Metropolis Coffee Company isn’t the only roaster around who made a big change to their annual holiday blend in 2012. Starbucks Coffee Company did too.
Last year, Starbucks unveiled their highly anticipated Blonde roast; it’s the same thing as their regular coffees, just roasted a little bit lighter. This year, they made one more change by offering a slightly lighter roasted version of their Christmas Blend.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping a cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend Blonde Roast. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Everybody knows that nothing says “Christmas” like corporate commercialization. And everybody knows that no corporation is better at commercialization than Starbucks Coffee Company—the juggernaut of American coffee consumption. And with all the commercialization shoved in our faces everyday between Halloween and Christmas Day on television, radio, and in every department store we walk into, it’s no wonder that Americans are losing sight of what the holidays are all about. And with the complete market saturation Starbucks Coffee Company has been displaying for the past twenty-some years, with their massive popularity, and with their billions upon billions of dollars that they rake in every year, it’s no wonder that most people have completely lost sight of what coffee should be.
I guess Starbucks and the holiday season go hand in hand.
Coffee and coffee shops have become a bit of a joke in popular culture. We’re all familiar with the media’s idea of what a barista looks like: long, shaggy hair, thick-framed, horn-rimmed glasses, a bracelet made of hemp, etcetera. We’re all familiar with the general public’s resistance to cafes because the prices are just too astronomically high for “nothing more than a cup of coffee with some milk in it.” That’s the reason so many people stick to Folger’s and Hill’s Brothers. These are also the same people that say, “Coffee is coffee. It all tastes exactly the same, so there’s no reason to pay more for it.”
Hey. As long as we’re being honest, if they’re talking about Starbucks, they’re right. I’ve yet to taste a Starbucks coffee that didn’t taste exactly like the one before it. I’ve yet to taste one where my tasting notes journal didn’t read “smoky, bold, ashy” afterwords. This is Starbucks tradition—roasting their beans into oblivion.
Last year, though, Starbucks broke with tradition with their so-called “Blonde” roast. We tried one of their Blonde-roasted blends when it came out and the bottom line was that, while the coffee is certainly a heck of a lot better than anything else Starbucks does, it still has that roasty flavor that is Starbucks’ signature profile.
Now, in 2012, they are continuing their new tradition of offering two different roast profiles with their Christmas Blend Blonde. It has the same components as their regular Christmas blend, but it’s roasted slightly lighter. We’re about to see if it’s any different than their year-round Blonde blends (or their regular Christmas blend, for that matter).
origins: Sumatra // South America
Last year, I got a little cruel describing Starbucks Christmas Blend when I wrote, “the aroma was a tinge of burnt reindeer fur with hint of smoldering ashes after a wildfire in a forest of pine trees in the North Pole. It smells like Santa’s famous red suit after his jolly belly lodges him in a narrow chimney while chestnuts roast on an open fire just below him.”
The Blonde version isn’t anything close to this description. There’s a tinge of roasted nuts, sure, but there are also some softer aromatics of cherry blossoms and cedar.
The same goes for the flavor, really. Yeah, it has some of that signature Starbucks roastiness, but it’s not nearly as bad as it could be. Furthermore, despite the roastiness, this cup actually has a small amount of clarity to it. Some really nice soft spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon. As it cools off, some fruity flavors of cherry, orange peel, and a mellow citrus acidity come to the forefront.
Medium body; buttery mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line
I can’t say that I’m surprised—it was everything that I thought it was going to be. While it was definitely the best cup of coffee one could get at Starbucks this time of year, it still had all of the components that make Starbucks coffees… well, Starbucks.
It was roasty and toasty, even a little metallic. However, besides that, it actually had some nice things going for it.
So the bottom line is that, if you’ve got somebody in your family that loves Starbucks and you have a moral dilemma buying beans for them as a gift, you don’t need to feel too badly about this one.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.