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A Tribute to 40 Years of Coffee with You

It was around this time last year that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz met with our team to discuss a special coffee for our 40th anniversary. He challenged us to create a blend unlike anything we have ever offered. Make it unique. Make it speak to our heritage. Make it encapsulate everything we stand for. And make it speak to the next 40 years and all that is yet to come.

We walked out of his office a little afraid … and very, very excited to get to work. We started at once. We gathered just about every kind of coffee we’ve ever roasted, from every corner of the globe. Nothing was off the table – and I mean that literally. Our tables were jam-packed with potential components for our yet-to-be-named celebration blend. Coffees from all three of the growing regions: Latin America, Africa/Arabia, and Asia/Pacific. We had sun-dried coffees, semi-washed and washed coffees. Myriad places and flavors from which to choose. Where to begin?

We began playing with many different components, blending them together, a little of this and a little of that. Before we knew it we had some 30 different blends put together in our tasting room. Some of these blends were really quite good and some not as much. But of the blends that we liked, we just didn’t feel there was “the one” – a blend that was worthy of marking 40 years with you.

We took a step back. We thought about what we’ve done over the years that truly speak to our heritage. Then Dub, our senior vice president of coffee, had a great idea.

“Two things we are known for,” he said, “are Aged Sumatra and sun-dried Ethiopian coffees.” And he was right. Aged Sumatra is the cornerstone of two of our most popular offerings, Christmas Blend and Anniversary Blend. And some of the most respected coffees in our past have been the sun-dried Ethiopian coffees from Harrar and Sidamo. He suggested we go with those two coffees as a starting point. It turned out he was onto something.

We’d never tried these two coffees together in the same cup before. When used in a blend, both of their flavor profiles are so powerful that they tend to be the dominant flavor. So to have both at once would take some work on the part of the other blend components.

We looked at all the possibilities. We knew we needed coffees that would fill the spaces between the powerful, spicy notes of the Aged Sumatra and the bold, cherry notes of the Sun-Dried Ethiopia. After many concoctions, we came across two coffees with promise: Colombia and Papua New Guinea. These two coffees added the brighter top notes we were looking for to bring all the flavors together. We were excited. Starbucks Tribute Blend™ was born. Or at least we thought it was.

When we create new blends, we start with small samples roasted on the tiny roasters in our tasting room. After we land on the blend components, we test the blends in our larger-scale roasters used for production. Each of the coffees in our lineup goes through this process so we can be sure to find the specific roast for the specific flavors we want.

So when we did the initial large-scale test roasts for Starbucks Tribute Blend™ we found that the lighter-roasted batches highlighted too much of the Sun-Dried Ethiopia flavor, leaving the Aged Sumatra component as an under-developed afterthought. And the darker roasts brought the spicy-cedary characteristics of the Aged Sumatra too much to the forefront, burying the Ethiopian flavors. What to do?

Some of the blends in our lineup are post-roast blends, meaning that they are blended after roasting to bring out the specific flavor characteristics. So, with not much time to spare, we found that by roasting the Sun-Dried Ethiopia separately and slightly lighter than the other three components, we could hit all of the flavor markers we wanted. The result is the Starbucks Tribute Blend™ you will soon have in your cup. It’s in stores on March 8, but you can order it early in whole bean or Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew.

We’re very excited to share this special coffee with you. Here’s to the last 40 years spent in our stores, in your homes, and in all of our communities – and to the next 40 years together. Cheers.

comments (38)

Comment FAQ

    • greenwob
    • 3/4/2011 8:15 AM

    Just sampled a Frech Press at the 25th Street Store in Hillsboro Oregon- where the people are sweet and the coffee is rich... NOW FOR MY REVIEW - Tribute is an aged blend that speaks to the clean, fruitful finish found in Ethiopian and the earthy chocolate found in Sumatran. Tribute is everything that Pikes wants to be. Today I drink Tribute in honor of all the good people of Starbucks that bring me such passion for coffee everyday.

