Can I have a tall blonde, please?


Yesterday, I went to Starbucks today to try the company’s new Veranda Blend. Starbucks calls the blend a “blonde roast,” and its marketing campaign touts the coffee’s soft flavors of cocoa and toasted nuts. Roasting the coffee lightly and preserving its subtleties would be a significant change for the company, known for its dark roasts. Perhaps they realized that the competition (small roasters) are carving out market share with their lightly-roasted coffees full of interesting and diverse flavors (Heart or Coava, for example).

When I made it to the register, I asked the barista what her impression of the new roast was. She seemed enthusiastic about it (granted, she gets paid to be enthusiastic), saying that it was a lighter than most Starbucks coffees, and it tasted  “kind of like toasted marshmallows.” She said she never drinks coffee outside of work, so she could not compare it to other roasters’ coffee.

I almost ordered a pourover (Starbucks does that now), but she was pushing the drip coffee they already had brewed. She assured me the coffee in the urn was fresh, and I figured that since most people order the already-brewed coffee when they visit the big green apron, I would be getting the experience a typical customer would.

On the right track

The Veranda Blend is distinctly lighter than a typical Starbucks dark roast. The barista was right about the toasted marshmallow aromas too. The coffee’s sweetness was the first thing I noticed, and for just a fleeting moment, a blush of fruit flavor passed over my tongue. It did not last long enough to tell what it was.

For coffee connoisseurs, the blonde roast is a step in the right direction. However, I still would not go as far as saying it has a lot of subtleties. The flavors were more like sepia tones than vibrant colors—there was no burst of crisp acidity or deep chocolate notes, for example. If you’re looking for nuances in your coffee, you have better options around PDX. As Starbucks continues to innovate, the company might someday push closer to producing the kind of coffee Portlanders expect, but for now, the local roasters still win.