support center. The Starbucks sparkling beverages are only available in the Sun Belt Region of the U.S., or inside the “SODO 8” Starbucks which is the internal Starbucks inside the SSC. The “SODO 8” Starbucks is not open to the public. Unless you already work inside the headquarters, you’ll require a Starbucks partner escort to go inside.

I invited a friend (Jocelyn), and the three of us (myself, my contact person within the SSC, and Jocelyn) got a tour of the new coffee education area inside the SSC. It’s designed to offer coffee education opportunities within the headquarters, and is called “Coffee Workshop Nine.” When I was emailing pictures to myself and typing too fast, I noticed that my phone wanted to auto-correct this to “Coffee Worship Nine.” That fits too, as far as I’m concerned. 😉

Here’s what the Coffee Workshop Nine area looks like:

IMAG0725 Coffee Workshop Nine

IMAG0746 Workshop Nine 7 July 2014Along the back wall of the coffee education area, you’ll find every single kind of brewing and coffee equipment that could be found inside a Starbucks:

IMAG0720 Coffee Workshop Nine equipment 7 July 2014While we visited the Coffee Workshop Nine, we were joined by Starbucks partner Chad Moore, who gave us a great lesson on the five layers outside the actual unroasted green coffee bean. One of those layers is called a parchment. It’s like a thin paper, akin to the thin skin around a peanut.  I’d heard of the parchment before but it was not until I saw the naked green bean next to ones in parchment, and saw Chad rip the parchment off the bean, that this really clicked for me. I will forever now have a great visual image of a coffee bean’s parchment:

IMAG0732 parchment on green beans 7 July 2014IMAG0731 Parchment on beans lesson 7 July 2014

While we visited the Coffee Workshop Nine, I noticed a bunch of black aprons hanging on a wall in a coffee education room:

IMAG0728 black apronsAh the coveted black apron! I have respect and admiration for partners who earn one.

After visiting the Coffee Workshop Nine, the three of us went to the SODO 8 Starbucks and ordered Starbucks root beer. I had so much fun. I hadn’t had Starbucks root beer in a long time. I ended up ordering a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino and a Starbucks Root Beer and created something of my own root beer float. Heavenly. I wish I could go back to SODO 8 Starbucks all the time:

IMAG0762 Root Beer 7 July 2014IMAG0768 Root Beer at SODO 8 Starbucks 7 July 2014When my visit to the SSC was over, Jocelyn and I headed to University Village to try a special coffee called Venti Blend (occasionally called “Kent Blend” but I think the official title is Venti Blend). This coffee blend was produced in 2013 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Kent Roasting Plant. It was distributed only to roasting plant partners and a very small number of SSC partners outside of the roasting plant.

Venti Blend

A Starbucks store partner (who is very good friends with a roasting plant partner) managed to get his hands on a couple of bags of it. I would note, it’s close to its expiration, nonetheless still absolutely wonderful. He set a bag of it aside and gave it to me, knowing that I’d enjoy it. Thank you Aaron! Jocelyn and I decided to go to University Village 3 Starbucks and asked them to brew it on the Clover. We did our own little coffee tasting. The UV3 store partners were happy to join in:

IMAG0776 Zach at the clover - 7 July 2014Starbucks Coffee Master Zach tasted the coffee with us. This blend has both some blonde roast as well as Aged Sumatra in it. The three of us agree that the Aged Sumatra was the predominate flavor component, giving it a heavier body. However, the blonde component seemed to give this coffee a bit of a sparkling finish.

Coffee Master Zach Venti Blend Coffee Tasting 7 July 2014-2I freakin’ love this photo of Zach. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience. (Photo credit to @Haveagrande)

The Venti Blend coffee beans give you a nice example of a post-roast blend. As you look at the component coffee beans, you can easily spot that some of the beans were roasted to a much lighter profile than others. After roasting, all beans were blended together, creating a post roast blend. Other Starbucks post-roast blends include Anniversary Blend, Christmas Blend, Tribute Blend, and Verona:

IMAG0779 Venti Blend coffee - Post roast blend 7 July 2014We decided to try this coffee with chocolates and grilled veggies. I had thought that the smokiness of the grilled veggies would complement that Aged Sumatra component of the coffee. I was pretty mistaken though – the veggies are only very lightly grilled and don’t have any strong grill or smoke flavor, and the Aged Sumatra is such a big flavor that it almost overpowers the veggies. The chocolates were a very fun pairing, bringing out some cocoa notes in the coffee.

IMAG0783 Coffee Tasting Venti BlendYou can see that Jocelyn takes her coffee education very seriously!

IMAG0787 copyWhat a totally fun day it was. Thank you to the many, many partners who made all of this happen. Lots of people (all acting independently) did something special to make this day happen, and I can’t say thank you enough. Thanks Linda for the SODO 8 tour; thanks Aaron for grabbing me a bag of Venti Blend; thanks Zach for helping us with a coffee tasting; thanks Chad for the coffee education lesson; thanks Jocelyn for being inspiration and helping out with photos and fun. If I’ve forgotten anyone, I apologize now.

Hope you enjoyed this day too.