Updated January 4, 2022
Each Starbucks Reserve® Roastery is a destination – an immersive coffee experience in iconic cities around the world that celebrates the company’s heritage and serves as a tribute to the roasting and craft of coffee. Starbucks is bringing the flavors of the Roastery to Starbucks stores with return of the Pistachio Latte, starting today (Jan. 4) at participating stores in the United States and Canada, and for a limited time this winter season.
Ever since the first Roastery opened in Seattle in 2014, the innovative offerings at Starbucks Roasteries have inspired new beverages in Starbucks stores, including Nitro Cold Brew, and seasonal favorites such as the Cascara Latte, Smoked Butterscotch Latte and Juniper Latte. For the opening of the Chicago Roastery in November 2019, Jennifer Galbraith and the Roastery beverage development team created the Starbucks Reserve Pistachio Latte as a tribute. Her idea for the beverage came from the love customers have for the Italian café classic Starbucks Reserve Hazelnut Bianco Latte, and exploring other nuts popular in Italy.
“Hazelnuts are grown in northern Italy, and some of the best pistachios are grown in the southern region of Italy,” said Galbraith. “They call them “green gold’ – there’s even a pistachio festival in Bronte, Sicily.”
The pistachio (a member of the cashew family) has a mild, buttery flavor that’s lightly salty. Galbraith found the nutty, buttery flavors of the pistachio complemented the rich full body notes of Starbucks Reserve® Christmas coffee. The final beverage, a favorite on the menu at Roasteries and Starbucks Reserve locations, features espresso shots paired with pistachio sauce with milk, warmed with a cozy hint of orange zest and finished with a salted brown butter topping.
“Starbucks Reserve coffee is the star of the show, and the creamy, buttery flavor of the pistachio and the salty-sweet topping of the beverage bring out the rich notes of the coffees,” Galbraith said.
The Starbucks Reserve beverage was such a hit with customers, Starbucks beverage development team immediately started looking for ways last winter to bring the spirit of the beverage to life in Starbucks stores.
“When we were given the task to create a Pistachio Latte inspired by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery beverage, we started with Starbucks Espresso Roast as the foundation,” said beverage developer Matthew Thornton. “We then worked to create a Pistachio Latte that complemented all the notes of our signature espresso while giving a nod of the cap to the Roastery.”
But just as they were hitting their stride in March 2020, they found themselves bringing their aprons home when their R&D beverage lab closed at Starbucks headquarters as a COVID safety precaution. In addition to their aprons, they brought their ingredients and continued to work from their kitchens and dining rooms – with Thornton conducting beverage screenings for the team 10 feet apart from TV trays set up in his driveway. They dialed in the warm and comforting flavors of the beverage, landing on a salted brown buttery topping that accentuates the rich, slightly salty flavor of the pistachio. When Thornton took time off for paternity leave in June, Erin Marinan took over and saw it to the finish.
“We were mindful that pistachios can take on some different flavor profiles. For example, spumoni ice cream can lean into a cherry, almond flavor,” Marinan said. “But, like with the Roastery beverage, this is more a true pistachio flavor, it’s earthy with slight fruity notes that are really delicate.”
It’s not easy being green
Pistachios gain their distinctive green hue from chlorophyll, a natural pigment that helps plants convert light energy to food. But the nut loses its color when the pigment breaks down during processing, making the pistachio latte’s sauce an almond color which is then added to (brown) coffee.
The final recipe is made with espresso and steamed milk combined with a sauce made with real pistachios and flavors of salted brown buttery topping for a creamy, comforting, cozy beverage to inspire the fresh start of the new year. It is available hot, iced (Marinan’s favorite) and blended.
“Everything is in balance, it’s approachable but it’s also completely new,” Marinan said. “I think that’s the magic of the beverage.”