Coffees from the Pacific tend to be some of my favorites, as they tend to make wonderfully complex and smooth dark roast coffees. I didn’t hesitate to try the Starbucks Reserve Blue Java Indonesia when my store got it in – but I did wait until I had tried it a few times before giving it a review here. The reason is that I was actually quite surprised by this coffee and it took a little bit of time for it to grow on me. This isn’t because I didn’t care for it, but because I found it to be a little unusual for a coffee from the South Pacific. While you definitely get some of the richness that I expect to find in a coffee from, say Sumatra, this particular coffee is a little lighter in flavor and quite complex. It didn’t have any of the red berry notes that I look for in Sumatran coffees. Instead, I got a lot of herb flavors from this coffee, including fresh sage and juniper, as well as a little cedar and some dry earth tones (which I usually just call “dirt,” though I certainly don’t mean that in a negative way!).
I liked it from the start, but I liked it even more once I had had it a few times. Those sage notes make this a brilliant coffee to pair with savory breakfast foods (and snacks, if you indulge in a second cup of coffee in the afternoons) and it is complex enough to keep it interesting. I also found that this made a surprisingly good iced coffee, since its lighter feel made it very refreshing when brewed cold.
While coffee and chocolate are a common pairing, tea and chocolate are not necessarily put together that often. Coffee does go extremely well with chocolate because the two products share a lot of common notes and flavors. Tea may be milder (generally speaking) and not have flavors that mirror those of chocolate, but many teas can compliment chocolate quite well.
One of these teas, for me, is Earl Grey. The black tea has a strong note of bergamot, which makes the tea strong enough that it comes through even when put into a glass with chocolate. I’ve had earl grey tea-infused chocolates, but this time around I combined chocolate with straight earl grey tea to make a Chocolate Earl Grey Tea Latte.
The tea latte starts with strongly brewed ear grey tea that is topped off with steamed milk, sweetened with chocolate and sugar. I like to use dark chocolate and I always melt it into the milk, as it will incorporate much more smoothly with milk than it will with the tea. You can use hot milk instead of steamed, too. The drink has a great combination of black tea, chocolate and a hint of citrus – and it all works beautifully, even if it’s a combination you wouldn’t ordinarily try!
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Starbucks new Blonde Roast coffees are lighter and brighter than any blends that the coffee chain has offered before, designed to appeal to customers looking for a simpler and friendlier cup of coffee. This is a move that other coffee makers, like Peet’s, are taking to appeal to other segments of coffee drinkers, as well. The Blonde Roasts include Veranda and Willow (also available in decaf), and I gave the Veranda a try at a recent coffee tasting. The Veranda is a very mild, bright coffee with a very clean finish. It is mildly acidic, and the flavor does not linger in your mouth once you’ve sipped it. It has a pleasantly grassy flavor to it, but it is not a particularly complex cup of coffee – although I will note that it is much more sweet and refined than your average “mild” coffee from a neighborhood diner.
The Veranda seems formulated do brew best in a drip coffee maker. I was also able to get a cup of it brewed from the Clover, which greatly improved it. The Clover-brewed Veranda was less grassy, much more full bodied and and a longer, more flavorful finish to it. The fullness imparted to the coffee by the Clover made it taste quite like Pike Place, although drip-brewed Pike was a bit more acidic than the Clover-brewed Veranda.
Long story short: this is a mild coffee that is great for drinkers who don’t love a strong coffee flavor (you know who you are!). It is not going to be your favorite if you, like me, prefer Sumatran coffees and other dark roasts. It’s a fine all purpose drip coffee, but get it from a Clover if you can.
Peet’s isn’t the only coffee company to introduce a new light roast in an effort to appeal to an even broader customer base. Starbucks has also jumped on the light roast bandwagon with a new category of light roast coffees: Blonde roasts. There are two coffee blends in this lineup – Veranda and Willow (also available in decaf) – and both are blends of South American beans. They have slightly different flavor profiles, but both are very lightly roasted and aim to produce a bright, mild coffee with a very clean finish.
I was able to attend a coffee tasting at a local LA Starbucks to compare the new Veranda Blonde roast to the medium (formerly known as mild) Pike Place and dark Fair Trade Italian roasts. No surprise: the Blonde roast was much, much milder than the other two, but it was great to have them side by side. Pike Place is a pretty mild coffee, and it seemed much more full-bodied compared to the Blonde Veranda. I personally prefer bolder coffees, though several of the other tasters at the event loved the lighter Blonde coffee.