Finding the Hidden Messages in the Starbucks Whole Bean Coffee.
Did 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:
Breakfast 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.
Pike 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.)
Espresso 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.
French 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.
Yukon 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!)
Willow 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!
@Arc – I didn’t know about the contest to name Yukon “Big Hat Blend” – Very interesting. Thank you for the additional information!
We’re still waiting on the new designs launching in the UK and Ireland:-(
@Chris – Oh no. I hope you get the new packaging soon. It’s so much more visually interesting than the previous packaging.
been with the company for 7 years and had no idea there were hidden messages on our new packaging! thanks for the education.
I heard a similar story about the Big Hat blend. But from what I remember, there was some sort of contest related to sales and the Texas area won. They wanted to name it after something that Texans could relate to, but they felt that using cowboy hat or even sombrero in the title wouldn’t be so great. They chose instead to go with “Big Hat” in hopes that it would represent the “gallon hat” we sometimes see down here. I spoke with my DM at the time and my RDO and this particular tid-bit came up about Yukon. I hope I made them proud on my remembering skills!
I’m glad to learn more about the hidden artwork on the coffee bags! Thanks for posing these questions for the Interwebs to answer, Melody!
This whole SIG thing on yukon is driving me crazy! Heres my completely made up theory… Theres a Captain Sig on the Worlds Deadliest Catch TV Show. Capt Sig was born in Seattle and started fishing when he was 14 years old, is a 4th generation fisherman, and a 1st generation American. Maybe he was the one, or was part of the fishermen that initially started the blend… I wouldnt think it stands for “Signature” but thats another possibility Ive thought of… Anybody have the background on SIG?! im very curious!
I have subconsciously picked up on these “Secrets” on the packages, but after reading this article, I went and looked (really looked) at the packaging! So neat! Now I have a new stock of fun little “factoids”. Thanks, Mel!
that’s so funny when look at those bag and found something that i never know but I’m still wonder about the birds on colombia bag what that mean or something (bird) link to this coffee?
I found word “Terroir” on Aria Blend as well and here is the solution. It is French for “land” and refers to “taste of place” as a flavor—the coffee’s origin. The beans from this blend are from Latin America and Kenya. Your guess was right Melody. 🙂
Terroir refers to the coffee blends and brands that Starbucks acquired from George Howell’s Coffee Connection. I remember many years ago when Starbucks expanded to the east coast and Howell had some of the best coffee out there.
Emerson st is where Dave Olsen lived, he invented espresso roast, and in the beginning it was roasted in his garage. On Emerson st!
Hi Starbucks Melody! I’ve always been a big fan of your blog ever since I became a partner at Starbucks Philippines. These past few months I’ve become obsessed with the hidden messages on each packaging of our whole bean coffee from the moment we’ve received the new packaging. I tried to decipher the messages from the other Flavorlocks aside from those on your blog post and the following were what I’ve discovered or still discovering:
Sumatra: “BY THE THIRD SIP I WAS HOOKED” – this was a phrase from Howard Schultz himself. From a portion of a book I’ve read (I forgot the title) Sumatra was the first ever coffee Howard has ever tasted at Starbucks which also made him want to be part of the Company.
Italian Roast: “LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE” – this means “finding pleasure/sweetness in doing nothing”. Maybe it kind of symbolizes the laid-back style of Italians? Not really sure.
Willow Blend: “TERROIR” – This isn’t the first time I encountered this word. I’ve read about the phrase “gout de terroir” from one of our resource manuals at Starbucks talking about our “passion for perfection”. The phrase means “taste of the earth” which a French winemaker would always say.
Veranda Blend: “VER. 80” – from the starbucks online store, they said it took 80 tries for Starbucks to get the right roast/flavor for this specific blend.
Caffe Verona: “80/20” – we already know the meaning of this hidden message. Caffe Verona was first called 80/20 blend as it is a blend of 80% Asia/Pacific coffees and 20% Italian Roast.
House Blend: “Our CenterPoint” – This blog http://www.starbucks.com/blog/start-your-journey-with-house-blend says how this coffee holds an important place in their coffee lineup
Still finding some clues and answers. I hope to hear from you soon. 🙂
Florian jill prado
How about the bird in colombia blend?
The bird on the Guatemala Antigua is a quetzal. A beautiful tropical bird native to Central America.
Don’t forget the 80/20 on Verona bags.
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Organic Yukon Blend is not available in all the countries like here in Philippines but we offer this coffee before.. You can find “Big Hat Blend” as the hidden message in the new bag. This coffee was originally created for a captain of fleeing ship who wants to warm himself and his crew in a chilly and cold condition so the name “Yukon” suits this blend which means “Great River” in Loucheux native language. Its is also called “Big Hat Blend” in our Texas market and this name was came from a “name that blend” contest that describe the coffee flavor profile and big and with round mouthfeel… keep on exploring partners…
-Arc Soleria/Global Coffee Master