Reviewing Starbucks' New Blonde Roast Coffee

3 different types of coffee drinkers test Starbucks' new light-roast coffee
Tuesday marked the release of Starbucks' new Blonde Roast coffee, the lightest roast profile to be offered in the chain's 40-year history. The milder brew is available in two new flavors - the "mellow and soft" Veranda Blend (singled out as the favorite on the company web site), and the "bright and clean" Willow Blend, which is also available in decaf.

Click here to see Starbucks' Influence on Our Daily Lives Slideshow

The new product line is designed to appeal to the reported 40 percent of American coffee drinkers who favor a lighter roasted coffee - potentially translating to a $1 billion opportunity. What's more, the new roast profile will allow Starbucks to compete with companies like McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, who already specialize in a lighter roast style. (And presumably to ditch that not-so-affectionate "Charbucks" nickname it's had to carry around for so long.)

Click here to see The Ultimate Guide to Starbucks' Secret Menu Slideshow

© Jane Bruce© Jane BruceWe asked three different types of coffee drinkers to sample the Veranda Blonde Roast and weigh in with their opinion of the new brew. Our tasting panel included a "coffee geek," a frequent coffee drinker with a serious knowledge of the category; a habitual Starbucks consumer who enjoys the chain's traditional bold, dark-roast profile; and a regular coffee consumer who mainly orders the drink for the caffeine content. For comparison purposes, we also provided tastes of Starbucks' Bold coffee, as well as their medium-roast Pike Place, and all three were served black.

What the "coffee geek" had to say: "I normally drink dark, intense espresso, but I don't mind light, aromatic coffee. That is, I'm not prejudiced against light-roasted coffee. But I have to say, this is very boring coffee; there's not much depth of flavor. Normally, light-roasted coffee is supposed to better show the drink's nuances - you don't get that here. It's not the lightness I'm objecting to, but rather the lack of character. Kind of makes me wish I had cream and sugar... and I never take either in my coffee."

Verdict: A boring cup with very little depth of flavor and character.

What the "Starbucks regular" had to say: "Usually, I like drinking Starbucks' Bold coffee with a little milk and sugar. I really like to taste all of the different notes and nuances in my coffee and the Blonde just falls flat. There's nothing light or flavorful about it - it's coffee water!"

Verdict: No thanks, just tastes like watered-down, leftover coffee.

What the "person who just drinks coffee for the caffeine" had to say: "It's definitely weaker than the Pike Place brew I normally drink from Starbucks, but better than your typical deli coffee. I think that when Starbucks doesn't scorch the coffee, the medium-roast Pike Place is pretty flavorful and this one seems a little less complex. But I'd choose it over Starbucks' Bold, for sure, as well as over coffee from McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts."

Verdict: Wouldn't choose it over the medium-roast coffee, but wouldn't be upset if it was the only option available to drink.

Starbucks' Influence on Our Daily Lives:
© Flickr/Duda Pan© Flickr/Duda PanA Constant Innovator
Starbucks has always seemed like that kid in high school that got good grades, was the star of three different varsity sports teams, participated in countless extracurriculars, and still had a social life. They're that rare breed of exceptional, successful multitasker that you can't help but be envious of, yet also can't help but like. From introducing a new roast to developing a new juice bar chain, there appears to be no limit to Starbucks' innovative ways.

© Flickr/poolie© Flickr/poolieThe "Secret" Menu, A More Customized Coffee Experience
For many people, part of Starbucks' appeal is its emphasis on making customers' coffee-drinking experience more customized. The proof is in the popularity of their "secret" menu.

© Maryse Chevriere© Maryse ChevriereIncreasing Awareness About How Coffee is Made
Starbucks may be a large corporation, but they have always strived to be vocal and transparent about their supply chain. A practice which helps keep consumers aware about what goes in to the coffee-making process.

© Flickr/mr. tee hee© Flickr/mr. tee heeEncouraging You to Make Better Coffee at Home
Bags of Starbucks coffee beans feature helpful information about how to improve the taste of homemade coffee. Tips like, "grind beans just before brewing for the freshest taste" and "brew within a week of opening and keep sealed tight in a cabinet (not in the refrigerator).

Click here to see 4 More Ways Starbucks Influences Our Daily Lives

- Maryse Chevriere, The Daily Meal

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How Starbucks is Staying at the Top of Its Game
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