Coffee Tastings

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IMAG1767 - Sign pointing into Roy Street from the parking garage 17August14At about 8:30 AM today (Sunday, August 17, 2014) I dropped by Roy Street Coffee and Tea. It’s been way too long since I spotlighted this store. This location is entirely owned and operated by Starbucks. In fact, it’s one of just a few stores that are considered to be “Inspired by Starbucks” stores. An “Inspired by Starbucks” store will have Starbucks coffees available but that’s almost where the similarity ends. You can use your Starbucks card at Roy Street and earn a star per transaction. There is no way to redeem a reward. There are no Frappuccinos. Neither the food nor the beverage menu looks much like Starbucks at all. You can a “Reserve Pour Over” or a Clover-brewed cup of coffee. With the Reserve pour over, partners take extra care to make sure that no step is missed, such as pre-wetting the filter and doing a very slow pour. (When making a pour over, a small amount of hot water should be used to rinse through the filter. That water is tossed out. The pre-rinse step helps eliminate any paper filter taste and improves the extraction of the coffee.)

I ran into partner Matt, whom I’ve known since about 2007. When I met him, he was a baby barista at the Columbia Tower Starbucks in downtown Seattle. He moved to “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea” which at one time was also an “Inspired by Starbucks” store. In January 2011, 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea reverted back into a standard Starbucks location.

Matt is the kind of guy that always leaves you smiling after you talk with him. He knows how to have a good laugh and smile a lot too. I know that Matt is a musician in a band, so each time I see him, I follow up with him on how he’s doing. I appreciate the hard work that any creative output requires (and for me this blog counts as that as well as my book). Matt mentioned that he’s recording an album. The conversation went something like this:

“We’re recording an album Melody, and maybe a band tour starting in October.”

“That’s awesome! I’ll buy a copy of your CD. I’ll buy a copy even if I don’t like the music!”‘

“I appreciate that! You know I’m going to hold you to it. We’re looking at ways of fundraising. Maybe Kickstarter. We’ve talked about doing an auction and having the band members auction of kisses!”

I laugh: “You bring out the cougar in me!” Matt laughed. He knew I was joking around.

But back to the topic of Roy Street. It has a beautiful Simonelli Black Eagle espresso machine. Every latte is handcrafted with your choice of a single-origin Reserve coffee or a more standard Espresso Roast. I was surprised that the store was fairly slow when I dropped by. I don’t consider 8:30 AM to be very early. As far as I know, Starbucks currently operates three “Inspired By” stores. One is in Tokyo. I believe that the Herald Square Starbucks in New York City is considered an “experimental” store but it doesn’t have the Inspired By branding. I’m not actually positive about that, and if you know better in the comments, do tell. And of course, Roy Street is an “Inspired By” store.

I end up mentioning the older 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, as well as Roy Street several times in the book Tales of the Siren: A StarbucksMelody – If you haven’t picked up a copy, I hope you’ll do so.

Enjoy the photos:

IMAG1769 Roy street seating - comfy red couches - 17August14IMAG1773 Roy St - The Black Eagle Espresso Machine - 17Aug14IMAG1774 Roy Street Coffee and Tea - 17 August 14IMAG1776 Roy Street Coffee and Tea Reserve Pour Over set up 17Aug14IMAG1778 Pastry case at Roy Street - 17 Aug 14IMAG1785 Roy Street Coffee 17 Aug 14IMAG1787 Roy Street backroom seating area 17Aug14


IMAG1815 Fall Blend - Coffee packaging 17 August 14After Roy Street (and a few more scheduled stops), I headed to a Starbucks for a coffee tasting with partner Jocelyn. She’d mentioned that she was working on a perfect pairing for Fall Blend 2014. This was incredible. Fall Blend exceeded my expectations. The bag states that it’s classified as a “medium” roast coffee but I would guess that it’s on the darker spectrum of medium, heading into dark. It’s a complex, savory coffee with dark cocoa and spicy notes. It’s perfect with cheese and dark chocolate. Actually, the packaging describes some nutty flavors though I think the darker, complex Sumatra notes were more prominent. As the coffee cooled, the citrus component of Kenya came to life. After it’s cooled just a bit, it picks up a juicy finish. The master coffee blenders at Starbucks get two solid huge thumbs up on this coffee. If I had more thumbs on my hands, they’d get more than just two of them.

We paired Fall Blend with cheese from the Starbucks bistro box. The idea was that the cheese added creaminess and brought out more savory notes yet calming the peppery, spicy notes. This was a pretty good pairing, though the chocolate pairing we did was even more fantastic. Jocelyn picked out a Vosges Peppercorn and Parmesan chocolate bar. This may be a hard to find chocolate bar – I’ve heard that it’s exclusive to Whole Foods stores. This was amazing. The subtle peppercorn notes made the spicy notes in the coffee pop yet the dark chocolate balanced it well.  Our coffee was brewed with the standard Starbucks pour over kit, found at Starbucks stores everywhere. I hope you get the chance to pick up some Fall Blend 2014 too. Look for it at any grocery store.

