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A Coffee Born Out of a Challenge

In 2003, Canlis – one of the finest restaurants in Seattle – wanted a Starbucks coffee they could serve for dinner and dessert. But they believed we didn’t have an offering that could satisfy their discerning customers and deliver a premium experience in all brewing methods: brewed, pressed and espresso.

At first, I was kind of astounded. I thought about the flavors delivered by our Caffè Verona®, Guatemala Antigua and Gold Coast Blend®. Weren’t these coffees, with their incredibly rich, complex and distinctive flavors, more than well-suited for the tables at Canlis?

But then I began to think that there was more to this request – and to think of it as a challenge. Just to make sure we understood their needs, we invited Mark Canlis, the restaurant owner, and his chefs into our Tasting Room. We discussed ingredient sourcing and how important it was for them to truly understand where it all comes from – not just the origin, but the manner in which it was sourced and who was producing it.

During this conversation, we both realized that we shared the same passion and relentless focus on delivering the highest quality, sustainable ingredients to our customers. We also learned they wanted a coffee that was unique – something special and outside of our everyday offerings.

So, over a table of various desserts and coffees, we focused on the one coffee – the one specific region – that could deliver a cup and a story that was unparalleled: the Antigua region of Guatemala.

 For well over 20 years, Starbucks has been buying the best farm coffees from the Antigua valley. The farms are all located at altitudes above 5,000 feet, surrounded by three volcanoes: Agua, Acatenango and Fuego. Our relationship with the farmers in this region has been cultivated over many years. We’ve helped to build, fund and sustain free medical clinics for the residents and surrounding farms.

For Guatemala Casi Cielo, we chose two farms, San Miquel and Santa Clara, each with their own community clinic, on opposite sides of the valley. The flavors of cocoa, spice, citrus and lavender are intensified and permeate this complex blend in a way that rivals the best wines of the world.

Looking back nearly seven years ago, we created a blend out of a sincere and passionate need. While it is sometimes not easy to hear a customer’s concerns, if you allow yourself to, you will always learn something new. Guatemala Casi Cielo® taught us a lot. When we listen to a customer, we truly open up ourselves to the possibilities of what can be.

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