Bean Counter: Where’s The Caribbean Flavour in Starbucks’ Brew?

I’m as big a Starbucks fan as the next person. While some bean aficionados have scoffed at what they consider the inferior quality of a Starbucks brew, I’ve been quite happy to consume copious amounts of Grande and Venti cups in my time (mostly black, sometimes cream, never sugar).

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However, the absence of more regional beans in its Caribbean café locations caught my attention. Several Caribbean countries produce, by many accounts, great quality beans in sufficient quantity to export globally and, I’d imagine, to meet local consumption demands.  The Dominican Republic is a big consumer of its own beans so that could explain its absence on international menus. But why no Haitian Bleu or Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto? Why no Jamaican Blue Mountain, perhaps the Caribbean’s most well-known coffee brand?

One clue might be found in this menu board from a Starbucks location in Seattle, Washington (the birthplace of Starbucks) showcasing its “Reserve Coffees”. Note two things about the Jamaica Blue Mountain: (1) it is “Sold Out” and (2) it is priced up to two times as much as the other varieties available. Now that’s premium coffee!

While we certainly enjoy a good cup (or three) of coffee, we are no experts in the dynamics of the coffee bean market. We can only hope that someday (soon) we’ll see more Caribbean roasts available across the region, whether at the ubiquitous Starbucks, or at regional café brands like Cafe Blue. That would be grande.

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