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February 2011

In Search of Cardamom

Tazo partners Keith, Matt and Scott traveled to Guatemala a few weeks ago to visit key cardamom suppliers and secure our purchases for the next year. Cardamom prices are at 20-year highs because of record worldwide demand and subpar production. Thankfully, through our many hours of facility and field visits, we have a closer relationship with our cardamom supply chain than ever before.

Cardamom is a key component in Tazo® Chai. It’s a rhizome that takes three years to start producing cardamom for harvest, and it’s characterized by its tall, palm fronds and beautiful orchid-like flowers. Cardamom thrives in higher tropical elevations with a steady supply of moderate moisture.

This group of partners traveled to suppliers in Guatemala City and Coban with an agronomist working out of the Starbucks farmer support center in Costa Rica. By visiting cardamom suppliers it allows us to evaluate their quality and food safety programs, and it enables us to gain increased visibility to the cardamom supply chain.

The three reported that a highlight of the trip was visiting the cardamom villages in the remote mountains of Alta Verapaz that Tazo and Mercy Corps support through the CHAI project, a way for us to give back to the villages that supply us with cardamom. The villagers, who speak the Mayan language K’Iche’, are currently participating in education, health and farming programs that enhance their daily lives.

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Gregg Allman’s Enduring Blues

Low Country Blues is part of Gregg Allman’s life’s work. The well-earned, glowing press the album has been receiving calls attention to the length that’s passed since Allman’s last solo outing (14 years), the health scare the Allman Brothers Band leader endured (a 2010 liver transplant) and the role of star producer T Bone Burnett.

Burnett has had a powerful impact on a number of artists, but what’s striking here is how he’s kept Allman heading down a well-trod road, adding subtle tweaks to add color without getting all splashy. Yes, Burnett has brought his own core of sidemen (plus old Allman buddy Dr. John on keyboards), but connections to past triumphs run through the collection.

The first Allman Brothers band album from 1969 featured a Muddy Waters cover. Low Country Blues offers Allman’s take on some more Muddy Waters music. The gravel-voiced singer has always been suited to brooding, late-night R&B and here he and his B3 bring a drink-up-and-go-home vibe to selections from the B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland songbooks, just as the Allman Brothers did to T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday.”

Speaking of King, Robert Gordon’s liner notes include a wonderful story about Gregg and his 11-year-old big brother, Duane, sneaking into a segregated B.B. show in 1959 that concludes with Duane telling Gregg: “We gotta get into some of this.”

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Happy Chinese New Year (of the Rabbit)!

Gong hay fat choy!

Our World Is China compilation is intended as a celebration of China’s New Year. The ultimate idea for this compilation came from our Chief Marketing Officer. In the midst of a casual conversation with our Brand Content and Online VP, she simply asked, in light of our recent World Is Africa and World Is India CDs, if we’d ever considered doing something for Chinese New Year. That was it! She’d figured it out in one inspired swoop.

So began the task, much like our other globally-themed compilations of presenting an introduction to a certain country or continent’s music, while simultaneously aiming to reveal the span of China’s sound and how it influences and is influenced by music from around the globe. We’ve had much success with the world genre beginning way back in 1997 with our African (Africaffé), Cuban (Café Cubana, Más Café Cubana) Italian (Ciao Amore!, Bella Luna) and Parisian-themed compilations (Rendezvous à Paris, Paris Magnifique). These compilations have always served as both a primer and a deeper dive into the richness of each culture.

For China I looked to both my substantial collection of Asian music and cinema. I was equally as inspired by Jia Zhangke’s Still Life (2006), concerning the destruction of a small village on the Yangtze River in the wake of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, as I was by a Beijing indie rock showcase I saw at the 2010 South By Southwest Music Festival. Again, not everyone wants to hear an entire compilation of Chinese punk and indie rock, but it all served to influence what eventually became this compilation.

I’ll leave out all the somewhat dull licensing details out, but what I came up with was a blend that spanned from the 1940s to the present. Contemporary and vintage recordings that displayed the diversity of China and encompassed a broad range of classic Chinese pop, Beijing opera, hip-hop and electronica East-meets-West selections from Mainland China and Taiwan and Hong Kong.

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Cupcakes are Tastier than Ever!

Last year on MyStarbucksIdea, you let us know our cupcake recipe wasn’t your favorite. I think you even said the word “dry” – ouch!   So our bakers had a lot of work to do. We needed the moistest, most wonderfully flavored cake base to be topped with the most delicious and creamy buttercream frosting.

Megan, well known around here for her amazing cookies, set to work baking batch after batch of cupcakes to find the tastiest cake possible. Sugar fatigue (and likely a couple extra stops at the gym) didn’t stop her – she was determined to make this year’s recipe tastier than ever.

And I think she totally got it! Next time those cravings for something sweet hits try our new-recipe Signature Cupcakes in Red Velvet or Vanilla Bean.

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Happy Heart Day!

With our new music compilation, I Got You Babe, (in stores now) we didn’t want to just add another CD of love songs to the pile already out there celebrating Valentine’s Day. We wanted to make a genuine attempt to put a little spin on it. The first idea was to make it all duets; the second, to add a little salt in with the sugar.

It’s intended as a fun, eclectic mix of classic and contemporary songs encompassing the worlds of pop, rock, jazz, R&B and then some. Love or not-love in all its multi-faceted hues and complexities. It’s an audio sweet nothing meant for all those who want to swoon madly and do the dinner/romcom dance, to those who don’t see what all the hubbub is about, to those who really don’t want to think about it for various reasons that seem to orbit the spectrum of a certain unforeseen relationship outside our control, rife with “Houston (Heart), we have a problem!” moments. And finally for those who really couldn’t be bothered with it all and just want something fun to listen to. Hopefully this collection is a salve to soothe all savage ... ears.

From Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s gentle, pulsing duet about steadfast lovers overcoming long odds and odd gossip, to the xx’s shimmering ability to make it seem that they are the only couple who ever lost and loved, to Sonny & Cher’s delicious retro, to the rare chemistry of Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, and finally at an end with Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová’s smitten coda: “Falling slowly sing your melody /I’ll sing it loud.” Indeed. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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US test xsite Mast

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Drake and Rihanna

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Another dizzying moment

To be deleted....

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A Milestone of a Million

On the Starbucks Card innovations team where I work, we recently hit a major milestone – we’ve had more than 1 million mobile transactions since the national launch of Starbucks Card mobile payment on January 19.

This is exciting news for us! We created mobile payment apps because we heard from a lot of you that you don’t always have your wallet handy when you want to get a latte – but you always have your phone! I’m the same way. When I walk my dog in the evening after the gym, I don’t carry my wallet but my phone is always by my side.

Starbucks Card Mobile also lets you view your balance, check your Stars in our My Starbucks Rewards program, reload your card and find the nearest store. With mobile payment accepted at more than 6,800 company-operated Starbucks stores and over 1,000 Target locations, there are plenty of places to experience the fastest way to pay at Starbucks!

And more milestones are coming. For you Android users out there, we are busy working on an Android release for you. BlackBerry users can look forward to Torch support in the next few weeks.

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