Starbucks is now phasing in an all new look to their Reserve lineup of whole bean coffees. It’s all black.

It was a little over one year ago when Starbucks moved from a horizontal silver and black designed package to the bright and crisp white packaging, which is ending now.

Just to be clear, the now-old crisp white packaging (which began in about December 2014) looks like this:

1 - 1 - 20160206_082039 old packagingThe white packaging popped out against the dark shelving that many Starbucks locations have:

1 - 1 - 20151206_072556 reserve storeThe new packaging is solid black. There are only two identifiers of what coffee is inside – the card clipped to the front and the tiny printed words on the lower right corner of the coffee, on the backside.

The new packaging creates a whole new work flow! Baristas are expected to clip cards to the front of the bags of coffee:



Look on the lower right, backside corner of the Reserve coffee to find out what kind of coffee it is. It is not printed on the front of the bag:

1 - 1 - 20160319_112720 new packaging Starbucks E Tiimor


If you were look at a store that had a little bit of both old and new packaging, you might see something like this:

1 - 1 - 20160308_200313[1] coffee at the Roastery

I should mention that I believe that Starbucks is telling their Reserve stores not to display both styles of coffee packaging, and to pull the old packaging off the floor as of March 22nd.

What do you think of the change? I’ll mention some of the things that I notice. Reasonable minds may differ:

  • Since the only front identifier of the coffee is the card clipped to it, it’s possible to have the wrong coffee clipped to the wrong card. It could easily and innocently happen if a partner grabs a case of one coffee and the wrong cards and starts clipping them together. Granted, this should be rare, but I recommend that customers look at the backside of their Reserve coffee and double check that it matches the card attached to the front.
  • It’s possible the cards could fall off or get lost.
  • Once you bring the coffee home, especially if you are a fan of the Reserve coffees and have more than one black bag of coffee at home, the customer at home is left with several identical black Flavorlock bags absent the tiny printing on the back.
  • It is possible that a customer might try to take a card without buying the coffee, leaving too few cards for the amount of coffee to be sold.
  • From the perspective of the customer, if for some reason you buy a bag of coffee and don’t get a card (because lost, stolen, too few…) if would feel as if you’re really missing out! It would feel a bit disappointing.

The bottom line is that you should check the back of your coffee now. Make sure you are getting the coffee you want, just in case the card has gone missing or is attached to the wrong coffee.

Starbucks seems a little unaware how popular those cards are and how they motivate people to buy coffee. While the number of people who collect Reserve tasting cards is tiny compared to those collect the actual Starbucks cards that you put money on, they really do exist! There is a Facebook group dedicated to trading /collecting the Reserve Starbucks tasting cards. There is a Starbucks customer in Canada who puts a lot of work into tracking the Reserve cards. I too have a website with lots of images of the tasting cards, though my site is more focused on coffee education (and still somewhat under construction). It’s not clear that there will be very many extra tasting cards either, making collecting them all the more difficult.

Starbucks recently started offering their second Cup of Excellence winning coffee, Rwanda Mahembe. There are two other Rwanda cup of excellence coffees available that do not, at this time, have a card for this. The only one with the card is Rwanda Mahembe. By my educated guess (by looking at data available on the Cup of Excellence website) Starbucks sourced about the same quantity of coffee for all 3 of their current Cup of Excellence, Rwanda coffees. I honestly thing that the two without cards (Rwanda Maraba and Rwanda Muyange) would sell better if they had cards!

In any case, it’s your turn to weigh in on the new Starbucks Reserve packaging (or anything about the tasting cards too).

Here’s the packaging evolution: Starbucks went from silver, horizontal designed packaging (roughly 2011 – 2014) to white packages¬† with the name of the coffee on front and a black Star/R design (end of December to March 2016), to the solid black bags with clip and card:

packaging evolution