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It seems that Starbucks has something it’s trying to tell us. It wants to say that for a long time it has been very slightly misunderstood. Perhaps Starbucks was never meant to become shorthand for quick, easy and everywhere. Even McDonald’s doesn’t have the gall to put three versions of itself on the same street corner; Starbucks does that all the time—and gets away with it.
To be fair, Starbucks has introduced millions of people to coffee. Thanks to Starbucks, a lot of people love coffee, but somewhere along the way, the company learned to prioritize speedy service over actually brewing coffee correctly. They lost the heart of the business. (It was when they added drive-thrus.) Locally-owned, independent craft coffee shops took hold, introducing much-needed artistry back into a generic market.
Starbucks Reserve, one of which just opened at Legacy West, is their way back to the heart of coffee.
The Starbucks Reserve website reads, “Each year we travel the world in search of great coffee. Every once in awhile, we discover a handful of beans so special and rare that we can’t wait to bring them home and share.”
They have a team of expert tasters—whose official name should be bean whisperers—charged with tasting more than 250,000 cups every year, selecting only the very best to become: Starbucks Reserve coffees.
Starbucks Reserve is an attempt to do it all. At the brand new Starbucks Reserve Legacy West, you can order Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mocha Frappucinos. You can also try special, small-lot brews.
On my first visit, I opt for something I haven’t seen in Plano yet: a row of three two-cup vacuum coffee makers. Otherwise known as the siphon method, these look like Edison light bulbs and the preparation plays out like a science experiment. With a 90-second brewing time, the siphon method requires precision and a practiced hand. It’s fascinating to watch.
It’s one of the more technical and graceful ways to brew coffee.
I choose Costa Rica La Candelilla which can be traced all the way back to the Sanchez family in the Tarrazú Valley. The flavor is warm and a little nutty, full of sweet citrus notes that warms to the faint possibility of caramel. It isn’t a heavy cup of coffee but clean and bright because most of the fatty oils have all been filtered out. The resulting taste is as delicate as a caramelized sugar crust.
Next time, I try something a little sweeter, a Nitro Cascara Cloud. It’s a pretty, ombre drink. The first layer is vanilla bean syrup. Then comes nitrogen-infused coffee. Nonfat cascara-infused foam tops it all off.
Nitrogen-infused coffee is a little richer and creamier than regular cold brew coffee, which is why it’s the trendiest cup of joe money can buy. To me, it always tastes very slightly of petrichor. It’s flashy and a surprisingly complex drink that shifts in flavor as you go from layer to layer, always lightly sweetened by cascara, altogether decadent.
Starbucks has made money out of fast coffee. To me, that will always be what they do best and excellent, gourmet cups of coffee with always be what Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters do best. That being said, Starbucks Reserve is a novel experience.
There’s something to be said for the passion, creativity and personal service that local coffee shops offer. Starbucks just can’t fabricate it. The etiquette of locally-owned coffee shops is better suited to support the culture of quality coffee, which requires the sort of time a regular Starbucks simply can’t afford.
Has Starbucks beaten the craft coffeeshop? No. But in its early days, Legacy West’s Starbucks Reserve served me two good cups of coffee. Starbucks Reserve is an attempt to tackle both high-quality coffee and the fast-casual approach, requiring twice the employees, twice the machines and twice the customers to do it. It’s no small feat.
Starbucks Reserve Legacy West | 7600 Windrose Ave. Ste. G140, Plano