October 27, 2014 Coffee & Company

Starbucks Reserve Coffees Bring Customers on Journey of Discovery

There’s a story in every cup of Starbucks coffee.

From the qualities of the soil, to the fragrances and tastes of nearby crops, to the length of time it was left to ripen on the tree – each coffee expresses its own sense of place and conveys the way it was grown and nurtured.

Starbucks Reserve® coffees help bring these individual stories to life with an ultra-premium line of coffees that are the most rare, limited availability coffees from around the world.

“Starbucks is one of the few companies that can send coffee buyers to dozens of countries each year and taste hundreds and thousands of cups of coffee,” said Leslie Wolford, senior coffee specialist at Starbucks. “Every so often we come across a coffee that dazzles. We help their exceptional qualities shine as a Starbucks Reserve coffee."

When Starbucks opened its first store more than 40 years ago in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, it brought customers small batches of extraordinary coffee to its single store such as the bright Chanchamayo from the highlands of Peru or smooth Bourbon Santos from Brazil.

Once the company grew to more than 1,000 stores in 1996, Starbucks began to highlight small quantities of exceptional coffee such as Rantepao Sulawesi and Aged Java with the Starbucks Limited Edition program. In 2004 Starbucks offered customers its best single-origin coffee as Black Apron Exclusives™ starting with a rare 100% Kona coffee.  This program evolved into Starbucks Reserve in 2010.  

“From the very beginning, we cultivated a network of farmers that brought us quality coffee to support our expanding customer base,” said Wolford.  “As we grew, we noticed that this extensive network also brought us coffee that was undiscovered and special. As a result, we started to be more intentional about helping our customers to have the same journey of discovery as we explored new farms and regions. It gives our store partners (employees) the opportunity to share the story of our coffees and what makes each one special. It becomes something personal.” 

Extraordinary Care

Starbucks Reserve has featured coffee from locations as remote and rugged as the Galapagos Islands and the Mt. Bromo volcano on the Indonesian island of Java. The program has also featured rare varietals such as Starbucks Reserve® Panama Geisha Auromar, which was limited to fewer than 800 half-pound bags.

Starbucks Reserve can also showcase coffees that require extra attention to detail, such as the handpicked, single-rounded beans of Starbucks Reserve® Zambia Peaberry Terranova Estate or the Sun Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe™ and Sumatra Rusuna, which gets their rich, cherry-flavor from being laid out to air dry.

Aged Sumatra Lot No. 084, was aged for five years in a special environment with meticulous care. The coffee bags were individually rotated and turned to ensure a consistent aging process, and the beans were tasted regularly to determine their exact moment of readiness for a bold, full-bodied cup of coffee with toasted-marshmallow sweetness and deep cedar notes.

In September 2014, Starbucks offered customers the rare, small batch Starbucks Reserve® Costa Rica Geisha La Ines developed by Starbucks agronomist Carlos Mario Rodriguez for its combination of disease tolerance, high yield and exceptional taste. The coffee sold out online within hours.

Distinctive Flavors

Each Starbucks Reserve coffee tells the story of its origins.

The Africa region is believed to be the birthplace of coffee, and its diverse geography is home to some of the world’s most unusual and sought-after coffees, with flavors ranging from berries to spices to citrus fruits. Starbucks Reserve coffees highlight the distinctive characteristics of African coffees from the herbal and floral notes of Cameroon’s Mount Oku and the full bodied, chocolaty flavor of Malawi Lake of Stars.

In the Asia/Pacific, Starbucks Reserve® Sumatra Blue Batak showcases the region’s signature full flavor herbal spiciness with deep, syrupy body and sweet herbal notes. In Latin America, Starbucks purchased the 190 burlap sacks of coffee produced on a small farm by farmer Aladino Delgado and produced Starbucks Reserve® Perú Aladino, an extraordinary bright citrusy coffee characteristic of the region, with surprising rich toffee notes and a nutty sweetness.

The Future of Reserve

In December, 2014 Starbucks will open its first-ever Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. Dedicated to roasting and coffee education this one of a kind experience will allow Starbucks to increase the availability of these limited availability coffees. By consolidating its small-batch roasting, Starbucks will expand their Starbucks Reserve® program to 1,500 locations globally, as well as open at least 100 stores designed to highlight these rare coffees exclusively.  

For more information on this story, contact the Starbucks Newsroom