    • kirstistubbs
    • 3/4/2011 1:51 PM

    Amazing coffee and the pairings are endless! Today we tried Dark Chocolate covered pomegranate berries with our Tribute Blend! Each time I taste this coffee I cant help but be reminded of my first Starbucks shift in 2001 at Cook Street store in Victoria BC... arabian mocha sanani with blueberries was the first tasting I did that day! What a perfect way celebrate an exciting time in our company.

    • jaziec
    • 3/6/2011 9:43 AM


    • goldmarie
    • 3/7/2011 10:07 AM

    I ordered my favorite Pikes Place Roast the other day and I was asked if I would like to try the new Tribute blend. I decided to try it. I love it!! It is my very favorite! Thank you! Happy 40th!

    • scifam4
    • 3/7/2011 10:30 AM

    I agree with greenwob. It is everything Pike wants to be. If this replaces or is offered alongside the rather boring Pike as a standard offering, I would be a happier customer. This is a great addition.

    • bfyoung
    • 3/7/2011 7:42 PM

    I can't wait to have my cup tomorrow. The Starbucks on Roan Street in Johnson City , TN will create the 40th anniversary spirit ... I plan to be there!

    • dnaboston
    • 3/8/2011 8:13 PM

    I love the Tribute blend (the Christmas blend has always been one of my favorites) but it is my understanding that it will only be offered for a short time and then never to be made again??? Any truth to that? I raise my new Tribute cup to Becca, Katy and Lawrence - the best of the best at my frequently visited (3 times per day), Aurora, IL Starbucks!!

    • ahyi88
    • 3/8/2011 9:33 PM

    What a nice coffee i never try before....I love it ~ just waiting for VIA come to malaysia..from malaysia partner

    • 3/12/2011 7:58 PM

    I tried the new Tribute coffee over the weekend in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I thoroughly enjoyed it as it offers a full, tasty blend. I appreciate the innovation and desire to create new coffee experiences.

    • phylross@
    • 3/16/2011 5:57 AM

    do not like the Tribute blend at all. It is not the bold blend as promoted. Has a very weak taste. Bold should mean bold for those of us who like robust coffee. Would very much like to have more choice. Tribute and Pikes blends are about the same, leaving nothing for anyone who wants that really bold experience!

      • chelseamonet
      • 3/16/2011 4:24 PM

      In reply to: phylross@

      what do you like? just wondering? I mean specifically what is your favorite bold coffee. I think they wanted to make a bold for everyone not just veryyy strong coffee lovers. that way every could participate in the TRIBUTE experienceeee!!!

    • lianamscott
    • 3/17/2011 11:17 AM

    LOVE IT!! Why aren't all your stores carrying it as one of the regular drip blends?

    • Starbuckslut69
    • 3/20/2011 2:36 PM

    I had a venti tribute the other day and loved it. Way better than pikes. Then I made some tribute in my French press after a hot wet bath and loved it even more. I save tons of money buying whole beans and making my own. Everyone that waits in line every morning is LAZY!!

    • erikorlando
    • 3/20/2011 9:05 PM

    Can you make Tribute the everyday brew and get rid of Pikes? I have yet to speak to anyone who likes Pikes better. Tribute is far superior!

    • gweissen
    • 3/22/2011 5:47 AM

    I agree 100% with erikorlando. PIkes blend drove me out of Starbucks for "every day" coffee. Tribute brought me back in. It is by far the best "non-bar" coffee that Starbucks has offered. I also can't find anyone that prefers Pikes to Tibute. Not only does Tribute have superior tase, but a far superior aftertaste that sits well on the tongue (Pikes "burns" a little; it's aftertaste is not smooth and flavorful like Tribute).

    • Starbuckslut69
    • 3/22/2011 6:40 AM

    Blueberry scones:):):) yummy in my tummy. The scones make love toy tummy!!

    • heron02
    • 4/11/2011 12:05 PM

    As someone who is starting to come to Starbucks more often, I'll have to agree that the tribute blend is quite awesome and even purchased the VIA pack of it and shared it with some of my friends and family. From the northeast, Dunkin tends to dominate, which majority of my friends and family drink AND I can assure you, they loved it. Be sad to see this blend go...

