(Starbucks)RED is a whole bean coffee that Starbucks introduced to support the (PRODUCT) RED charity, a charity that partners with various retailers to raise money through the sale of special products that goes towards providing treatment for children and adults living with HIV in Africa. In the case of (Starbucks)RED, $1 per pound of this blend goes towards the charity, so you get good coffee and support a good cause all in one cup.
The coffee itself is a blend of Rwandan and Ethiopian coffees that is supposed to evoke some of the classic characteristics of African coffees. It is bold and smooth, with fairly low acidity, and notes of citrus and a sweet spiciness. The spiciness actually seemed to hint at the sweet-spicy combination of fruitcake, which is not too sweet but fairly rich tasting from all the dried fruit in it. The coffee also had a slight bitterness to it, like the pith of a citrus fruit, but it was subtle and made the coffee a little more interesting.
There are a lot of different things that you can go to school to study, from anthropology to virology, from auto mechanics to cooking. But some fields are best learned on the job – either because you need experience to achieve peak performance or because it just isn’t taught anywhere. Coffee falls into that later category, even though plenty of people specialize in it, since you can’t gain tasting experience from a textbook. Recently, however, I was invited to attend Starbucks Coffee College. The Coffee College was a day-long seminar hosted for several food writers courtesy of the specialty coffee chain.
Coffee College started with a quick trip through Starbucks history and a little tour of the store in Los Angeles that we met at. College was small, just myself and one other writer, and two members of the Coffee Experience (i.e. Education) team from Starbucks’ corporate office. Primarily, this portion of the day talked about how Starbucks started as a specialty coffee retailer, providing and creating blends of coffee beans that were representative of beans from a specific region of the world.
I immediately liked the idea of a Tiramisu Ice Blended when I saw it appear as a “possible” new menu item a few weeks ago at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Tiramisu is a dessert that has a lot of great espresso flavor to it in its own right, and actually seemed like a fairly natural extension to a cold, blended drink (I wouldn’t want it hot, though). Fortunately, the drink did the dessert justice. It was very creamy, with a little bit of extra dairy flavor that you might get from the mascarpone or whipped cream in a tiramisu, and seemed to have hints of butter cookie and sweet marsala in it, too. The best thing about the whole drink was that it had a really nice flavor of espresso to it. As a coffee fan, I’d say it was even better with an extra shot of espresso blended in to bring of the coffee flavor more
Herbal teas are not really teas in that they’re not made from tea plants. Herbal teas are brews of herbs and flowers that are steeped in water the same way that tea is made. The primary difference between a “standard” black tea and an herbal tea (aside from the leaves used) is that black tea is dried and fermented, while the herbs in other teas are usually just dried.
The Chicago Tribune had a great piece recently about how to make your own herbal teas at home. Sun-dried herbs are easy to come by – just take a trip to your garden (or your neighbor’s garden), take a few of the leaves that you like and leave them out in the sun between paper towels to dry. Good choices for making your own herbal teas include peppermint, calendula (pot marigold), bee balm and rose petals – all of which are quite common. It’s best to grow your own so that you know no pesticides will have been sprayed on the plants before you use them