Boycott Watch  
April 4, 2008
Product Review: Starbucks' new Pike Place Coffee
Summary: Does Starbucks' new coffee blend live up to the claim of "smooth and bold?"
Update May 11, 2008:

After visiting several Starbuck's stores over the past month, we discovered that some stores consistently server a very harsh version of Pike Place while most stores server a decent cup of coffee, despite the entire chain closing for one day to train employees. Starbuck's needs to review their coffee brewing procedures.

The original report follows:
    Starbucks Coffee announced a new blend this week called Pike Place, named after their first store location, telling consumers this new brew is "smooth and bold." The reason for the new blend is to compete with the newest coffee offerings from McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and other food retailers.

    An article in the Wall Street Journal about the new coffee offering mentioned objections consumers have had for a long time - Starbucks coffee is too strong and even tastes burnt to some. The new brew, unfortunately, is not that much different. I have always had to ask Starbucks "barista's," a fancy name for "people who puts coffee into a paper cup," to water down the coffee to human strength, which for me meant one third water.

    I was sincerely looking forward to being able to get a normal cup of coffee at Starbucks, and after tasting it, I soon discovered that the Pike Place blend too tasted burnt, but just not as burnt as the regular Starbucks coffee. Both my father and I had to have the coffee watered down to be able to drink it, but only about 15% as opposed to 33%.

    Still, the coffee was too harsh. While it was bold as advertised, it was not smooth at all. In the Wall Street Journal article, Starbucks stated they wanted to get back to what consumers wanted and not just the espresso blends they are known for. If that is the case, Starbucks missed the boat with this blend.

    I believe consumers are looking forward to a new blend at Starbucks, but Pike Place is not it.

    Fred Taub

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