Starbucks is testing out a new marketing strategy: make their stores less like Starbucks. Of course, this is simplifying things, but it is more or less what the coffee giant appears to be trying in order to set their stores apart from the competion and return to their coffee-house roots (possibly as opposed to moving more towards a fast food operation).
The new venture is in Seattle and is now called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea. The shop shows no signs of its affiliation with Starbucks (despite having been one not too long ago), and serves beer and wine in addition to planning to host local events like open-mike nights. Baristas will use machines where the shots must be pulled by hand, not by pressing a button.
As expected, there are a lot of people who seem to be up-in-arms about the company trying to “fake” being a “local” shop, but the reality is that it isn’t all that different from any other coffee shop opening up in the neighborhood, even if there is a bit more money behind it. Most consumers will probably find it to be a upscale version of a regular Starbucks, good for a more “gourmet” experience, although many Starbucks customers will no-doubt maintain an appreciation for the speed of the traditional model.
If you’re a tea drinker, you might start to realize that it’s hard to walk by a new tea infuser in a store without at least taking a look at it, if not taking it home. Copco SnapTea Infuser caught my eye right away, thanks to its bold coloring, but impressed me with its design once I had picked it up. This infuser is designed to sit on top of a cup and brew one serving, rather than being used to steep a whole pot of tea. It looks a bit like a flower (or a scifi flower pod) when it is closed, but the base snaps apart to form a wide ledge that sits on the rim of a mug or cup while your tea steeps. Once your tea is done, the infuser closes to form a handy drip catcher. The only downside is that the infuser isn’t really designed to stand up on its own, so you’ll still have to find somewhere to set it down to avoid getting tea on your desk, even with the drip catcher in place, unless you want to take it to a sink soon after brewing. For a fun-looking tea accessory, I wouldn’t mind this one minor flaw – especially since the drip catcher will keep it from dripping on the way to the kitchen sink.
With the changeover to the new pastries at Starbucks, there are a few favorites that you’re not going to be able to find anymore – at least, not at Starbucks. These missing pastries will vary regionally, according to the suppliers that Starbucks used to use. In my area (LA/Southern California), one that has disappeared is that is the Low Fat Apricot Blueberry Muffin. I tended to favor coffee cake over the muffins most of the time, but this muffin had a great combination of fruit and was generally moist and tasty, especially for a lower fat muffin!
At Baking Bites, I posted a recipe that is very similar, perhaps even a little better, than the original. They’re moist and packed with fruit. The Starbucks muffins I remembered had slices of apricot on top, and I used the same idea here so that it’s easy to identify the components of the muffin. These keep well, but since they’re very fresh, they’re just a little lighter and fluffier than the originals that inspired them.
Republic of Tea’s Pink Lemonade Green Tea is one of the tea company’s “Sip for the Cure” teas, meaning that $1 from the sale of each tin goes to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I was a bit skeptical that the “pink” part of this tea was little more than the color of the packaging and a nod to the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, so I was pleasantly surprised when I took a whiff of a freshly brewed cuppa: it smelled like tea and lemonade! The tea is very nice, with a light and refreshing overall flavor. It has a good green tea base that is just about equally matched with a lemony flavor. Notes of grapefruit (possibly the “pink”) and a little bit of grassiness round out the tea. It is especially good iced, but tastes summery even when hot. This is a great tea if you enjoy tea lemonades (a.k.a. Arnold Palmers), even if you don’t particularly care for green tea in general, since it is very close to tasting like a real tea-lemonade, as opposed to just a lemonade flavored tea.