Homemade layered coffee is now easy with Nescafe Red Mug Machine

Most of the time, when I’m in a cafe, I order cappuccino or a latte. I love the froth and the creamy mix of the coffee. At home, however, I almost always have to make do with 3-in-1 coffee because I do not know how to replicate the cappuccino or latte.

Not anymore!!!

I have my very own Nescafe Red Mug Machine that now allows me to prepare my very own, homemade foamy cappuccino, layered Latte, and more!!! I can make myself a Mocha, an Americano, and create other coffee creations using soluble coffee and Nescafe’s Coffee-Mate, of course.

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UK’s Costa Coffee is here in the Philippines!

Dispel the myth. Londoners do not just drink tea. They love coffee as well.

Last week, I got a chance to experience what UK’s #1 coffee is all about as Costa Coffee made us experience it firsthand during their soft launch for bloggers.

The first ever Costa Coffee store is at Eastwood Citywalk 1, near the Activity Center. That’s not too far from me. They will be opening up 4 more stores very soon — Robinsons Ermita, Tera Towers, Bonifacio Global City, and Robinsons Antipolo.

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Starbucks Reserve Coffee – my unique coffee experience

It’s not every day that I get to be treated to coffee tasting of a premier kind. I was very lucky to have been invited to this special coffee-tasting experience at one of the existing two Starbucks Reserve branches in the Metro.
At a blogger gathering at the Tomas Morato Starbucks Reserve store, we listened to the Starbucks team, headed by Keith Cole, tell us about these rare coffee beans.

In the Philippines, there are only 4 Starbucks Reserve blends and the coffee beans are extremely rare, limited, and hand-picked for the Reserve brand specifically for their distinctive flavors as well as unusual locales around the world.
Lucky us….we got to try each one of these four rare coffee blends together with special food items that can be found only at the Starbucks Reserve stores and go very well with each cup of Reserve coffee.

The Coffee Masters

Walk into a Starbucks Reserve store, order a cup of Reserve coffee and you’ll notice that the barista who will prepare it wears a black apron, unlike the other baristas who don green aprons. They are Starbucks’ Coffee Masters. Not all baristas of Starbucks are Coffee Masters. In order to carry the Coffee Master title and wear the black apron, I learned that they had to undergo special training and had to master knowledge of ALL things coffee — their history, types of beans, locations, varieties, taste, preparation, etc. Whew!

In order to get the most sensory experience from the Reserve blends, the Coffee Masters prepare each cup carefully only upon order. I watched them first place a #2 coffee filter on top of a ceramic brewer and mug set. The beans are ground only when about to be used so that they are fresh all the time. Even before pouring in the ground beans, the Coffee Master preps the filter by pouring hot water over it. I suppose it’s a good way to bring out the initial aroma of the coffee beans as these touch the hot, wet filter. Once the filter is wet, coffee beans good enough to make one cup of coffee are poured into the filter and once again, hot water is poured on the ground beans, allowing the liquid coffee to run down a tiny hole in the brewer and into the ceramic mug.

Here’s a quick tour of the 4 different Reserve blends and food items so you’d have some idea.

First, the Reserve Coffees

Globally, there are different Starbucks Reserve coffee blends but four of these were specifically chosen for the Philippine coffee lovers.

Starbucks Reserve Sumatra Blue Batak

My first sample came from Sumatra’s prized coffee-growing region on the southern shores of Lake Toba. This region is about 3,900-5200 feet high. The variety that the Batak tribe grow there is smooth and earthy with sweet herbal notes, a full body and low acidity. Tasting this one gives you a hint of cacao or dark chocolate.

Starbucks Reserve Zambia Peaberry Terranova Estate

The beans were grown on the rich soil of the Terranova Estate 4,000 feet above the sea. This medium‐bodied coffee with notes of apple and vanilla consists of smaller, handpicked peaberry beans, which are roasted to provide a medium body and acidity that pairs well with citrus, apples, and chocolate. For me, the Zambia Reserve coffee blend was the mildest of all the four blends so if you are looking for great coffee that is not too strong, this is it.

And…better try the Zambia blend soon. I also found out that it will be available for a very limited time only since the beans are now in limited supply. No worries though because another Reserve blend will be taking its place when that happens.

Starbucks Reserve Finca Nuevo Mexico

High in Mexico’s Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range sits the El Triunfo Biosphere and Finca Nuevo Mexico family‐owned farm. While much of the lush area is a refuge for rare wildlife, the remaining area produces a bright, complex, uniquely flavored coffee bean.

