Starbucks rolls out their new blend. Yup, that’s it. A new all Latin American bucks blend, Pike’s Place, hit the streets today in full force after much tension was built with a huge marketing campaign. Some have been heard to discount this as mere advertising trickery and over-hype. But this is the same technique we employ to get good results from our 5 year old daughter. Every little thing is greatly praised and often recounted with cheering and laughter. It’s just what you do.
I referred to the “new” old logo as the naked Mermaid and the Barista corrected me. It’s a Siren.
I had a hankering for cup of coffee after lunch, and I remembered that today was the big day. I made my way to West Chester’s very new Starbucks location. This place has been built out to emphasize the theatrics of the coffee bar. There is bar seating at one end with marble counter top and a great view of the Barista’s side of the Super Autos. You can watch the whole show and interact with the Partners while you sip your free cup of Pike’s Place Blend. They promise it is the “smoothest” coffee they have ever served, and they will make it fresh every 30 minutes. Most quality oriented coffee shops I know have longer holding times if they use any type of thermos device. And in fact, I did see the black aproned “Coffee Master” dump at least a half gallon of P.P. down the drain just as the timer sounded. He then used a large measuring ladle to prepare another batch from the pre-ground beans.
Black Apron Coffee Master promptly dumps the coffees every 30 minutes .
As for the coffee itself, I have to say that I had my hopes and expectations very high. I have been reading on the Starbucks employee blog how much the Partners themselves enjoy the new blend with less cream than they normally use, and how highly they regard this new national sensation. My first whiff of the aroma reveled a lot of cocoa and caramel. At it’s hottest, I thought at first that it came across with just a tiny bit of phenolic like fresh plastic note, but at a more reasonable drinking temperature it was definitely the most pleasant coffee I have ever tasted from this company. The finish still betrayed the beginning of roastiness, but in comparison to their other coffees, it was really well restrained in it’s roast level. There was a discernible and pleasing amount of brightness also, which was a surprise. However, the roast level was just a bit past what might have expressed a more dominant origin character. As a result, there was a certain lack of complexity. Still, the coffee was very well balanced, very fresh, and all at a very good level of extraction. Did I mention it was free? I asked for a 12 oz, and the Barista let me know I could have an 8 oz free of charge. I said OK.
For those who dislike the company for philosophical, political, or ethical reasons, there is just not going to be any way for you to be pleased. When the company was huge and served mediocre coffee at acrid roast levels it was easy to be a hater. There will be many who continue to hate. But the fact is that they are moving toward a style that is more fashionable among the coffee educated. Also a fact is that they are beating many an independent shop on consistency and freshness. The employees were really friendly and accommodating to me. How can you hate these things. In the past these guys were a last resort coffee shop when you were in a different town and you didn’t know where else you could go. You could choke down a cup if you needed to, even if you couldn’t finish the last quarter. Which by the way, was still pretty good with the Pike’s Place blend. This gives me somewhere I can go and get a more than mediocre, pretty fresh, pretty good cup. If you own your own coffee shop, you should be so lucky (or skilled, as it were) to do as well as they are doing with this new, but over marketed, coffee.