Two years. Two years of my life have gone to a little old company called Starbucks Coffee. If you haven't heard of it, well, I don't know where you have been for the last 41 years... I am still baffled by people who have never been in a Starbucks before. If you live in the United States of America, you literally have NO excuse, none.

My obsession with Starbucks began in the fall of 2006 when I began my undergraduate career at the University of Illinois. It started slowly, with a grande caramel macchiato. But the obsession, nay, addiction, quickly accelerated. Soon it was a venti caramel macchiato, and then a triple venti caramel macchiato, and then a quad venti caramel macchiato. I could no longer function without the sweet ecstasy that was caffeine. I don't even think it was just caffeine that I was addicted to...it truly was Starbucks. I tried other coffee shops on campus, but all paled in comparison.

Following college graduation in May of 2010, I vigorously searched for full-time employment, but came up empty-handed. Thank you TERRIBLE economic recession...seriously, could I have graduated at a more inopportune time?! I sat there, trying to figure out what I would do...

I have been a barista ever since. Initially, I thought it would be temporary employment, when in reality it has become my main source of income since 2010. Nothing temporary about that. The amount that I have learned from working for the company is amazing, and not just about myself, about others, working for large companies, about interacting with many different types of people. However, I have always wanted to learn more, expand my coffee knowledge...

For some, like myself and my good friend Sarah (who I went on the Coffee Master journey with), we wanted to breathe, sleep and dream coffee and were interested in achieving Starbucks's highest level of recognition – the Coffee Master.

If you know what what a wine connaisseur is, the idea is very similar. A connoisseur can be defined as a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgments in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste. Essentially what a Coffee Master is is a person who has gone through training to become knowledgable about all aspects of coffee. Sarah and I began the training in July of this year.

Since this post is already bordering on the point of becoming a novel...I am not going to go through our entire coffee seminar, only key bits.

We'll start as we did in our seminar, with trivia! (Answers are at the end of this post.)

  1. Where and when was Starbucks established?
  2. The name "Starbucks" comes from which classic novel?
  3. Which Starbucks coffee was inspired by a Chicago neighborhood?
  4. Who is the current Starbucks CEO?
  5. What are the three growing regions that Starbucks purchases their beans from?

For our presentation, Sarah and I chose three of our favorite coffees from the Starbucks line-up. We spoke of their defining characteristics, the processing methods, and complementary flavors that go well with the coffees - we even made food pairings to go with each coffee! For the sake of sparing you from a 45-minute blog reading, I will bullet point the key information.

Veranda

  • Roast: blonde
  • Processing Method: washed (wet)
  • Flavor: mellow, soft
  • Acidity: medium
  • Body: light
  • Complementary Flavors: nuts, milk chocolate
  • This is a single region blend of Latin American coffees.
  • FOOD PAIRING: chocolate covered almonds

Kenya

  • Roast: Medium
  • Processing Method: Washed (wet)
  • Flavor: Juicy, complex
  • Acidity: High
  • Body: Full
  • Complementary Flavors: Grapefruit, berries, currants, raisins, oranges
  • This is a single region coffee that works great as an iced coffee due to its high acidity and citrus flavors.
  • FOOD PAIRING: blackberries and raisins

Anniversary Blend (my all-time favorite Starbucks coffee!)

  • Description: A complex, hearty and full-bodied blend of Asia/Pacific coffees and aged Indonesian coffee with a distinctive spicy flavor.
  • Processing Method: Washed (wet), semi-washed
  • Flavor: Spicy, herbal
  • Acidity: Low
  • Body: Full
  • Complementary Flavors: Maple, oats, cinnamon, butter
  • Anniversary Blend was introduced in 1996 to commemorate Starbucks's 25th anniversary.
  • FOOD PAIRING: maple snickerdoodle whoopie pies with maple cinnamon buttercream filling (recipe following...)

I found the recipe for the whoopie pies from the blog, What's Baking in the Barbershop. The instant I saw the recipe, I knew that it would be amazing paired with the Anniversary Blend. And sweet Mary and Joseph...it was as if a million little fireworks were going off in your mouth as a symphony of flavor and goodness overcame your taste buds  It was the best food pairing that the world has ever seen. Ever!

Sarah and I are so grateful for the turnout that we had! About 25 of our family, friends, and customers came to our store to share this exciting step in our journey! If you know Sarah and me, you know that we are absurdly obsessed with our coffee, it truly is our passion. So it goes without saying that it meant the world to us to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with people.

As our Coffee Master journey is coming to a close, it has been fun to think about all of the information that we have learned about coffee, the history, the growing, processing, and roasting methods, the impact Starbucks has on the farming communities, etc. Yes, I am beyond excited to finally have the coveted "black apron," but even more so, I am excited to have the knowledge and passion about the Starbuck product that I can share with customers and fellow partners.

And until October 1st, the day of Sarah and my official Coffee Master certification, I have this little guy taunting me in the back of house...

TRIVIA ANSWERS:

  1. Seattle, Washington in 1971
  2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  3. Gold Coast, which is current referred to as Morning Joe
  4. Howard Schultz
  5. Latin America, Africa, Asia/Pacific

Maple Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies with Maple Cinnamon Buttercream Filling

Maple Snickerdoodle Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple sugar (or 2 teaspoon cinnamon)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the softened margarine and 1 cup of white sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the egg and maple syrup. Gradually add the dry ingredients until everything is just mixed in.
  5. In a small dish, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar 1/4 cup and maple sugar (or about 2 tsp. cinnamon).
  6. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture until coated. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies are "cracked" on top. They may look slightly wet in the middle still (that's okay!).
  8. Cool completely on cooling rack. Makes about 24 - 30 cookies.

Maple Cinnamon Buttercream Ingredients: 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon milk 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (grade A or B is fine) 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. In the work bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter on low speed until creamy.
  2. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, with the mixer on low until incorporated.
  3. Add the milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon, and beat on medium for 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically.
Match up two cookies that are roughly the same size, spread a generous tablespoon of filling on one cookie, put the other cookie on top, and you're good to go!