Of the four blends, I found this blend to be the most acidic. There is a citric taste to it with a hint of the sweetness of brown sugar.

Starbucks Reserve Sun-Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

The district of Yirgacheffe is located 6,000 feet above sea level, a perfect mix of sun, air and soil. We were told that coffee beans here were placed in between berries. No wonder when we tasted the coffee, there was indeed a hint of berries in it. This is my favorite of the four!!!

The Starbucks Reserve coffee blends are not only available within the Reserve stores. They are sold in packs so you can continue to enjoy the coffee experience of these rare coffee beans in the comfort of your own home if you have a coffee press.

What is Reserve Coffee without matching Reserve Food?

To pair off Starbucks Reserve coffee blends with equally great food, Starbucks created six (6) Reserve Exclusive Food to go with the four Reserve Coffee blends.

1. Carrot Muffin – Muffin loaded with carrots, walnuts, and crushed pineapples and topped with cream cheese.

2. Double Chocolate Muffin – Muffin with creamy chocolate truffle and topped with chocolate chunks

3. Granola Cheese Muffin – a muffin packed with crunchy granola and cream cheese filling

4. Blueberry Scone – a light, buttery and moist scone loaded with blueberries

5. Apple Cinnamon Scone – a delicious, moist and buttery scone packed with cinnamon apples

6. Black Pepper and Cheese Scone – a sweet and savory moist scone flavored with cheese and pepper to give it a spice touch.

Just my two cents: The scones are very dense and filling. Order them if you want something that will make you feel very full. Otherwise, if you want something light only, go for the muffins.

There are currently two Starbucks Reserve stores:
* Starbucks Reserve Tomas Morato
* Starbucks Reserve 8 Forbes Town

And more Starbucks Reserve stores are coming soon:
* Starbucks Reserve Keyland Centre
* Starbucks Reserve Central Square
* Starbucks Reserve Signa


A new gustatory experience – Starbucks international coffee and food pairing

White wine with fish. Red wine with meats. That’s the standard way of pairing wine with food, right?

But recently, some of us sat down to a food tasting lunch paired with — Starbucks coffee blends!

The Starbucks team, combined with the Spanish restaurant Tapella put up a gastronomic menu interspersed with 4 different coffee blends.

Choosing the right coffee blend to go with a particular dish is very important, we learned. Most of us in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, according to Starbucks, are in the developing stage. Not everyone is well educated in coffee. We probably go to Starbucks, order our favorite beverage, then walk out without really paying that much attention to the blend or how it is prepared.  But that is a good thing, they say, because it leaves so many possibilities for us to be educated about coffee. And yet in emerging countries, like Europe, people know their coffee. They order a double shot of espresso, want their coffee black, and specify other add-ons to go with their favorite drink.

Let me digress first and tell you about the latest Starbucks coffee blend.

Creating the New Asian Blend

For the longest time, while some blends could be identified with certain regions (e.g., espresso is identified with Europe), there was no blend identified with Asia. This time, Starbucks launches the Asian Dolce Latte, strong and smooth, with an Asian twist. Double shots of the premium dark-roasted Starbucks Espresso Roast give the latte its distinct flavor complemented by a dolce sauce created just for this blend.

Tip when drinking Asian Dolce Latte: DO NOT STIR! Drink it as served and you will get a better coffee experience as you savor the flavor and texture of each of the layers of the latte.

Here’s something you should also know. If you are not happy with how your beverage is prepared, Starbucks will gladly prepare a new batch for you to get it right.

Making double shot espresso

Espresso in 3 layers

Did you know that there is actually a bad espresso shot? Yes!

A good espresso shot is poured by the espresso machine into glasses within a desired range of time and has 3 distinctive layers. The espresso must be poured into the beverage before these 3 layers dissolve and combine. If the layers are allowed to combine, drinking it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth – a sign of a bad espresso shot. The people at Starbucks said that they always want a perfect espresso shot and will be willing to replace any beverage to ensure the espresso shot is perfect each time.

Both Asian Dolce Lattes are similarly made although the iced version comes with a generous heaping of espresso whipped cream and a dash of espresso dusting. The two variants will be available until May 14, 2013.

Now back to our gastronomic lunch paired with Starbucks coffee blends…..

