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Starbucks Natural Fusions

Love for the Flavors (Cinnamon)

During the holidays, I’m finding the aroma of cinnamon everywhere from my coffee cup to my kitchen. Like most people, its aroma makes me very happy. It reminds me of the holidays and brings on a joyful emotion. Cinnamon can add a subtle spice, or it can bring some real heat that you feel in your mouth. I find Cinnamon is fun to play with in the kitchen, as it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. And cinnamon can add character whether you use a lot of it or just a hint: I double the amount of cinnamon when I make pumpkin pie to give it extra spiciness, and I just add a dash when I’m cooking up some stir-fry to add flavor depth.

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Love for the Flavors (Vanilla)

Exploring flavor is a part of my life at home and at work. Blending vanilla with coffee felt natural to me as it is one of my favorite baking ingredients. I find vanilla to be a comforting flavor. Its subtle sweetness lends itself well to many things. Depending on the region where the vanilla bean comes from, you can create different flavors. I love baking cookies, and I just get so excited to try out vanilla flavors from different regions to see how the little bit added makes the taste change. My favorite vanilla extract type to use in chocolate chip cookies is from India, because it is sweet and creamy and it enhances the chocolatey-ness. And my favorite vanilla extract to use in molasses cookies is from Indonesia, because the flavors are very complementary – Indonesian vanilla extract tends to be woody and smoky.

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Cinnamon Croissant French Toast

“As a chef, I always look for new ways to reinvent classic recipes,” says chef Paul McCullough, owner of Paul’s Kitchen Catering in Los Angeles, Calif. He recently shared a recipe with us that uses Starbucks® Natural Fusions Cinnamon so we wanted to share it with you!

Paul’s recipe reinvents the traditional French toast recipe, turning the conventional dish into a beautiful, brunch-worthy Cinnamon Croissant French Toast. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Croissant French Toast
Serves 8

- 4 croissants cut in half
- Egg mixture (4 eggs, 1/2 cup half and half, 1/2 cup Starbucks® Natural Fusions Cinnamon brewed double-strength)
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- Topping (1 cup real maple syrup, 1/4 cup brewed Starbucks® Natural Fusions Cinnamon (optional), 2 medium pears, sliced thin)

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Love for the Flavors (Caramel)

It was a fun journey bringing vanilla, caramel and cinnamon to a cup of coffee in Starbucks® Natural Fusions. I want to share how each of those flavors means something special to me, starting with intense, smooth, sweet caramel!

There are different types of caramel and forms that it can come in, plus it can be made with different ingredients that change the flavor. Most of the time you see caramel used in sweet goods. The caramel flavor of the food or beverage is dependent on the point of caramelization reached. It depends on if you are looking for more of a burned-sugar flavor or a caramel flavor with sweet softness. When I dream of caramel, it is always as a bowl of rich vanilla ice cream with a thick drizzle of some salty buttery caramel sauce poured on top.

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Finding the Right Coffee

One of the great benefits of my job is that I get to taste the incoming green coffee arrivals – so I get to experience a wide spectrum of flavors, nuances and complexities in the coffees we source from different countries and growing regions.

When I was asked to join the Starbucks® Natural Fusions team, I was able to draw upon my tasting experience and come up with a great coffee the R&D team could begin to use as a base to combine with the flavorings. The coffees we purchase are ethically sourced and must pass stringent quality standards, so all I had to focus on was matching the flavors that R&D had targeted.

We ended up choosing a coffee from Latin America with a mild acidity, medium body and a clean, chocolaty finish.

As we went through different tastings to perfect the right combination of ingredients, the coffee proved over and over again to be the right choice. It always remained the core of the blend that allowed the ingredients to shine in a flavorful, nuanced way.

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Hard Work and Love in a Flavored Coffee

Creating the three Starbucks® Natural Fusions flavored coffees involved a lot of coffee tasting to ensure the ingredients were just right. After many cuppings of brewed coffee, we selected beans that were specially blended and roasted to complement each flavor we had in mind.

We’d start with a particular coffee and try it with different kinds of our main flavor ingredient, like cinnamon – since a flavor can have many different characteristics. Think of “hot” cinnamon, “sweet” cinnamon and “warm” cinnamon and you see what I mean.

We’d blend the flavor and coffee, brew and taste until the right flavor profile and strength came through. Then we’d enhance a flavor and make it more complex in taste by adding other spices and botanicals. All in all, we did a lot of tastings. You can imagine all of the combinations and all of the different components that had to be evaluated to get us to where the coffees are now.

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The Inspiration Behind the Flavors

We spent years creating and tasting Starbucks® Natural Fusions. So when you’re drinking these naturally flavored coffees, remember a lot of love and care went into it to make each one a special treat!

The flavor inspiration behind Starbucks® Natural Fusions Vanilla was the vanilla pod itself: subtle, sweet, creamy, slight woody and floral. Think of what you smell when you use vanilla extract at home. This blend is a fusion of lightly roasted Latin American coffee (which lends slight floral notes), ground vanilla pods, Indian sarsaparilla (a root that provides a sweet, creamy taste) and natural flavor.

Starbucks® Natural Fusions Caramel was inspired by the caramel sauce we have in our stores: very rich, smooth, buttery and sweet, with a burnt sugar taste. This blend uses a dark-roasted Latin American coffee (which has a nice toastiness), complemented with licorice root (adding sweetness and creaminess), orange peel and natural flavor.

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