This week I had the opportunity to take part in a great Starbucks tasting event, tasting some of the Starbucks Reserve coffees with a Coffee Master, Yuli. Starbucks Reserve Coffees are rare, small batch coffees that are being released in very limited quantities at various Starbucks stores across the country. They have coffees like Jamaica Blue Mountain, Organic Blue Java and 100% Kona Coffee. They’re coffees that come from small growers (in some cases, from single farms) and they’re items that will appeal to serious coffee drinkers (like me!). Of course, limited quantities also mean that once they’re gone, they’re gone for good – or, with any luck, until the end of the next growing season.
Our tasting was of Sumatra Tapanuli and Kenya Tana River. This was also my first time experiencing the Clover coffee brewing system first hand. It’s a very unique brewer designed to produce the perfect cup of coffee. Very few coffee shops have these, and only a handful of Starbucks locations. The way they brew, they are supposed to give you the most flavorful cup of coffee possible.
Lately, it seems like green and white teas are chosen to blend with fruits more often than black teas are. Green and white teas can have such a mild flavor that it is easy to bring other flavors out in a blend with them. As a result, I wasn’t sure exactly how much actual mango flavor to expect when I tried Trader Joe’s Mango Black Tea – and was very pleasantly surprised when there was a lot of fruit flavor there!
This tea is made with black tea, natural mango flavor, blackberry leaves, hibiscus and calendula petals. Mangos are a fruit with a very sweet, floral flavor to them and it was a stroke of brilliance to add these extra elements to the tea (rather than just tossing in some dried mango pieces) because they really highlight the floral flavors of the mango. If you’re already familiar with the flavor of hibiscus, you’ll be able to pick it out from the other background flavors, too (although if you aren’t, it will most like just blend in). The tea has a smooth black tea background, but is really bursting with a tropical feel and a distinct mango flavor. I typically drink tea unsweetened, although this is one that I found was even better with a little bit of honey added to it, as that also served to enhance the mango and make the tea “juicier.”
I haven’t tried this tea iced, but I suspect that a pitcher of iced tea with some actual sliced mangoes in it would be a huge hit at a brunch!
Cold brewed is a coffee term that has been popping up more and more frequently, even though there are plenty of cafes – including the chain Seattle’s Best – that have been offering up cold brewed coffee for quite some time now. Cold brewed coffee is just what it sounds like: coffee that is brewed cold, not hot. To make it, ground coffee beans are placed in cool water and left to sit in a cool place for around 12 hours to brew. Cold brewing produces a milder and sweeter cup of coffee than simply refrigerating coffee that is brewed hot. You don’t get the harsher, more bitter notes of coffee that are often brought out after chilling hot-brewed coffee. Cold brewed coffee will keep very well for several days in the refrigerator after it has been made, and it is easy to make a big batch and keep it on hand. As with regular coffee, you will want to experiment with the ratio of coffee grounds to water to get a concentration that you like, but err on the side of using too much coffee. Not only are you not rising adding bitterness to your drink by doing this, but you can always water down a cold-brewed coffee concentrate with a bit of extra water before serving if it is too strong.
Jonathan Stark wants you to use his Starbucks card, which he is using as a kind of social experiment. He has posted the screenshot of his mobile Starbucks card from the Starbucks iPhone app and is inviting people to use the card and get their drinks, free, on him! He asks that purchases be kept to under $3 and that users Tweet or blog about his project to keep it going. And, if you want to pay it forward to the next coffee-lover in line, you can go ahead and add a little money to the card’s account.
Since the project started in July, the account has seen more than $4000 come and go through it. Stark seeded the account, but the vast majority of that money has been contributed (and used!) by everyone using Stark’s card at a Starbucks store. The Providence, R.I., based Stark says that “he sees his experiment as setting an example of ‘humans being good’” – not because people are sharing coffee with others, but because mobile payments allow people to do good things in such an easy way. ‘Imagine,’ says Stark, ‘if you had a CVS card and you could give someone $10 for their Alzheimer’s medication. The concept of frictionless social giving is very attractive. And this is just the beginning of that.’