I was catching up on my pile of this week’s Wall Street Journal today, and saw an article about customer reception to Starbuck’s new Pike Place Blend. I’d include a link to the online version, but it’s subscriber-only. Suffice it to say that many regular SBUX customers are unhappy with the new brew, claiming it’s not “bold” enough.
Yes, hell has frozen over, and I find myself defending Starbucks. Having sampled the brew myself recently in Seattle (I blogged about it HERE), I have to say I think this criticism is unfair for several reasons. First, it’s actually pretty good coffee. Very good, perhaps. While I didn’t formally cup it, I’d guess it would have made the mid 80′s on my cupping table. Second, it’s not like Stabucks has completely abandoned their signature, burnt-to-a-crisp roast (the one where people mistake “burnt” for “bold”) – you can still get it. Third, they are a huge, public company – they must serve their shareholders. And the Pike Place Blend will do that. Last but not least, this flavor profile is more in tune with the future direction of specialty coffee. It has that prized acidity, enough complexity, and if my taste buds were right, some varietal nuance (I picked up Costa Rica).
SBUX, don’t listen to the critics. Enough with the big, heavy, burnt blends. Help us value origins, right down to the farmer level.