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Restaurants & Bars 28

Starbucks testing in Boston (like, really long)

jkv | Feb 20, 2008 11:18 AM

I know that this is clearly a topic about a fairly well-known national chain, but since they're only running this test in Seattle and Boston, I'm going to try it out here. I invite moderators to move it to Chain-ville if they deem it to be appropriate.

I don't know how well reported it's been, but Starbucks, as part of their recent corporate shuffling, has started testing something called "fresh-pressed" coffee, which is made with the ever-controversial (and crazy expensive) Clover coffeemaker. When I discovered that one of the Harvard Square Starbuckses (in the Garage) had gotten themselves a Clover, I ran--I did not walk.

The short version is that it's, by far, the best Starbucks coffee I've ever had. The long version is that the cash register girl gave me the big sigh when I asked for the silly, "fresh-pressed" coffee ("we're short-staffed" etc.). They offer a choice of beans, including Kona, Aged Sumatra etc., that aren't in their general rotation. I got the Aged Sumatra because that's what I had at the Emeryville, CA, test Peet's and I knew it would be a dark roast. They grind the beans to order, and they come out of tiny little bags, ensuring relative freshness, I'd imagine.

The machine was as cool as advertised (find the video--it's entrancing), and the ensuing coffee had the look of French-pressed coffee, with a touch of brown foam around the rim. And the kicker was that it was silky-smooth, deep and dark, and entirely unrecognizable as a Starbucks product. Better still, it came with a postcard with a link to fill out a survey...and then receive a $5 Starbucks card. Price: $2.25 for a small, $2.50 for a medium (plus tax--this is Taxachusetts, after all). A normal large in the Bay State would be $2.05 after tax, so it's not really a HUGE difference, though the medium obviously gets closer to $3 than one might feel comfortable with.

And that's my story. I feel the burning need to go try the Kona, having never actually had that before. I honestly can't see corporate Starbucks going for this unless they're really serious about quality over quantity. It took a solid 5 minutes to make, and they said they've added staff just for the machine. An extra barista per shift? I just can't see the numbers adding up. Anyway, yum.

The main reason I want this to appear on the Boston board is that, despite a recent (and virtually endless) thread about Boston-area coffee, I find, along with a lot of people, I suspect, the coffee in Boston to really come up short. Yes, I've recently moved back here from the deliriously delicious coffee mayhem of San Francisco (dreaming of Blue Bottle), but still. Anyway, the testing is still going at the Harvard Square, Charles St., and (I think) one of the downtown locations.

Flame on!

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