At Starbucks coffee purchasing center in Lausanne, Switzerland, green coffee traders Alfredo Nuño and Stephane Erard taste thousands of cups of coffee each year. They have each been purchasing coffee for Starbucks for more than a decade, and their expert palates detect subtle differences in quality, flavor, body and acidity as they decide which coffees to bring to Starbucks customers.
“Each coffee conveys different attributes depending on where it is grown,” Nuño said. “Coffees from Latin America are known for their balanced body and crisp acidity; Asia Pacific coffees are often full-bodied and earthy; and coffees from Africa can be lush and juicy. But even within these regions – variables such as the soil, altitude, weather, processing method, and even nearby crops – imprint each coffee with its own unique signature.”
Single-origin coffees – beans sourced from one country, a region within a country, or sometimes even just a single estate or farm – offer customers an opportunity to explore distinctive coffees from around the world. It’s what a French vintner would call goût de terroir, or “taste of the earth.”
Nuño and Erard work closely with Patty Romaine-Moody, a Starbucks coffee quality specialist based in Seattle, who – like a winemaker – helps source, blend and craft the coffees.
This year the team was challenged by Starbucks Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) team to identify extraordinary new single-origin coffees that customers could enjoy at home. They settled on coffees from each of the three major growing regions that would showcase the unique sense of place for each.
Starting in mid-September, Starbucks will bring customers on a journey of discovery with three new single-origin coffees in U.S. grocery stores.
Starbucks® Guatemala Laguna de Ayarza Single-Origin Coffee
Starbucks has been purchasing coffee from Guatemala since the early days of the company, and has been sourcing coffee from the Santa Rosa region of Guatemala for more than a decade.
Nuño, who manages Starbucks coffee purchases for Central America and the Caribbean, remembers a time about three years ago when he discovered some exceptional coffee from the region in the trading room.
“It was citrusy and sweet, with soft acidity,” he said. “When we looked back at the data, we realized it was consistently coming from Laguna de Ayarza.”
Laguna de Ayarza is a double caldera lake formed thousands of years ago in a volcanic mountain range in the northeast part of Guatemala. The coffee trees thrive in the rolling hills and mild climate, and roots grow deep in its volcanic soil rich in minerals.
“In the morning here, there’s a mist in the mountains. It helps the plants retain the moisture and mature more slowly,” Nuño said. “It also helps the coffee deepen its complex flavors.”
“This coffee is medium-bodied and rich,” Romaine-Moody added. “It’s balanced with crisp citrus notes and a sweet, chocolaty mouthfeel. Coffee from Laguna de Ayarza has softer acidity and round chocolate notes, while coffee sourced from other regions in Guatemala display higher acidity and cocoa notes.”
Starbucks® Rwanda Rift Valley Single-Origin Coffee
Stephane Erard purchases coffee for Starbucks from the Africa and Asia Pacific growing regions. In Rwanda, he singled out an elegant coffee from the hills of Rift Valley region.
“Rwanda is just two degrees south of the equator and its coffee flourishes in the red, nutrient-rich volcanic soil,” he said. “It produces sweet, delicate flavors with spicy dark-chocolate notes and hints of citrus.”
Rwanda has had a long tradition of coffee growing that dates back to the early 1900s. Many of the coffee plants in Rwanda today are the same fragrant bourbon varieties that were introduced by German missionaries more than a century ago.
But until recently, Starbucks was unable to find much high-quality coffee in Rwanda despite the widespread bourbon variety. The problem was individual growers washed coffee by hand without regard to the end product’s quality. Over the past several years, the country has established washing stations and made great strides in transforming its coffee production.
“Rwanda’s coffee industry is reaching a mature point where we have a stable quality of high-end coffee that we’re delighted to bring it to our customers,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to offer our customers a single-origin coffee from Rwanda in grocery stores,” said Romaine-Moody. “We love the elegant flavor it delivers in the cup and the promising future it brings to Rwanda’s premium-coffee growers.”
Starbucks® Timor Mount Ramelau Single-Origin Coffee
More than 6,000 miles east of Africa, just north of Australia and across the Timor Sea, is Timor-Leste, the official name of East Timor.
Starbucks has been buying coffee from Cooperativa Café Timor (CCT) since 1996, a cooperative organization of coffee farmers in East Timor that produces and exports the premium coffee. Starbucks has not only helped them improve the quality of their coffee but has also supported a number of social projects.
The highest point in the country is Mount Ramelau, a mountain of nearly 10,000 feet also known as Tatamailau meaning “grandfather of all” where the earth is well nourished and the weather is perfectly temperate.
“Farmers near Mount Ramelau cultivate the coffee on small pieces of land – often in their backyards,” Erard said. “Only the ripest cherries are selected for processing, resulting in a smooth, refined cup.”
“Coffee sourced from Timor Mount Ramelau has a distinctive flavor profile. Most coffees from Asia Pacific are full-bodied with earthy, herbal flavors, however this coffee is displays clean, spicy notes and a medium-body,” explained Romaine-Moody. “There are very few single-origin coffees from Timor available on grocery store shelves, so we’re excited to offer this unique “taste of place” to our customers.”
About Starbucks® Single-Origin Coffees in Grocery Stores
Starting in mid-September, Guatemala Laguna de Ayarza, Rwanda Rift Valley and Timor Mount Ramelau will be available exclusively where groceries are sold in the United States. All three premium coffees will be offered nationally for a suggested retail price of $11.99 for a package of 10-ounce ground coffee. Guatemala Laguna de Ayarza and Rwanda Rift Valley will also be offered as K-Cup® Packs: $11.99 for 10-count and $14.99 for 16-count packages.
K-Cup® packs for use in Keurig® K-Cup® brewing systems. Keurig, the Cup and Star Design, Keurig Brewed, K-Cup and the Keurig brewer trade dress are trademarks of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., used with permission.