When it comes to coffee shops, no brand is as ubiquitous or widespread as Starbucks. From its humble beginnings in Seattle, Starbucks has grown into a massive chain, and virtually every coffee lover has sipped on a tall or venti coffee from one of its locations.
But for those who want a more enhanced experience, Starbucks Reserve coffee is the best of the best. The company sources higher-quality beans and delivers a superior coffee-drinking experience, whether you roast them at home or at an official “roastery.” I’ve started drinking Starbucks Reserve, so here’s everything you need to know.
What Makes Starbucks Reserve Different?
Starbucks Reserve is a line of artisan-style coffee products offered by Starbucks. According to the company, these beans are sourced from the best farms in the world, giving them a richer, bolder flavor that you can’t find with regular Starbucks beans.
Part of the appeal of drinking Starbucks Reserve coffee is that it’s prepared with more care and attention to detail than regular blends. If you drink it at a roastery location (which is highly recommended), the baristas use specialty equipment and brewing processes to deliver the best cup possible.
Because this coffee line uses the best beans possible, the selection changes regularly, usually with the season. So, if you sample a beverage and want to drink it again, you need to buy the beans immediately, lest it disappears forever from the lineup (or, at least, temporarily).
A Brief History Of Starbucks Reserve
The Starbucks company was founded in 1971 in the Pike Place Market of Seattle, Washington. The name stemmed from the book Moby-Dick, and the main selling point of Starbucks was that it offered high-quality coffee you could drink in the store or take home to brew yourself.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Starbucks grew into a mega-corporation, thanks in part to CEO Howard Schultz, expanding quickly into new states and countries. While that expansion has since subsided, the company still manages more than 15,000 Starbucks locations in the United States alone.
In 2014, the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened in Seattle, just a few blocks away from the original store. As of 2023, there are now Roasters in New York, Shanghai, and many other cities around the world. Check out our guide answering, is Starbucks good coffee?
A Rundown Starbucks Reserve Products
As we mentioned, the coffee blends available under the Starbucks Reserve banner vary and shift with the seasons. So, what’s available today may not be for sale tomorrow. However, you can choose your beans based on the geographical location, as the company sources from the same countries, albeit from different farms.
Here’s a rundown of the different locales for these Arabica coffees:
- Colombia: Most people know about Colombia’s coffee trade from brands like Yuban. The region is excellent for producing high-quality beans, thanks to the fertile soil and humid climate. So, Starbucks offers varietals and high-altitude beans that you can’t replicate anywhere else in the world.
- Costa Rica: Costa Rican coffee is similar to those from other Central American countries, but this particular region has limited coffee farms. Still, what you can find comes with fruity and floral notes, as well as creamy chocolate flavor, to help each cup of coffee go down smoothly.
- Guatemala: Although there are relatively few coffee farms in Guatemala, those that exist offer exceptional beans that deliver a superb coffee-making experience. The flavor notes are strong yet delicate, and the finish is almost like you’re drinking hot chocolate, not coffee.
- Kenya: Most people don’t think of Africa for coffee, but the region has perfect conditions for growing Arabica beans. Because of the arid climate at sea level, these coffees are grown on the sides of mountains, such as Mount Kenya.
In addition to sourcing coffee beans from specific countries, Starbucks also creates several proprietary blends, including Princi and Gravitas. Here’s a breakdown of each option:
- Princi Coffee Blend: The name of this Italian-style coffee comes from the legendary baker Rocco Princi. So, since this coffee is designed to be enjoyed along with various loaves of bread and baked goods, it’s a full-bodied roast with creamy and silky smooth-tasting notes.
- Gravitas Coffee Blend: You can only buy this coffee at a Reserve Roastery, so you can’t make it at home. This blend is a fusion of three rare coffee beans, so it’s impossible to replicate the flavor profile with anything else.
- Oleato: This proprietary coffee blend merges traditional brewing methods with olive oil for a smoother and more luxurious tasting experience. Oleato is available at all Roastery locations, and you can get it hot, as a cold brew, or as an iced Cortado, which includes orange bitters and orange piloncillo syrup.
Where To Buy Starbucks Reserve
There are two ways that you can enjoy this legendary coffee – at a Reserve coffee bar or by buying beans and brewing them at home. If you live close to a Roastery, we highly recommend visiting so you can get the full coffee experience.
A latte or espresso is so much better when the person preparing it deeply understands how to awaken the flavors inside. Plus, they have access to far better equipment, so you can get a much better cup of coffee. Learn where coffee gets its beans from.
Visiting A Starbucks Reserve Roastery Location
There are several Reserve locations around the world, including:
- Chicago, IL
- Milan, Italy
- New York, NY
- Seattle, WA
- Shanghai, China
- Tokyo, Japan
Each Roastery is an immersive experience, as everything from the architecture to the decor to the tasting menu is designed to make you salivate in anticipation. You will pay more for a single cup of coffee than you would at a regular Starbucks, but that’s to be expected. Once you taste the difference, you’ll understand why.
In addition to using regular brewing methods, the Starbucks Reserve store also offers unique items, such as coffee ice cream, pour-over coffee, baked goods from the Princi bakery, and more. Most of these locations also dabble in mixology, creating cocktails that merge single-origin coffees with alcohol to blend the best of both worlds. Each location has a unique menu, so be sure to look up what you can find before visiting.
Making Starbucks Reserve Coffee At Home
According to Starbucks, you can buy Reserve specialty coffee blends at over 1,500 locations in the United States. You can use this handy location software to find the closest store.
Once you have the beans, you need to also invest in high-quality coffee brewing equipment. After all, why invest in specialty coffee if you’re going to just use a regular drip coffee maker to brew it?
First, you’ll need a grinder to turn the beans into coffee grounds. This process can take a while unless you use an electric device, but it’s worth the effort. Once you grind the beans, they start to break down and oxidize, so the coffee doesn’t taste as fresh and potent.
So, grinding them yourself before making a cup ensures you get the best flavor possible.
Depending on the type of coffee you buy, you may want a specialty brewer to turn the grounds into a delicious cup. For example, if you’re making espresso drinks, you want an at-home espresso maker to extract the most flavor. Similarly, if you’re making something like an Americano or cappuccino, you should also invest in a milk frother and steamer to get the best results.
Overall, if you don’t have this equipment handy already, it will take a significant investment to get the best cup of coffee possible. However, if you’re already grinding your own beans, you’ll appreciate the delicate blends available through Starbucks Reserve. If you like to have a snack with your coffee, check out our round-up of the best Starbucks food choices.
FAQs About Starbucks Reserve
Is Starbucks Reserve Better Than Regular Starbucks Coffee?
Yes, Starbucks Reserve is better than regular Starbucks coffee. Since standard beans are roasted in large batches, they don’t have as much flavor as single-origin coffee beans. Each batch of Starbucks Reserve is hand-picked and roasted in small batches, leading to a better overall experience.
Should I Prepare Starbucks Reserve Differently Than Other Coffee?
Yes, you should grind your own beans and then use a high-quality coffee maker. While Starbucks Reserve coffee tastes good no matter how you prepare it, it makes sense to invest in higher-quality machinery. However, for the best coffee experience, we recommend visiting a Roastery location if possible.
Is Starbucks Reserve Stronger Than Other Coffee?
As far as potency, Reserve blends are not necessarily stronger than regular Starbucks coffee. The most significant changes are with the tasting notes and full-bodied mouthfeel. Those with a sensitive palate will notice a lot more flavors when drinking Starbucks Reserve.