The Starbucks Blonde Roast

Every brunette needs a blonde best friend


Mid-week madness was in full swing as I walked into the Menlyn Main Starbucks for my first-ever Pretoria review. I was greeted by the familiar scent of coffee hanging heavily in the air, with people focused on their laptops, typing away whilst sipping on a hot drink, and a few social gatherings, with everyone holding a cup with their names scrolled across in black marker.

I was there to taste the first blonde roast to ever be sold in South African Starbucks stores. Before this, Starbucks SA only sold the Veranda blend (which I spoke about in my previous reviews), to be brewed at home.

Store manager Bheki Ndlovu explained that the blonde roast contains a secret mixture of beans sourced from Latin America and East Africa, making the coffee naturally highly acidic. To fully appreciate the new addition to the Starbucks family, we tasted the blonde roast as compared to the traditional dark roast using 5 different brewing methods/coffee styles.


The Espresso

We started the coffee comparison with arguably one of its purest forms: the espresso. The dark roast here was very smoky, spicy, and definitely packed a punch. For someone who loves coffee – but not necessarily espresso – this was a bit too much for me. That said, I could still really appreciate and pick up on strong notes of cocoa, and would describe this as rich, bold, and intense.

The blonde, on the other hand, was smoother, subtle, and soft. This was definitely more palatable for someone who might not always like their coffee that strong. The blonde definitely had a sweetness about it, and I would best describe it as floral and almost fruity.


The Flat White

Next up was my usual choice for my daily dose of caffeine: the flat white. Now, before we get into the nitty gritty of the flat white, coffee master Phuti Mmotla explained something really interesting, which is how the temperature of the milk changes the flavour profile of the coffee.

Maybe it’s only me that has come to this realisation very late, but bear with me. I found this fascinating. For the flat white, the milk is brought to a lower temperature than with the latte. Milk heated to a moderate temperature will make the sweet notes of the milk more prominent. Pushed past this point, the sweet notes disappear. This is all due to how the enzymes react and the lactose (sugars) are broken down. Fascinating, right?

Now, back to the flat white. The dark roast flat white was delicious. The little bit of milk really balances the bitterness, but the flavours still do come through. That said, I was also very impressed with the blonde roast flat white. The natural sweetness of the milk complements the sweet notes of the roast perfectly. Suddenly vanilla was front and centre, with a rich, smooth taste.


The Flavoured Latte

Next up: the flavoured latte. Now, I have a crazy sweet tooth, but I don’t really like any sugar or flavour in my coffee. Needless to say, I was skeptical about this one. Ndlovu explained that, when ordering any syrup-flavoured drinks, the blonde roast will always get one pump less of syrup due to its natural sweet profile.

Starting with the dark roast, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Even though there was vanilla syrup in it, I could not pick up on the vanilla flavour. Rather, the deep chocolate/cocoa essence of the coffee was more apparent. The blonde was not my cup of tea (coffee?). Yes, It was pleasant, but it tasted more like a hot milkshake and I felt the syrup completely destroyed the natural flavour of the coffee.

The Iced Coffee

Moving towards the colder side: the iced coffee. For this one, they also added syrup to the mix. But this was just a simple syrup and not a flavoured one. The dark roast had more of a smoky flavour, making me think of a cigar, but it was less bitter. In contrast, the blonde had a citrus flavour, almost in the same flavour profile as iced tea. Refreshing.


The Pour-Over

Our last comparison: the pour-over. This version of brewing made the coffee a lot lighter than the espresso, even though we also drank it black. The dark roast still had a strong flavour, with lots of spice. The blonde, on the other hand, had a high level of acidity, which made me think of grapefruit. This is also where the food pairing came in. Needless to say, I was excited.

Food Pairing

The dark roast was paired with a caramel cheesecake square and a vanilla choc chip cookie. The cheesecake square pairing was out of this world! It made the coffee flavours so much more complex, bringing in notes of sour, sweet caramel, and nuttiness. The chocolate chip cookie, on the other hand, was underwhelming. I found the cookie very sugary, and I don’t think it improved the flavour of the coffee.

The blonde roast was paired with the chocolate brownie. YUM! The grapefruit notes I tasted earlier transformed to orange with the addition of the brownie, making this a decadent match made in heaven.


Single Origin Series

We could obviously not go for a full tasting of Starbucks without sampling their new limited edition single origin series coffee that launched the same day as the blonde. So, to end off our tasting experience, we tried out The El Sa Achuachapa’n, brewed using the siphon method.

This is probably the most technical method to making coffee I have ever witnessed. Everything is measured to the exact gram and degree, with the equipment looking like it belongs in a science lab and not a coffee shop. The El Salvador Achuachapa’n is a medium roast. I felt it hardly had any acidity, and it was a very pleasant easy-drinking coffee with a low body.

We first paired this with the lemon cake, which was very light, allowing the coffee not to be overpowered. Next up we had the Starbucks crunchie, which was my favourite of the two. The nuttiness did not overpower the light coffee but, rather, brought out more toasty notes.

Try Them All

The blonde roast is available at all Starbucks stores across the country. My recommendation would be to find your closest Starbucks Reserve store and try your very own tasting. With the new blonde roast, there is something for everyone’s taste profiles on the menu.

Starbucks SA


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Written by Valerie Joy Robinson

Article Date: May 2019


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