Review: Starbucks Coffee Tasting 2015

Photo taken by Michele Ivey at Starbucks Tasting eventI often say that I like to try anything once as long as it won’t hurt me or anyone around me.  At the same time I have a really fussy taste bud.  Growing up there’s many things that I don’t like, which most of my friends enjoy from nuts, chicken to tomatoes.  If I don’t enjoy a food I do try to avoid it, ordering only things I know I’ll enjoy.  Coffee is one of those things I really do not like, I don’t know why but from smell to taste this daily drink is just something I never found myself enjoying.  So this may be found as a strange story for all of my friends, as I cover a Starbucks Coffee tasting event.

Miki and I were on our road trip back to Michigan from New York Toy Fair, and found ourselves traveling to visit different friends.  One of our friends, Kayleigh, works for Starbucks.  When she first got the job at Starbucks there was not much I would drink there.  As I had a complaint that every drink there tastes like coffee to me, including the Hot Chocolate.  Kayleigh surprised me and introduced me to a drink that I do enjoy that has white hot chocolate, toffee nut and lots of carmel.  Since she introduced this to me, I have ordered this drink at Starbucks across the United States and found myself enjoying Starbucks as a normal stop for a good hot drink.  Little did I know that during this visit, I would find myself drinking coffee.

When we got to Kayleigh’s, she informed us that the following Thursday she had a Coffee tasting event on Thursday.  I love supporting my friends in which ever passion they embrace, and I know that she truly does cherish her passion for coffee and love of Starbucks.  To help support her in this, I offered to record the Coffee tasting for her.  We asked if it was okay, and stayed longer so that we could be there.

Kayleigh is a Coffee Master in training, once we got to the location the event was at we met the other two Coffee Masters that were working the event, Emily and Amanda.  The room was set up for 50 people to show up, as it was a totally free event.  The only requirement was to book in advance if you were coming or not.  They had two tables set up with prizes to the side of the room, for a free raffle that everyone got entered in by just partaking in the evening with Starbucks.

Once things got started I was surprised to see how much information could be shared before the tasting began.  As all three Coffee Masters introduced themselves, which Starbucks they work for and why they have this passion for coffee.  That fastly followed with information on coffee, from which beans you can use to brew coffee, why Starbuck chooses the beans that they have in their beverages.  There was also a long lesson about brewing your coffee at home that covered everything from how long the coffee grounds really should sit to the temperature of the water.

While I personally have not enjoyed coffee during my life, I do love to hear people speak about their passion and that’s what I found myself doing.  The more I listened, the more I wanted to be included in finding out more about what everyone was here to learn.  Once they broke out the sample cups of coffee, I did the one thing I thought I would avoid.  I asked to join in on the tasting.  I do not think I would have embraced this choice, if the love of the Coffee Masters didn’t flow so well in their demonstration. 

While all three of these Coffee Masters love their coffee, each of them have a favorite much different from the other.  They all had information and skills to bounce well off of each other during the questions and answers, and even took a moment to help each other out if anyone lost their place in what they had to say.  The differences between Kayleigh, Emily and Amanda worked greatly in their favor to keep the event entertaining and informative.  And was a major part in having such different coffees for the fans to try.

The first of the coffees we tried was the one that Kayleigh had brought in.  This was Sumatra, along with the coffee we had either pumpkin bread or Oatmeal Cookies to try.  The snack that she chose was to match up to the flavor the coffee to complement each other.  They had us smell, and slurp the coffee.  This coffee is darker than I could truly enjoy.  As the smell reminded me of that I smell as I walk into any coffee shop, I was very thankful for the tasty pumpkin bread that I could eat after having the taste. 

For myself this drink was very bitter, which I believe is what I don’t like about coffee.  It has a strong smell and very strong flavor.  I would think that this is something people could enjoy if they love coffee, as it’s got that strong pick me up feeling behind the first slurp.  The pumpkin bread did really follow up to this drink, giving a touch I could enjoy.  As I felt the flavor just melt in my mouth as I savored each of the bites.  While the coffee is not one I would order, I do find that Kayleigh had an amazing choice for it’s partner flavor.

Emily offered up her treat next.  She had Guatemala Antigua for her coffee, with Flourless Chewy Chocolate Cookie.  I know someone who loves coffee could tell the difference between both the Sumatra and Guatemala Antigua, but for me these two tasted a lot a like.  I watched others around me, talk in comparision between these two beverages.  I did feel I was missing out on something, as I realized that the normal smell of coffee and flavor were all I really could notice from both drinks.  However I loved Emily’s choice of the Flourless Chewy Chocolate Cookie, it was small and really tasty.

When Amanda came up with her coffee, I was more determined to try and taste the coffee.  I wanted to see what everyone was talking about.  I wanted to realize the difference in the smell.  I craved the idea of being part of this, to see their passion eye to eye for one moment.  Amanda was sharing her personal favorite, Kenya.  Once this was handed to us, I was disappointed when I sniffed the coffee and still just smelled ‘coffee’, as I heard people talk once more of their likes and dislikes.  I feared that when I tasted this coffee, I would once again miss out on what everyone else saw in this coffee. 

I took a drink of the Kenya, and to my surprise I did notice the difference.  For a coffee, this reminded me more of a tea.  The bitter flavor that makes me shrink back was no where near as strong.  For me this drink hit the spot a bit more, I could picture adding a few extra flavors to it to help bring out the sweet that the Kenya offers.  While I don’t see myself becoming a coffee drinker, I do believe that if I was to drink coffee I would lean towards Kenya.  The snack that they gave with this was the Citrus Morning Bun.  While I enjoyed the Kenya, my favorite of the goodies they served is a toss up between the Pumpkin bread and the Flourless Chewy Chocolate Cake.

All of the Coffee Masters brought something fun to the table that people could enjoy.  And each of them had a lot of information to share as the drinks were passed around.  As they informed us about the locations their coffees are from, what they enjoy about the flavors, how to sample it and just why they picked the sides to go along with each of these.  While my review is not one I recommend for anyone looking to find a flavor of coffee that works for them, I hope that this review helps inspire people to help support the passions of those they care about.  Even if that passion is something that they do not hold a personal fondness too.

I was impressed not just by our Coffee Masters, but by how much Starbucks gave for this event.  Throughout the evening they gave away one raffle prize after another.  Most of the raffles had anywhere from the different Starbuck cups to bags of coffee.  Each bag given away had to have a value of $10 to $25.  At the end of the tasting they gave away the rest of the bags that were on the table, which were over 15 bags of goodies.  I personally got a new Starbuck mug.

Overall this was a fun event.  I have to tip my hat to Starbuck for doing so much for their fans and fellow coffee lovers.  I would love to thank Kayleigh, Emily and Amanda for sharing their passions with us, and informing everyone on so many interesting facts about coffee.  I truly enjoyed the evening and do not feel that I would’ve, if the people did not have such a deep love and respect for the company and beverages.  Thanks everyone!

Have you ever been to a Starbucks Coffee tasting?  If so, did you work it or attend?  Find a new coffee you like?  Win anything interesting?  Please share reviews, comments and questions below!

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