Anyone who knows me personally and/or follows me on Twitter will know this since it is brazenly highlighted on my profile; I love coffee, the stronger the better and please leave out the milk and sugar as I long to savour the lovely roast flavour of what is the finest nectar of all beverages. I especially enjoy trying as many blends as possible and the more bizarre or unique the bean/blend tend to set my coffee antenna alight. So try to imagine my giddy excitement levels hitting the roof when I stepped into my local Starbucks at Bristol Bridge and was invited to take part in a new and rare coffee experience - the Starbucks Reserve.
It may all come across as some form of big corporate hype designed to peddle highly expensive coffee that is probably on a par with the quality of their usual stock, and I will probably have to endure some abuse for posting the praises of a major corporation with questionable ethical practices (a topic of conversation for another time guys). As I sit here sipping my grande Tribute blend and typing away I can tell you now that after sampling all three bean types, the Starbucks Reserve lives up to the hype and beyond. Each of the three coffees have unique flavours as well as a fascinating story pertaining to their origins, the setting of which reads like an Indiana Jones tale.
Whichever one you decide to try (or like me you might go for all three) they are all made in the same way. A skilled barista will lead you to a little work station where there is a two tier griddle stand and two wide top cups. Into one of the cups a paper filter, not unlike those used for percolators, is placed. The paper is dampened slightly and the freshly ground beans are slotted into the lined cup. The barista then slowly pours boiling water into the top and the customer watches as the filtered coffee pours out of the bottom. The whole process just takes four minutes and it is the aroma that travels up your nose during that time that awakes the inner coffee connoisseur in us all. So here is my verdict
Aged Sulawesi Kalosi
The flavour of this rich bean is unmistakeable and packs a punch from the very first sip. There is a distinct nutty and cocoa taste in the background. It is strong yet a little smooth and would be ideal with a rich chocolatey accompaniment. This is largely due to the fact that the beans have been carefully aged over three years giving it that distinct flavour so that it has all the strength and richness of a powerful coffee without the bitter after taste. It is also the only coffee I have ever sampled that you can continue drinking even as it starts to cool, having maintained its flavour.
Fair Trade Certified Nicaraguan Corcasan
By contrast the Nicaraguan coffee has a much more subtle flavour. It is smooth and mild, unfortunately I am a coffee drinker who likes his beverage to dance a wild samba on his palate. This has to be my least favourite of the three yet I can't help but still find my self enamoured with it a little as drinking it was a veritable pleasure. It's mild undertone and smooth texture made it ideal on a day when I really was not in the mood for the POW! effect of a powerhouse brew. Again the subtle flavour has no after taste and just leaves you a little fresh and lively.
El Salvador Montecarlos Estate Pacamara
If Budweiser is the King of Beers then the El Salvador coffee bean is the King of Coffee. The mere fact that the crop is harvested from a privately owned volcano raises one's eyebrows and has you grinning excitedly like a child ready to burst. This is a hybrid coffee bean that has taken 30 years to perfect and for me has been the coffee I have been waiting for. The flavour is a distinct blend of fragrant herbs with a citrus zing, ideal for enjoyment on a warm sunny day. The oxymoron you experience with this coffee is that even though you are drinking a steaming hot beverage (I have an asbestos gob, what can I say) you feel fresh and your thirst quenched as if you had just finished a glass of lemonade. Only time (and the mothballs in my wallet) prevented me from ordering another. Definitely the best of the three.
What is interesting about the Starbucks Reserve is that it has elevated the experience of coffee drinking to the same level as wine tasting. Coffee moves from being a quick fix to the focal point of the conversation. People might start talking about flavour and aroma of the El Savador Monetcarlos in the same way Oz Clarke would whittle on about a bottle of Claret. The Starbucks Reserve is the best thing to happen to coffee since the advent of the coffee shop but the stock is limited and therefore only available in 10 stores around the UK. If you have the opportunity, do try them and you might be surprised.