Starbucks introduced Pike Place Roast last week. According to the company’s press release, Pike Place Roast is the result of significant customer input with the following objectives:
- “Starbucks newest, everyday brew”
- “Signature bold flavor with a smooth finish balanced by soft acidity and subtle, rich nutty flavor”
- Embracing “new quality standards for freshness including freshly roasted, hand-scooped, freshly ground and brewed with shorter hold times”.
- “Will be the first coffee to bear the new mark symbolizing Starbucks ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability through an expanded relationship with Conservation International (CI)”
- Available in all stores
Many suggest that the new Pike Place Roast offering is an attempt to address the common criticism that Starbucks coffee is too strong and burnt tasting. The familiar, bold, over-roasted style has been the signature profile that many customers identify as Starbucks coffee. Pike Place Roast may very well be an attempt to reach a different segment of the market that prefers a more toned down coffee.
As expected, just about any move that Starbucks makes today stirs up controversy and criticism. Some happy and loyal customers complain that Starbucks is selling out with this milder coffee profile. So you hear comments like “Starbucks is now trying to be more like Dunkin’ Donuts”.
If you listen to the noise level, Starbucks can never win. Either the standard coffee profile is too strong and bold, or it’s too meek and mild. In either case, there’s a contingent out there that is always eager to voice their opinion that “Starbucks sucks”.
Starbucks is under increasing competitive pressure today in the marketplace and they have a number of initiatives underway to improve quality and customer satisfaction. Good for CEO, Howard Schultz, for doing something about it. You may not agree with the change, but at least Starbucks is making a move. Nothing will improve without taking some action.
Bottom line, people just don’t like change. They like to stay in their comfort zone, where everything is easy to recognize and familiar. And if there’s the slightest nudge or push out of that comfort zone, it’s immediate grounds for whining and groaning.
To these folks, I suggest that it’s OK to embrace a little adventure and curiosity. Life is more interesting with a little variety.
For example, food is a great adventure. Lots of people routinely enjoy many different styles of food and cuisine. And the opportunity to try something new and different is exciting. Why should coffee be any different for the curious who seek a little adventure in life?
By the way, are you stuck on one and only one coffee? If so, I recommend our “coffee tasting course” now underway.
With Pike Place Roast, you now have more choices. You can still order your strong, bold, heavy roasted profile if that’s your preference. Starbucks continues to have that brew ready and available for you. And if you might like a more mild, less edgy coffee, you now have a great option with Pike Place Roast.
Personally, I enjoy many varieties of coffee. I find the differences between an East African and a Central American coffee satisfying and interesting to explore. And for me, a great Indonesian Sumatra or Sulawesi is always a special coffee experience.
And the variety goes for the roast level too. The roast is an important consideration to bring out the best qualities of a particular coffee. Hey, I like a coffee as strong and bold as you can get. But, for many coffees, I much prefer a lighter or medium roast that doesn’t overpower the more subtle characteristics of the coffee. With other coffees, for the right blend or single-origin, a darker Italian or darkest French roast with a dominant smoky or toasted quality is the only way to go.
I had a chance to stop in last week and try a cup of Pike Place Roast at my local Starbucks. Nice cup of coffee, actually. This is definitely not the classic Starbucks over-roasted, in your face profile. Definitely nothing burnt tasting about it.
I found the acidity a little more bright and lively than “soft acidity” as the press release suggests. Smooth, not overdone, but sufficiently perks up the palette. A nice body and pleasant mouthfeel. And a slightly nutty taste with soft fruit tones. This is clearly not a bland, mediocre coffee as some have complained. Different than the typical bold dark-roast at Starbucks that you might be accustomed to? Yes. But bland, not at all.
I did find it interesting that Starbucks brought back a version of the original logo for the introduction of Pike Place Roast, along with the slogan “Roasting coffee since 1971. The best cup then. The best cup now”.
The cup has the sleeve attached with the brown colored logo, similar to the cigar band motif of the original logo from the 1970′s. With a few differences. The phrase around the perimeter of the old logo was “Starbucks – Coffee – Tea – Spices”. The new logo retains the familiar “Starbucks – Fresh Roasted Coffee”.
And another more subtle difference. On the new image, the siren maiden’s breasts are covered by her flowing curls of hair. On the original logo, she was bare-breasted. Starbucks updated the logo to the more familiar green colored motif in the 1990′s, partly to address some controversy and customer discomfort with the original logo.
And a tip about the name. You might be tempted to ask for a Pike’s Place Roast. It’s a common mistake to attach the ‘s to Pike in the possessive form. But you’re sure to expose your lack of familiarity with Pike Place Market, the famous Seattle public market on nine acres for over a hundred years. Pike Place Market is the home of the very first Starbucks store, and the namesake for the newest Starbucks coffee blend.
So stop by a Starbucks and try a Pike Place Roast. You might enjoy something a little different from Starbucks.