In May 2014 Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and ceo, came to the Starbucks coffee team with a special request.
He had an idea to celebrate the first Starbucks Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room, a one-of-a-kind, immersive experience where customers could see the rare small-batch line of Starbucks Reserve® coffees being roasted. The freshly roasted beans would be delivered to a bar where baristas would create handcrafted beverages using one of six different brewing methods.
“Howard was looking for a special coffee for our Roastery customers, just as a winemaker may have a unique blend that’s available only at the winery,” said Leslie Wolford, senior coffee specialist at Starbucks. “Up to this point, our Starbucks Reserve program featured single-origin coffees – all from one country or growing region, or sometimes even a single farm. He wanted us to break the mold and create our first-ever blend of Starbucks Reserve coffees for our Roastery customers.”
The Creation of Pantheon Blend
Wolford and a team of roasters and coffee experts went to work.
They looked at all the coffees in the Starbucks Reserve® portfolio and started with nine single-origin coffees. Next they roasted and brewed each of them and lined them up on the long tasting room table at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle. From there, the team did a wet blending exercise, spooning different combinations of the coffees – drawing out different flavor notes in each cup.
Each person on the five-member team created two coffees, writing down the recipe on a card that was placed down in front of each cup. The team collectively tasted each of the ten coffees and whittled them down to the top three blends, which were turned over to Starbucks roasters.
“Once we got the blends back from the roasters, we tasted three top recipes for five days and had lots of opinions,” Wolford said. “Then we tried each coffee as a pour-over, in a press, as a shot of espresso, and as a latte. One coffee rose to the top. We invited Howard in to sample, and Pantheon Blend was born.”
Ultimately, Pantheon™ Blend No. 1 was a combination of coffees from Guatemala, Colombia, and Java. Coincidentally those are all coffees on Starbucks original menu board at Pike Place Market store in 1971.
“The experience of this coffee comes in waves,” Wolford said. “We started with Guatemala as the anchor – it’s rich and complex. Next comes the Colombia, which has black currant notes with some sweetness that’s not too overpowering. Finally, the semi-washed Java brings in more of the body and savory notes in the coffee.”
This first blend of Starbucks Reserve coffees holds a special significance for Wolford, who has tasted coffees for Starbucks for more than 20 years.
“To me, this coffee speaks to our history and our future,” Wolford said. “Howard chose the name Pantheon, because it reflects its place among an illustrious group of extraordinary coffees. The best of the best.”
Pantheon™ Blend No. 1 is available exclusively at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle for a limited time.