will offer the most exclusive and small-batch Reserve Geisha coffee yet, beginning Monday, September 8, 2014.

This is a really exciting coffee to talk about. I went to its roasting, and literally watched Starbucks Master Roaster Brian Hayes roast the coffee that will be offered beginning on the 8th.  What an incredible opportunity!

I got a special invitation from a Starbucks corporate partner inviting me to the SSC.  So on a beautiful day in August, I headed to the Starbucks headquarters:

Starbucks headquarters - SSCThe Starbucks corporate partner whom I was with escorted me to the “Pilot Plant” inside the SSC. This is a small area of roasting operations inside the headquarters.

You might wonder what gets roasted at the Pilot Plant? I asked the same question! Green coffee comes to the SSC and they work to calibrate the best roast profile for that coffee – they calibrate the recipes for their blends, explore new possible coffee offerings, and develop all potential blend recipes, including deciding on the coffee recipes for all seasonal favorites such as Anniversary Blend and Christmas Blend.  Currently, some of the Reserve coffee offerings are roasted at the Pilot Plant, though rumor has it that the Reserve roasting operations will eventually happen at the future Starbucks Roastery at the corner of Pike and Minor, near downtown Seattle.  (If you scroll down to the bottom of this article, I talk about the Roastery a little more.)

We made our way to the Pilot Plant (which felt as if it was in the basement level of the SSC, though I’m not positive which floor I was on) and I saw a small coffee roaster:

IMAG1613 Pilot Plant Roasting operations

Coffee Roasting Master Brian Hayes explained that this Probat roaster can roast up to about 100 pounds of green coffee at one time, though that may only produce about 80 pounds of roasted coffee beans.

The  special Starbucks Reserve Coffee which I had the opportunity to see being roasted is the rare heirloom varietal “Geisha”. Starbucks was only able to secure about 150 pounds of this coffee from the La Ines farm in Costa Rica. Starbucks agronomist Carlos Mario Rodriguez worked with the farm to develop and secure this Geisha. It’s a washed-processed coffee, for those who are curious.Because there’s so little of this coffee, I imagine it will sell out fast on Monday!

The first thing that Coffee Roaster Brian Hayes did was do a roasting of a test batch to ensure that everything was calibrated correctly. Then he roasted the coffee that you will be able to purchase on September 8th.

The coffee sack from the test batch was very beautiful!

1 - Burlap Coffee Sack

As Brian roasted the Geisha, I could watch the beans progress from lighter to darker, via a small window on the front of the roaster:

2  - 1  Coffee Roasting Event 11 August 2014

IMAG1636 geisha roastingAnd Brian Hayes periodically checked the progress of the roasting of the beans too:

IMAG1646 Brian checks the coffeeBrian H - 11Aug2014 - 2The Costa Rica Geisha came to Starbucks in these burlap sacks:

IMAG1680 Geisha sack

Here’s the coffee before it was roasted. This is all they had of the unroasted beans!

Geisha before it was roasted2

We listened to the second “pop” of the coffee beans, and then the coffee was poured out of the roaster into a cooling tray just beneath it:

IMAG1654 Coffee roastingI know that I’ll go online on the 8th and order a bag of this Costa Rica Geisha. This coffee is so precious that no bags of it were passed out to those who were lucky enough to attend this roasting.

There you have it. Hope you get a chance to enjoy this coffee and also enjoyed the inside view of one small aspect of Starbucks coffee roasting operations.

EDIT on September 8, 2014:

This coffee is now available online (for a limited time, until supplies are gone). It’s being offered in numbered bags!,default,pd.html?&srule=Featured&start=0&sz=16&cgid=starbucks-reserve-coffee

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