December 7, 2015 Coffee & Company

Rare Aged Sumatra Beans are the Stars of Starbucks Christmas Reserve Coffee

For more than 30 years, Starbucks customers have celebrated the holidays with Christmas Blend, a full-bodied spicy and rich cup of coffee with lively Latin American beans and mellow Indonesian coffees. The finishing touch was the addition of rare, spicy Sumatra beans, carefully aged to bring out their deep notes of cedar and sweet, black licorice.

This year, Starbucks is offering its first Starbucks Reserve® Christmas Coffee, created to celebrate the tradition of Christmas Blend in a new way. Available starting today (December 7) for a limited time at select Starbucks® stores and online at while supplies last, this first edition is a fusion of two small-lot coffees roasted at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle.

“Christmas Blend is known for its distinctive blend of bright Latin American and aged Indonesian coffees,” said Andrew Linnemann, vice president of coffee quality and engagement for Starbucks. “With Starbucks Reserve® Christmas Coffee, we dialed up the aged coffee component and roasted it a little lighter to bring out more of the bold, syrupy flavors.”

What makes aged coffee so special?

Linnemann said it’s the transformation the coffee makes during the course of the aging process. The journey begins with fresh, unroasted Sumatra coffee beans purchased at the peak of harvest. Then select lots are moved in burlap bags to Starbucks aging warehouse. Every six months the Starbucks coffee team tastes a sample to see how the coffee is progressing, in a process that is similar to barrel tasting with wine.

“When we first bring the coffee to the warehouse, it starts out as this fresh, herbal Sumatra,” he said. “Over time, those flavors fall away and it goes into a neutral zone. Then, somewhere between three and five years, it is reborn. It comes back to life with the scotch, cedar and syrupiness that you can only find in aged coffee.”

Leslie Wolford, senior green coffee specialist for Starbucks, was part of the team that created this inaugural holiday blend for Starbucks Reserve® Coffee. They were looking for something different, but still in the tradition of Starbucks® Christmas Blend.

For the Latin American component, the team started with coffee from Hacienda Alsacia, a farm Starbucks owns in Costa Rica.

“The coffees selected from our farm had an abundance of wonderful sweet orange-like flavors. Then we found a great lot of aged Sumatra coffee that evoked a soft, sweet flavor that would be the perfect complement to our Costa Rica coffee. Together, they create an alchemy of flavors," Wolford said. "From the first sip, you taste each component as if it were alone in your cup before the coffees join up in a gift of flavors. With its balsam-like aromas and flavors of sweet mandarin and mulled spices, it’s a cup that tastes like Christmas.” 

For more information on this story, contact the Starbucks Newsroom