    • travelster
    • 4/12/2011 1:10 PM

    This is one of the rare Starbucks coffee's I did't like. Tastes over-roasted to the point of being burnt and appears to have much less caffeine than usual dark roasts. I actually returned the bag to the store for a refund.

    • coffee9876
    • 4/18/2011 2:27 PM

    The coffee is soooooo good.

    • misterlucky
    • 4/20/2011 10:42 AM

    Can someone explain to me why I can't get my French Press coffee to taste as good as in the store coffee? What do I need to do... I bought some of this Tribute blend, but now it is time to make it.

      • nlowe66
      • 4/20/2011 10:12 PM

      In reply to: misterlucky

      When you use your French Press are you, 1. Using boiling hot water? 2. Letting it steep for a certain amount of time? You might find this link helpful. Cheers! ~Natalie

        • misterlucky
        • 4/30/2011 4:17 PM

        In reply to: nlowe66

        I use water just after it boiled and I let it steep for about 10 minutes typically

        • no1tek
        • 5/2/2011 11:49 AM

        In reply to: misterlucky

        If you are letting the coffee go for 10 minutes before you press it you are leaving it on way to long. It should be pressed at the 4 minute mark. After 4 minutes you are not only not going to improve the cup, you are extracting all of the most bitter elemets of it. You want to make sure you use enough coffee (2 oz. by weight or approximately 3/4 of a cup if you can't weigh it per 32 oz. of water) to get the proper extraction. Resist the temptation to try to get more flavor from less coffee

      • no1tek
      • 4/26/2011 8:32 AM

      In reply to: misterlucky

      Use filtered water. Be sure to use it just off the boil. Grind the coffee on a course setting. Be sure the press is clean. You can use a little white vinegar to wipe down the press and then wash it to remove any residual funky flavors if necessary. Stir the coffee gently after adding the water to saturate the grounds. Be sure to time it for four minutes and not guess at the duration. Press and enjoy!!

      • no1tek
      • 4/26/2011 11:00 AM

      In reply to: misterlucky

      BTW..I forgot the most important tpart...MAke sure you are using the proper amount of coffee. Many people you far to little. It should take about 2 OZ. of coffee to make an 8-cup (32oz.) press of coffee. Only in France could a cup be 4 oz.!

    • no1tek
    • 4/26/2011 11:01 AM

    Sorry for the typos!

    • wmd_slp
    • 5/26/2011 8:01 AM

    Bring it back!! I want more! Great blend, but needs to be available year round!

    • etorok
    • 5/29/2011 5:46 PM

    I have enjoyed this coffee more than any other one and would be ecstatic if it were available all the time. Could you please make it available? Three region seems weak in comparison.

    • serfer0
    • 5/30/2011 10:08 AM

    Love that region!

    • amprlp
    • 5/31/2011 6:21 PM

    Please bring back the Tribute blend.

    • condor1313
    • 6/13/2011 3:36 PM

    I've been drinking Starbucks coffee for about35 years and the Tribute coffee is by far the greatest I have had,but was unable to purchase more than 2 lbs before it sold out. I visited 8 different store in the area to no avail. I need somemore, please

    • 6/22/2011 12:32 PM

    I agree, Tribute is the best coffee I've had in a long time. I would also beg Starbucks to consider bringing it back - I was able to stock up on some before it went away but it won't last forever...

    • debken69
    • 6/27/2011 7:23 AM

    Got hooked on the Christmas blends and did not buy enough before it was gone. I searched the world over and I did not find anymore true love. Tribute is better. And yes, I stocked up. French presser's, H20 temp should be between 195 and 200 or the extraction will be ruined. Let sit for 1minute then stir. Let sit for 4 minutes, then press and enjoy.

    • debken69
    • 6/27/2011 7:26 AM

    Also, you must grind it yourself and use filtered water. Whewww gotta have some!

    • StarBucksBZ
    • 9/24/2011 8:52 PM

    Please bring back Tribute to buy. At least let us order it.

    • StarBucksBZ
    • 9/24/2011 8:59 PM

    Loved the Tribute and miss it so much. Please let us order it if you will not keep it in the stores. Let us keep celebrating the 40 years. Pikes is good but nothing like Tribute. I use to treat my coworkers to Tribute.

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