“I can’t imagine what 2,000 slurps will sound like,” said Jackie Xu, a Starbucks coffee master who guided district managers through a formal coffee tasting during the company’s leadership conference in Seattle.
Placing one hand over a coffee cup, Starbucks leaders from around the world each smelled the coffee. They described the aroma. Next, a quick slurp spread coffee across the palate allowing subtle flavors to reach all of the taste receptors of the tongue. Xu smiled after hearing a boisterous, unison slurp from the audience members.
Xu’s passion for the featured coffee was obvious as she described Starbucks Pike Place Special Reserve – a roast only sold at the company’s first store at 1912 Pike Place and Seattle’s Space Needle. What was not apparent was that she had not spoken in front of a large crowd before.
“I would never have imagined I would be standing on a stage in front of Howard Schultz (Starbucks chairman, president and ceo) and thousands of people talking about coffee,” said Xu. “This is a dream come true.”
Her dream began when Xu was a college student studying business management in China. With an interest in the retail industry, she read Howard Schultz’s first book, “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.”
“What stood out about the book then is still what is important in our society,” she said. “Howard Schultz cares about his partners. Starbucks is a culture where we all care about our partners and help them develop in their daily work and careers.”
Xu joined the company as a barista one-and-a-half years ago and is currently the store manager of Starbucks Kerry Center store in Beijing, China. Soon, she’ll be among the first partners to connect with customers in the company’s Starbucks Reserve™ Roastery and Tasting Room, opening in December.
Located in Seattle, the 15,000 square-foot interactive retail environment devoted to coffee innovation will allow customers to engage with Starbucks passion for coffee. It is designed to be an integrated coffee roasting, education and retail space allowing Starbucks to expand its small-lot sourcing program and to serve as homage to the rich history of specialty coffee.
“I am honored to be a part of this,” she said.
Addressing the 2,100 partners in attendance for the Starbucks Leadership Experience she concluded, “I stand here by myself, but I carry all their (China store partners) dreams on my shoulders.”