Tasting Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast

April 9, 2008

I had the chance to try Starbucks’ new “Pike Place Roast” tonight.

Not bad.

And considering that I’ve seldom ever had a cup of brewed coffee at Starbucks that was more than marginally drinkable, that’s a tremendous improvement.

Starbucks press release has this to say about Pike Place Roast:

Smooth, Welcoming Taste
This blend was created using input from Starbucks customers and represents our 37 years of coffee roasting experience, knowledge and passion. Taking the wide range of customer preferences as a guide, this everyday brew is a unique blend featuring Starbucks signature bold flavor with a smoother finish balanced by soft acidity and subtle, rich flavors of cocoa and toasted nuts.

Fresh, Hand-Scooped
The Pike Place Roastâ„¢ coffee beans will be hand-scooped, freshly ground, and freshly brewed and served, giving the coffee a consistent, pure taste. To further ensure customers enjoy the freshest, high-quality cup of brewed coffee, stores also will brew smaller batches with a hold time of no more than 30 minutes. Licensed stores in the U.S., as well as Starbucks locations outside the U.S., will also transition to a 30-minute hold time over the coming months.

The first thing I noticed about Pike Place was that it was not nearly as darkly roasted as their usual offerings, which is a great change of pace. I didn’t really taste any of what I’d call cocoa in it, although there was a hint of hazelnut. To me the predominant notes were more of a “stone fruit” flavor, such as you find in some of the West African coffees, as well as a “wineiness” that’s usually more characteristic of some of the Central American origins. On the whole, it was a nice, balanced cup of coffee with a nice (but not heavy) body, and no overwhelming off notes.

It also had certainly not been sitting more than 30 minutes — I doubt it had been more than several. I have to admit that it was raining cats and dogs, so I went through the drive-thru rather than going inside to see how they were serving it.

It’ll be interesting to see how Pike Place fares as the weeks and months go by. One of the advantages of (and reasons for) very dark roasts in national chains is that the flavor of the roast itself overwhelms the flavor of the origin, allowing you to have a consistent (if sometimes God-awful) flavor regardless of minor changes in origin or seasonal flavor variations. If they can preserve this flavor without such tricks, then maybe we can look for more good news from them in the future. Likewise, it’ll be nice to see if the dedication to keeping the top notch retail experience sticks around.

All in all, this looks like it could possibly be a great sign of a new and improved Starbucks.

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2 Responses to “Tasting Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast”

  1. no way on May 16th, 2008 8:29 am

    NO WAY. This coffee is terrible. For long-time fans, this is a terrlble brew — they’ve lost my business for good since this is all they serve now. Back to JIm’s Organic Italian Roast for me!

  2. Chuck Lawson on May 16th, 2008 1:34 pm

    I think it’s a safe bet that if you were a long time fan of Starbuck’s brewed coffees, you probably won’t like this. For me, their brewed coffees always seemed terribly over-roasted, so this was a great change of pace…

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