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Retailers, consumers and prices

So much Starbucks coffee to taste (250,000 cups), so little time

March 31, 2010

mcmartinThink you drink a lot of java? Think again.
    
Starbucks’ stable of 20 coffee tasters collectively sample 250,000 cups of coffee every year, Scott McMartin, Starbucks’ director of global coffee advocacy told Reuters during a recent visit to the cafe chain’s Seattle headquarters.
    
Those tasters — who sample the brews sold at Starbucks and the company’s Seattle’s Best Coffee brand — are based in Seattle, Switzerland and in farmer support centers in Costa Rica and Rwanda.
    
scott2McMartin, who spoke as he slurped a variety of coffees, says great tasters have a mix of natural skill and commitment to craft. (Tasters make a slurping sound as they practically inhale the hot brew — a process that mixes the  liquid with air to help the tongue detect different flavors. Then they swish and spit.) 
    
Top tasters, like athletes and artists, know that practice makes perfect, said McMartin, who is also a sommelier. 
 
“It’s a repetitive thing. Your tongue is a muscle,” he said
    
Starbucks tasters make copious notes and occasionally check that they are in sync with regard to what they’re tasting in the cup. The latter process helps Starbucks make sure there are no “rogue tasters” in the mix, McMartin said.

(Reuters photos)

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