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December 2010

Ho! Ho! Ho! And Some Jolly Old Soul

The framework for music this time of year is constructed around mid-20th century fare written by composers who penned tunes made famous by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and so forth. Your Irving Berlin, your Mel Tormé, your J. Fred Coots. (And, man, they don’t make names like they used to, do they?) That’s the kind of Christmas music, that prevalent sound you can find on our seasonal compilations, like this year’s Sleigh Ride Side by Side.

But, of course, the holiday songbook has many chapters, ranging from secular to non-secular, ancient hymns to batty novelties. You like bagpipes? Help yourself. Want something a bit sunnier? Transport yourself to Hawaii.

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Used Paper Cups Become New Again

I want to let you know about an important milestone in our recycling journey. Earlier this month, we completed a six-week pilot project that – for the first time – proved our used paper cups can be recycled into new paper cups.

To make this happen, we collaborated with International Paper, our largest cup supplier, and Mississippi River Pulp LLC, the company that produces post-consumer recycled fiber (PCF) for our paper cups. While the PCF for our current paper cups is made from office paper, the PCF used for the pilot project contains used cup material.

This advancement brings us one step closer to our goal of ensuring that 100% of our cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015. By “recyclable,” we’re not just talking about the cup design, but the ability for local communities to collect, haul and process our cups for recycling. We want customers to be able to recycle single-use cups in our stores, in their homes and workplaces, and in public spaces. While some communities already recycle our cups, most don’t have the right infrastructure in place – and that’s what we’re aiming to influence.

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The Joy of Christmas, Even On the Go

Christmas has many memories for me – the childhood ones are glowing, happy thoughts of tinsel-decked trees, crisp New England air with the chance of snow, and the delightful anticipation of Christmas morning’s presents.

Now as a working adult living in a Seattle condo, I enjoy the milder Northwestern winters and have a small tree that isn’t any higher than my waist – but I still love the season, especially since I can now enjoy a cup of spiced eggnog or mulled wine with my holiday dinners.

There’s only one aspect of the holidays that has been a major downgrade from when I was a child, and that can be summed up in a single word: travel. With my entire family living on the other side of the country, I inevitably get on a plane every year right in the heart of the busiest travel season. I’ve encountered every conceivable delay: snow storms, plane trouble, inexplicably canceled flights, missed connections and on and on.

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Perfect Balance, Perfect Joy

The day after Thanksgiving, bustling groups of shoppers, parade-goers and Pike Place Market tourists kept our downtown Seattle Starbucks humming all morning long. As I was preparing dozens of holiday beverage samples, a couple of baristas working alongside me shared their enthusiasm for our Tazo® Joy™ tea but surprise that it doesn’t smell like the holidays.

“I really like it but was expecting it to have cinnamon, cloves or some other spices”, one barista explained. “Me too, though I thought it should have minty notes,” another continued.

While our traditional holiday tea may not have these traditional holiday scents, it is one of my all-time favorites. It brings a perfect balance to what can otherwise be a really busy time of year. I love it for its medium body, its peachy smooth flavor, aromas of burnt caramel and brown sugar, and how well it goes with a little food and delightful conversation.

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History in the Making

I’ve recently returned from a trip to China where Starbucks signed two historic Memoranda of Understanding to invest in growing high-quality coffee in Yunnan province. We’ll be collaborating with the People’s Government of Pu’er City (Yunnan Province) and the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences. These agreements signal cooperation between Starbucks and China to revolutionize the Chinese coffee market and help local farmers there grow new, high-quality coffees that are sure to be prized throughout the world.

Although we will continue to buy coffees from many countries, this opportunity allows us to help build China’s specialty coffee market from scratch. We’ll open another Farmer Support Center, manage a base farm to grow coffee for production and create a demo farm that offers training on soil quality, tree planting and pruning, and education about C.A.F.E. Practices. We will also operate wet and dry mills. Between the agronomists and partners with years of leadership in the coffee industry, we have the experience necessary to be very successful. I am excited about the immense opportunity this partnership represents.

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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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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 (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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‘Tis the Season for Pink Martini

Some artists are as suited to the holidays as Santa himself. Think Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole – a couple of guys who came across the right song at the right time and became perennial Christmastime faves. For Der Bingle it was “White Christmas,” which he first recorded in 1942. A little while later, Cole staked his claim to “The Christmas Song,” recording four sterling versions between 1946 and 1951.

Our ultra-modern version of Crosby and Cole is Pink Martini. The Portland, Ore.–based ensemble has been wowing fans since the mid-1990s with eclectic music that embraces everything from vintage lounge (hence the name) to cabaret to world music.

Fans of our annual holiday compilations are familiar with the works of PM maestro Thomas Lauderdale, vocalist China Forbes and their 10 cohorts. We’d enlisted the band to contribute their versions of seasonal staples to three of our last five collections, including this year’s Sleigh Ride Side by Side collection.

With that history in mind, our own Holly H. began prodding the band to record an entire album geared for holiday festivities. The result is Joy to the World, a stylish, all-over-the-map celebration of the season. A bracing cocktail, it blends tried-and-true favorites with uncommon additions to the year-end songbook, such as the Hebrew prayer “Elohai N’tzor” and “Shchedryk,” which is “Carol of the Bells” in its original Ukrainian cast.

The album topped Billboard’s jazz chart and climbed all the way to No. 35 on the pop-album charts. And, of course, it’s being snapped up by our customers. Don’t worry, though. More are arriving!

Goes to show an archetype from the heyday of hi-fi – the Yuletide LP – is still welcome in a wi-fi world. Bing and King would be pleased.

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