Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Does anybody know about Seattle's Best Coffee? This is the corporate coffee company that is getting ready to take over cafe operations for a certain mega internationally spread book store that originated in middle America. The book conglomerate, which owns mega book superstores, mall based intermediate book stores, and I think a brand of news stand (at least they did in the not so distant past) has something in the neighborhood of 400 cafes around the world.

A little back story on them would be appropriate. On the web site for Seattle's Best they claim to have been one of the pioneer coffee roasters of Seattle in the 70's, and were crowned as the best coffee in a coffee tasting contest. Who else entered, we are not told, nor are we told who the judges were other than to say it was held at a "local restaurant". It couldn't have been a MacCafe, because they weren't around quite yet. They have a photo of their neon sign hanging from the facade of a building, and in the background, creating a visual parley with the main subject of the composition, you can plainly see the erected signage that spells out "PUBLIC MARKET". Now if that is not a silly thing to associate your coffee business with, I don't know what is.

They also have a variety of flavored coffees, which in and of itself is not unusual. But they have a strange hybrid of flavored coffee. They have married the traditional high fructose corn syrup with the trade marked, registered, intellectual property of other businesses. For instance, they
offer the Cinnabon® Flavored Coffee. One cup for breakfast, one for lunch, and a sensible dinner, and you are on your way to that size 3 bikini just in time for spring break. Since when does the flavor of a flavored coffee have a little R in a circle? I am not really sure what the implications of such marketing strategies for name branding this may have, but I have a really bad gut reaction to it. I'll have to sleep on it to figure this one out.

The icing on the cinnamon flavored bun is this, Starbucks owns Seattle's Best Coffee since 2003. They were very well aware of their reputation as the nations second biggest retailer of charcoal, right behind Kingsford. In an attempt to scoop up the other piece of the pie graph, they needed an outlet for what they describe as coffee with "smooth flavors". Presumably that means coffee that is not roasted so dark, or unsmooth. But this is not about bashing Starbucks, this is about the bookstore.

The cafes in the book superstore giant, (O.K., I'll go ahead and tell you, it is Borders) have suffered for at least a decade from a lack of freshness from the roasters to the cup. The beans are roasted, stored in warehouse, shipped, stored in a warehouse, shipped again, then sit on the shelf in the cafe for a week or tow before brewing. But what has been more harmful are the blends themselves. The brewed coffee house blend is sour with notes of saltiness. This is good on a potato chip, or in BBQ sauce, but there is a time and place for these things, and its not in a cup of coffee, ever. And it has tasted the same for years, so it is not just a bad batch.

I would have to say that when they complete the transition, the quality of the product at the book store cafe will no doubt improve, and quite frankly, I count on the corporate giants to provide a "gateway" product to pull people into the specialty coffee market. I just wish they would get off the notion of flavored coffee. If you don't want the taste of coffee in you drink,
please, order a Mt. Dew.
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Charting the long road back to South Eastern Regional Barista Championship, things about Coffee and Espresso, Mushrooms and Mycophilia, and maybe even the occasional Hand Made Guitar, bloggity blog blog, ca ca ca ca......

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Location: Garner, North Carolina, United States

Born in a cabbage patch, raised on a raddish farm, trained in the marshall arts, graduated like a pitcher, I cut my teeth on an Ohio Scientific Aardvak.

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