Ishan Natalie of Starbucks during a coffee pairing presentation at Melrose Arch earlier this week. | Picture: NOKUTHULA MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)
Ishan Natalie of Starbucks during a coffee pairing presentation at Melrose Arch earlier this week. | Picture: NOKUTHULA MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

Starbucks Reserve’s exclusive offerings all have their own unique stories

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published Oct 17, 2020

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Just like fashion, coffee offerings change each season.

Certain roasts are in vogue at a particular time of the year, giving coffee shops, restaurants and cafes the creative license to experiment with distinctive brews depending on the weather and occasion.

While some coffees which can be enjoyed in any month throughout the globe, much of this industry also subscribes to Coco Chanel’s acclaimed notion that ‘fashion is fast and goes but style lasts forever.’

This is certainly the case at Starbucks where their Reserve Collection offers caffeine enthusiasts an exclusive range of one of the world's most popular beverages.

These distinguished blends are in accordance with the multinational coffee house’s and roastery reserves chain’s five different seasons, with much of the South African spring offering already selling out.

This week, The Saturday Star visited the US coffee giant’s Melrose Arch branch where the head of its Reserve Collection Ishan Natalie explained that the coffees originating from Brazil, Rwanda and Ecuador are all in season and that each has its own unique story, personality and flavours.

“It comes down to the customer’s taste profile and what they like and with Reserve we generally see our regular customers transition from our core offering to this collection because they want something new and unique and they absolutely fall in love with it,” the multiple award-winning barista said.

While Starbucks’s core coffees are widely available and are grown by large scale farmers, the Reserve Collection comes from small growers, mostly from impoverished communities, and this exclusive range comprises just a fraction of the world’s coffee contribution.

“Our Reserve coffees form part of just 1% of coffee offerings in the world and in terms of specialty blends, it is just 0.01%,” said Natalie.

As these three blends come from a specific region in the world and just a small batch is harvested each season, this also means that more attention can be paid to it.

This gives consumers a unique tasting experience as they can savour more intense flavours and nuances than with regular coffee.

But it’s not just something to quench the thirst, as Natalie, whose name tag humoursley displays his nickname of ‘The Dodgy Barista,’ insisted.

During the media coffee tasting, he explained that each coffee can be paired with carefully selected fruit and snacks to enhance its flavour.

Hazelnut, chocolate, strawberries, blueberries and dates complements the Brazilian blend while the Rwandan brew can be paired with citrus fruit, dark chocolate,graham crackers and nougat.

The flavours of the Reserve Collection from Ecuador, which was shipped to South Africa and other countries around the world for the first time in decades this year, can be boosted by snacking on cranberries and other dried fruit.

“We don't know if we will get this coffee again because it's in such limited supply and this makes it a lot more special and the quality is phenomenal.”

Apart from its unique flavour and pairing components, these coffee blends from Africa and South America also have a distinctive background story.

“For the Brazilian coffee, the farmer went to visit wine farms in Argentina to see how they brew and process wine because coffee and wine are so similar in terms of how it grows, the nutrients in the soil and how it fits into a customer's hands,” Natalie said.

“He then sun dried the coffee beans in natural sunlight for about two to three weeks which gave it a deeper sweetness and fruit flavour.”

Natalie, who is a three time South African barista champion and competed at three world championships, said this is his favourite offering for the year.

“It is soft and delicate and has intense tones of berries, chocolate and nuts.”

The Rwandan brew is also a unqiue tale, with the beans grown mostly by women who have been affected by the genocide and unrest in the country.

“This coffee comes from a village of women who were impacted by genocide and many of them were orphaned and widowed and this was their livelihood and a way of taking care of their families,” Natalie said.

Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian coffee is mostly the product of young farmers who according to Natalie, left their lives in the urban regions of the country to become coffee farmers.

“Coffee farmers usually pass their coffee skills and knowledge to their children but this is the complete opposite,” he said.

“I have never seen it before where youngsters who live in urban environments chose to leave their careers and become coffee farmers.”

As these brews are grown in small batches and have to be shared at all Starbucks Reserve collections around the world, they might be more expensive than other core menu items.

But apart from their improved quality, Natalie believes that they are also healthier and more flavourful than a normal cappuccino or latte.

“Because it's brewed with special methods and machinery, it doesn't need milk or sugar.”

“It is a perfect mix of just water and coffee because brewing is both art and science.”

The Saturday Star

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