Coffee Master Certification Coffee Tasting: Earning the Starbucks Black Apron
Lots of Starbucks stores have coffee tastings going on. But there is one kind of coffee event that is extra special: when a Starbucks partner earns his or her black apron. Tonight (January 6, 2015) I had the chance to attend Patrek’s coffee master certification seminar (at the Corson & Michigan Starbucks). His store manager was present to assure that he did everything possible to earn his black apron. And he definitely earned his black apron!
This was a spectacular coffee tasting. Patrek thought through everything from pre-trying every pairing, having the coffee beans available to smell, and even having green unroasted coffee beans available. For tonight’s event, he dissected Starbucks Pantheon Blend, which is the signature coffee blend of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.
Starbucks Pantheon Blend has three components: Colombia El Penol, West Java Preanger, and Guatemala Antigua Santa Clara Acetenango. The Pantheon itself is a complex, smooth, low acidity, rich cup of coffee. It pairs nicely with darker chocolates, hints of lemon and orange, and brown sugar notes.
The first pairing was the Colombia El Penol paired with sweet mandarin oranges. This was an unexpected pairing! Patrek explained that one of the most subtle flavor notes in Colombia was orange. He also explained that he wanted each food item to work well with the Pantheon too – on its own. The sweet oranges were definitely a brave pairing because the hint of orange in Colombia is so subtle. I thought that the oranges notched up the acidity of the Colombia, and slightly brought out the orange. I really enjoyed this pairing though I’m having some difficulty explaining it. It’s definitely not a traditional pairing. Some kind of chocolate would be a more traditional pairing with this coffee.
The second pairing was the West Java with salted caramel almonds. (He found the salted caramel almonds at Trader Joe’s.) Again, Patrek tried to bring out some of the most subtle flavor notes of the West Java coffee. This coffee is known to pair with brown sugar flavors, nuts, or even some chocolates. The soft caramelized flavors from the almonds definitely help bring this out. Patrek mentioned that he thought about trying other nuts – like walnuts – with this coffee, but discovered that a powerfully flavorful nut or too much caramel flavor would overpower the coffee.
The third pairing was the core Guatemala Antigua with Lindt lemon dark chocolate. This was an amazing pairing. The lemon flavor in the chocolate is just enough to really enhance the lemon notes in the coffee but not overpower it. And the dark chocolate made the coffee even smooth and brought out tons of cocoa notes. Patrek mentioned that this was his favorite pairing of the three. I have to admit I really liked this one too. We all agreed, this lemon chocolate bar would be great to try with Casi Cielo too. (Patrek went to the Roastery and wanted to get the Guatemala Antigua Santa Clara for the coffee seminar but found that it was unavailable. After consulting with coffee masters at the Roastery, he was told to substitute core Guatemala Antigua, which is very similar and sourced from farmers only about sixty miles away from the Guatemala Antigua Santa Clara farm).
As we talked about the reasons why he picked each item, we talked about what pairing ideas were rejected. Patrek mentioned that he had tried pairing the Guatemala with a milk chocolate. Even though that worked quite well, he wanted each specific item to pair nicely with the Pantheon Blend, and he discovered that dark chocolate is a better pairing with Patheon.
All of tonight’s coffees were prepared by a French press. In some of the photos, you can see the green, unroasted coffee. Patrek was able to work with Roastery partners to be able to get some unroasted coffee beans of each coffee tasting, and to help properly dissect the Pantheon Blend. I was super impressed to see he’d gone the extra step to get both the green unroasted beans and the actual coffee.
I hope you enjoy the photos!
Congratulations Starbucks partner Patrek on new black apron! You are a coffee master now!
@purple1 – What was the response that you got? Just curious.
Congrats to Patrek on his black apron. That sounds like an amazing tasting to attend. The Seattle partners are so lucky to have the Roastery partners and the SSC partners available to help guide and instruct those coffee master candidates. Good luck Patrek!
@Claire – I was thinking the same thing. Especially now that there is the Roastery, Seattle Starbucks partners have a few more resources than most areas of the country. But still partners have to seize it!!! This guy was SO passionate and terrific. I talked with quite a bit and it was obvious he worked super hard studying that coffee master book – and he is only a 4 month partner! This was such a well-earned black apron.
Congrats to Patrek on becoming Coffee Master Certified what a big accomplishment. Really happy for you
Melody he said he would love to do coffee tastings but he felt that the training, etc. needed to do that had to come from above and he did not feel there was enough effort made to do it. I think that motivation and interest is different from one region to another and obviously you cannot assure that what is done in Seattle can be reproduced elsewhere. You have shown that in some of your posts and from comments from your community of readers. I suppose a question might be proposed is – would a SM be able to create their own training for coffee tastings and such without approval from district personnel?
Well done Patrek! Only kind of jealous of being so close to all those amazing resources! Also, totally using this for inspiration 🙂 Thank you for sharing!!!
He was so excited to do this as we talked at the scoop bar. What a passionate partner!
@Purple1 – There is no doubt, a Starbucks store manager doesn’t need to wait for a DM to get moving on coffee education. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve got a SM that doesn’t think they can engage in customer facing coffee events – this is totally helpful to selling more coffee.
Congrats. Patrek! I have waited for last 3 years to get my Black Apron, Patrek has inspired me to just do it, with or without the support from my SM.
Sterling Della Robbia
As a partner about to start their coffee master certification, it was fun to see the bold and somewhat risky pairing of the sweet orange with the El Peñol. I believe a chocolate with orange in it would be awesome. I was with a partner yesterday and had the lemon chocolate with the Casi Cielo and it was amazing!
Pantheon Blend No. 1
[…] This previous article here was one of the best partner-created coffee events I’ve been to for …. […]
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Congratulations to this partner. It is quite nice to see partners with such passion and I only hope he continues this passion. I see very few black apron partners around here. I happened to speak with the SM at my local store about coffee tastings and got the response I sort of expected. (and perhaps he might have been right about some of what he said).