IMAG1804 Fall Blend pairing - dark choc - 17 August 14IMAG1817 Dark Chocolate with Parmesan and PeppercornIMAG1815 Fall Blend - Coffee packaging 17 August 14

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Two new Starbucks Reserve coffees are here! They’re available in Starbucks Reserve locations or at

Untitled-1 Screen cap - maui mokkaThe first is the Maui Mokka Reserve, which as the name implies, is a mokka varietal coffee, grown in Maui. The website describes it as having flavors of candied fruit and chocolate. I went to a coffee seminar at the East Olive Way Starbucks (on June 16, 2014) and we paired it with the chocolate brownie. What an amazing coffee.

It’s a dense, creamy coffee with just a ton of natural flavor. In the coffee tasting event, people around me stated that they picked up hints of pineapple and nutmeg in the coffee. One thing that makes this Maui Mokka so revered is that it has a one-of-a-kind processing method. (The processing method refers to the farmers process and treatment that involves removing the fleshy coffee cherry from the bean itself). This coffee is allowed to dry in the sun, on the tree itself. In a typical sun-dried coffee process (sometimes called “natural” processing) the coffee cherries are picked from the trees and then laid on tarps to dry.

This is a very limited supply coffee. I’ve heard that many stores are running out already, as demand is high and supply is low. It appears to be still available on

Untitled-2 Malawi on StarbucksStore 25 June 2014 screen capThe second new Reserve is the Malawi Peaberry Sable Farm Reserve coffee.A peaberry is a coffee bean that doesn’t develop into two halves. Normally, coffee beans grow in a form very similar to peanuts. When you look at a peanut, you can see the two halves that can easily be split apart. Each piece has a flattened side and a rounded side. Typically, when you’re looking at coffee beans, you’ll notice that each roasted bean has that shape – a flattened side and a rounded side. This is because the normal form of coffee is like a peanut. A peaberry is an anomaly. It’s one rounded, single bean, and is NOT a coffee bean that spits into two pieces. Usually, peaberry coffee beans are a little smaller than typical coffee beans. I’ve heard it said that below 10% of all coffee grows in the peaberry form. These also tend to be high density beans, withstanding roasting temperatures well.

The Malawi Peaberry brewed coffee has a lot of lime notes to it! The aroma was sweet spice. Coffee Master Megan paired this coffee with key lime pie. The smoothness of the pie complemented the tangy-ness of the coffee. This coffee is a little juicy and tangy.

It was really an enjoyable pairing! I gained a whole new appreciation for a basic Safeway frozen key lime pie too. This coffee tasting made me want to pick one up and take it home.

I want to thank Starbucks partners Megan and Alex for doing a great job at this coffee seminar. You too can join in! They’re free and offered every other Monday night at 6:00 PM at the East Olive Way Starbucks. You should call ahead to verify their schedule.

We really had such a great time. There was a girl sitting next to me who was also named Melody! I heard her say to Alex and Megan (in a very kidding voice – the two of them are already friends) “Hey pretend like you like each other!” and next thing I knew the two of them had burst out laughing. I snapped one very quick, in-the-moment photo and got this amazing picture. Even if I had written nothing else about this Starbucks event, I would have wanted you to seen this picture!

2 - 1 - Alex and Megan having funNow that’s a great coffee seminar!

And here are just a couple more pics:


2 - 1 - IMAG0388 Brownie pairing with Maui Mokka2 - 1 - IMAG0380 Malowi and Maui Mokka beans

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Enjoy your drinkA reader of this site sent in her photos and recipe for Starbucks Brezza Blend made as a cold brew, sangria-like beverage (lots of fruit in it).  I haven’t tried this but the pictures were so stunning and it sounded so delicious that I thought I would share her recipe here.

Starbucks Brezza Blend is a new summer seasonal coffee.

Untitled-1 Brezza Blend on Starbucks storeYou can find Brezza Blend in Starbucks stores or at

To get started, here’s what you will need:

  • 125 grams of coarsely ground Brezza blend.
  • 5 cups of filtered water
  • A large mason jar.

To get started:

Weigh out your coffee. (You want to weigh out the 125 grams as a whole bean coffee. Roughly about one and one-third cup of whole bean coffee.) Coarsely grind the coffee. Combine coffee and cold water into mason jar. Stir it to make sure that all of the grounds are saturated. Screw the lid on, and give it a good shake. Now place the jar on your counter (away from the sun) for 18 hours.

After the 18 hours is up, your coffee is ready. Next, strain the grounds from the coffee. Many people will want to use a paper filter to do this. Try using a Chemex paper filter or standard cone paper filter, as used with a Melitta brewer. Once the coffee is strained, add two cups of ice cubes and let the ice coffee rest. While your coffee is resting, you can start slicing your fruits.

