“I’m an artist and coffee is my canvas”

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room showcases coffee innovation

At first glance, you might wonder whether Alex Sanchez is a bartender or a barista. Behind the Experience Bar at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle, he meticulously adds the final ingredients to a cocktail shaker. A few drops of black pepper bitters and a dash of malted honey syrup. He pops on the lid. Shake, shake, shake. But as he strains the mixture over ice, it becomes clear this isn’t a cocktail. There’s coffee in this concoction.

“[Coffee] can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. It can be just like a cup of coffee that you brew in the morning, or it can be something crazy that you can whip up,” Alex said.

Over the past year, the coffee master has developed a passion for coffee innovation. Inspired by the bar scene and the versatility of coffee, Alex is constantly dreaming up new recipes in his spare time.

“We know how to roast [coffee] really well. We know how to brew it with a Chemex or espresso...What are we doing next? What’s going to take coffee to the next level?” Alex asked.

Alex’s innovative spirit is helping the Roastery take coffee to the next level. One of his creations, the Espresso Pomelo, is currently featured at the Experience Bar. The drink combines a shot of Starbucks Reserve® Colombia Las Margaritas espresso with muddled grapefruit, black pepper bitters and malted honey syrup.

“Black pepper and grapefruit and all this stuff just mixing with coffee, people don’t see that. So it was really exciting to see people get excited about it,” Alex said.

Because the espresso has an orange-like acidity and a brown-sugar sweetness, Alex says it pairs well with the other ingredients. The result is a sweet, tart, spicy and refreshing drink. I can honestly say I’ve never tasted anything quite like it.

He says working alongside his co-workers inspires him to keep trying new things.

“It’s just really about just getting that community sense and that it’s not just me being creative, it’s us as a team,” he said.

Alex sees coffee as an art — a way to express his creativity. With coffee as his canvas, there’s no telling what he’ll create next.

“Coffee is whatever you want it to be,” Alex said. “The sky’s the limit.”

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Photo essay: Caps off to the class of 2024