Pre-Ramble: I thought I was just popping in to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. It wasn’t until after I had given what I thought was my unremarkable order (small dark roast – no cream, no sugar, no shot, no nothing), that I realized I had walked right into a carefully choreographed marketing plan. With a maniacal glint in her eye, the gal at the register leaned in slightly and asked if I’d like to consider their new Starbucks Reserve ”Clover” blend.
??? – Of course, I had to ask what the Clover blend was, and why I might want to consider it, which is when I realized that I had just taken the bait. I felt like the oblivious jungle animal who steps on the hidden ground-net-trap and ends up dangling by its ankles from a coconut tree. I was quickly handed off to a shiny young man in a crisp green apron, who was literally rubbing his hands together with “Welcome to my laaaa-bra-tory” delight.
According to a corporate press relesase, (no pun intended) the “ultra-premium, single-origin, limited-edition” Starbuck’s Reserve is a transformative coffee experience,
“For nearly 40 years, our coffee buyers have traveled the world discovering the most exquisite tastes to appear in a coffee cup,” said Dub Hay, senior vice president of coffee and global procurement, Starbucks Coffee Company. “Only three percent of all the coffee grown around the world is good enough to make it into a bag of Starbucks® Coffee. Sometimes we encounter a truly rare and special coffee and we can only purchase a small quantity. Starbucks Reserve™ represents our heritage as a purveyor of the world’s finest coffees, and we’re thrilled to offer our customers passage on this journey of discovery.”
But that’s not the best part – the java du jour is prepared using the new high-tech single-cup vacuum press Clover Brewing System – !
“The Clover® brewing system uses innovative Vacuum-Press™ technology to create your cup right in front of you. You watch as a stainless steel filter lowers into the brew chamber. Hot water is added at a precise temperature to brew your coffee for an ideal length of time.
The Clover® brewing system controls brew time and temperature digitally, as even small changes here can dramatically affect the outcome you taste in the cup. A thermal blanket surrounds the brew chamber to keep water within 1 degree Fahrenheit of the ideal temperature.
After the coffee brews, it is pulled through a 70-micron filter. The resulting grounds are pushed out of the top of the machine. The coffee itself flows into your cup – hot, aromatic and amazingly flavorful. We’re pretty sure it will be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted.”
Perky, professional, personable and highly informative, our coffee specialist Tyler delivered a five-star tour of the Clover system (think Tom Cruise in Cocktail … ). He demonstrated each highly calibrated step of the process, pointing out key features; noting the exclusivity of the offering (there are only three Clover machines – running $16,000 per — in Minnesota and we were standing in front of two of them!); and promoting the comparative advantage of the end product — a super smooth, better tasting cup of coffee.
We watched, rapt, as the beans made their way through grinding, soaking, steaming, pressing and vacuum-sucking (there’s probably more appropriate brand-speak for that last part) before making their way, drip by drip, into my small paper cup.
The Take-Away: As purveyor of what could easily be a ubiquitous cup-o-Joe, Starbucks continues to push its ambitous brand into all sorts of interesting places. The Clover coffee experience was neat – the set up and delivery had a hip, micro-brewery feel; the process didn’t take as long as my chippy description would imply; and the final product was, as promised, “hot, aromatic and amazingly flavorful.”
Check it out at the Washington Avenue Starbucks on the University of Minnesota campus (right behind McNamara Alumni Center). Ask for Tyler and tell him Kathie sent you … (don’t remind him that I’m the one who asked if all this hoo-ha was just a hopped-up Keurig machine.)