Starbucks decided to do something different this time around by letting us try what a 5-course Spanish cuisine would taste like when paired with different Starbucks coffee blends. The Starbucks team actually sat down in the initial stages of planning for this event and tried different coffee blends with the Spanish dishes to find the perfect combination. They were looking at matching blends that would complement and not overpower the dishes being served. The result was this outstanding Spanish lunch…

Appetizers (or Tapas) paired with Tribute Blend

Starbucks’ Tribute blend is a spicy and full-bodied blend with berry and dark cherry notes. It is a returning blend and is a combination of beans from Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Africa and Colombia.

Left: Bruchetta on Tomato Salad on Slice of Baguette topped with Goat Cheese and Herb
Right: Chorizo Spread on Slice of Baguette, topped with Manchego Cheese

Tomatoes found on the bruchetta went well with the berry and cherry flavors of the Tribute blend. In addition, the strong spicy taste of the chorizo spread was complemented by the full-bodied blend.

Soup and Salad paired with Asian Dolce Latte

Cold Tomato Soup topped with Vegetables (left) and
Grilled Mixed Peppers Tower of Salad (right)

The strong and sweetish Asian Dolce Latte complemented very well the soup and salad combo.

Main Course with Colombia Blend
The Colombia blend is a smooth, balanced coffee with a nutty flavor — just the right touch to go with either the fish or chicken dish which served as our main course. I naturally chose the fish dish which turned out to be a great choice because it came served with Paella!
Cod Fish cooked the Viscaina Way

Paella for Cod Fish with the other main course in background
(Moorish Chicken drizzled with Almond Sauce on Bed of Couscous)

Dessert and Espresso Shot
What better way to pair this yummy dessert duo but with a strong espresso shot made perfectly. The sweetness of the Creme Brulee and the Mille Crepe is mellowed by the strength of the espresso.

Europeans can have wine with their dishes. As for us Asians who drink coffee more than wine, we can stick with our coffee preferences knowing the right blends can go hand in hand with fine dining.


The Starbucks Coffee 2011 Planner

(L-R: Wood, Velvet, Steel Starbucks planners)
It’s that time of the year again when the Christmas spirit is clearly in the air and the excitement is building up with every day that passes. 
My girls, like many of their friends, are already preparing for the turn of the year by choosing their planners. And there are a lot of planners out there. When I was growing up, the planners all looked the same. Executive type, with the company stamp and company history pages making the only difference in look. Very business-like, especially those with gold-edged pages.

Starbucks was one of those who took planners out of the business mold. Now on its 8th year into the planner tradition, Starbucks has come out with three variants. Each of these variants represents something familiar that you find in each Starbucks store: Maroon Velvet Fabric (their familiar lounge chairs), Cool Clean Stainless Steel (interiors) and Stained Dark Wood Panels.

Being Starbucks coffee drinkers, my kids and I like the way the Starbucks planner incorporates coupons for free drinks on certain dates of the year, plus discount coupons for other yuppie outlets that they can use throughout the year. These coupons alone represent savings for my kids who save up for these services or items with their limited school allowances. But, as my eldest girl once said, there is something about the way Starbucks planners look and how the sections are presented, that suit her active lifestyle very much. In a way, it has also become a fashion statement when seen carrying the planner around as well.

Since November 3, Starbucks patrons could get a Starbucks Christmas traditions planner promo card. With every Starbucks beverage purchased, one is entitled to a sticker to be placed on the card. It only takes seventeen (17) stickers to be able to bring home the planner of one’s choice. Nine (9) of the stickers must be Christmas beverage favorites (any of the following): Peppermint Mocha, Praline Mocha and Toffee Nut Latte. The other eight (8) stickers are for any of the core beverages. Buying a Starbucks VIA Ready Brew 3-pack booklet also entitles you to one (1) sticker while the Starbucks VIA Ready Brew box of 12 earns you two (2) stickers.

When one finally gets the Starbucks 2011 Planner, you are also helping Starbucks realize its dream to help its flagship program for early childhood care and development in partnership with UNICEFSparkHope. Each redemption of the planner represents a donation to SparkHope.

If you’re a Starbucks coffee lover, then remember to have your sticker placed on your promo card. And once filled, redeem the planner for yourself, a family member or a friend. You not only get a wonderful Starbucks gift but you also just helped make a contribution to SparkHope.

Have a wonderful, Starbucks-y Christmas ahead!