The reader who sent me this recipe used heirloom navel oranges, ruby red grapefruits, Meyer lemons, and limes to garnish. Other fruits that would complement are blood oranges and raspberries. Traditionally, sangria is sweetened with honey or orange juice, so the recipe creator decided to make a Minneola tangelo simple syrup. A Minneola is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, and has an incredible sweetness to it.
Minneola simple syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 minneola
Dissolve the water and sugar together on the stove. Add the juice from the Minneola. You can shave the peel of the fruit and add it to the mixture for a little zest. Cook on a medium low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken up. Pour into a squeeze bottle to cool.
Fill your sangria pitcher with ice, add the sliced fruit and then add the cold brew coffee. Let steep for about 5 minutes before serving. Sweeten to your taste. For added fun, garnish each glass with lime slices or fresh grapefruit segments.
(As with every blog post, do not re-use photos or content without permission).
Measure out coffee beans brezzastrain the coffee brezza sangriaadd your cold filtered watergarnish and use plenty of fruit

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IMAG0562 brazil beans 2There is a new Starbucks Reserve coffee now available in stores! I went to a coffee tasting at the East Olive Way Starbucks last night and had the chance to try this new coffee. This is an outstanding new Reserve. It’s so smooth and creamy. I bought a bag of it while I was there, and I will be ordering this in the stores! We had the Brazil Bourbon Clover brewed, which surprised me how round and full-bodied it came out. As many know, the Clover sometimes brings out the acidity in coffee.

Coffee Master Megan paired the Brazil Bourbon with plums and the new Espresso Chocolates. The new Espresso Chocolates are part of the food menu exclusive to the Evenings Starbucks stores. I really enjoyed the new Brazil Bourbon Rio Verde with the chocolate. The milk chocolatey deliciousness of the mini truffle chocolate paired perfectly with the chocolate flavor to the Brazil coffee. At tonight’s coffee tasting, several other participants said they got some of the juiciness from the coffee, but my own tasting was that the chocolate was the more predominate flavor note. I thought the plums were a little bit overwhelming to this coffee, though others loved how it brought out the Brazil’s juicy notes.

IMAG0551 plums and chocolate 2Megan did a great job with the event! Here are a few more pictures:

IMAG0558 Brazil Side of Bag 2IMAG0556 megan leads coffee tasting 2Please come join me at an East Olive Way coffee seminar! All are welcome. They’re open to the public, free and held usually every other Monday at 6:00 PM.  Call ahead and confirm their schedule. This Starbucks is located at 1600 East Olive Way, Seattle,WA 98102. The phone number is 206 568 5185.

If you’re looking for this Brazil Bourbon coffee, look for any Reserve – Clover Starbucks or visit Click here for the Starbucks Brazil Bourbon Rio Verde on

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Coffee Tasting Fun: Recent Events at Starbucks.

May 15, 2014

Anyone who’s been reading this website for a while knows that I genuinely love a good coffee tasting. I thought I’d share a few different events that I’ve been to recently. On April 26, 2014, at the Seventh and Pike Starbucks, Coffee Master Soo explained the four reasons why Starbucks coffee tastes great. I thought […]

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Coffee Tastings This Week: Zambia, Peru Chonti, and Deschutes Inversion IPA.

April 24, 2014

I went to two coffee events this week that I want to tell you about. The first was a coffee seminar at the East Olive Way Starbucks. As a reminder, the East Olive Way Starbucks offers free seminars on Monday evenings at 6:00 PM. They generally have them two Mondays each month, so call ahead […]

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Today is Pike Place Roast Day.

April 8, 2014
Thumbnail image for Today is Pike Place Roast Day.

Today is Pike Place Roast Day. Six years ago today, Starbucks introduced Pike Place Roast into their coffee lineup. In honor of Pike Place Roast Day, I asked Coffee Master Jordan if he would use Pike Place Roast for an East Olive Way coffee tasting. He was happy to do so. We tried this coffee […]

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The Three Coffee Seminar at the Elliott Drive Thru Starbucks.

April 6, 2014

On Monday, March 31st, I went to a coffee seminar at the Starbucks on Elliott in Seattle. Kristina, a coffee master in training, invited me to her event. She did an amazing job of putting on a dynamic seminar. About twenty people appeared. Kristina walked us through trying three coffees: Starbucks Reserve® Finca Nuevo Mexico, […]

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Starbucks Coffee Events in Seattle: East Olive Way and University Village 3

March 27, 2014

If you’re ever in Seattle, come join in a free coffee education seminar at Starbucks. There are two Starbucks locations in Seattle that regularly hold coffee events. EAST OLIVE WAY STARBUCKS The first is the East Olive Way Starbucks, at 1600 East Olive Way, Seattle, WA, 98102, (206) 568 – 5185. East Olive Way holds […]

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NEW: Starbucks Spring Blend Coffee.

March 17, 2014
Thumbnail image for NEW: Starbucks Spring Blend Coffee.

Be on the look out for an all-new Starbucks coffee: Starbucks Spring Blend Coffee. Look for it at grocery stores and at other similar retailers*. I found it at Barnes & Noble recently. This new coffee is described as having flavors of milk chocolate and sweet orange. It’s a blend of East African Beans and some […]

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