If your distaste for espresso stems from its dark-roasted flavor, Starbucks is here to let the masses know that espresso has more than one trick up its sleeve. Just like drip coffee beans, espresso beans can come in a variety of roasts, and America’s largest coffee chain has decided to give customers the option of a lighter roast espresso: Starbucks Blonde Espresso. It's the company’s first new permanent menu espresso option since the brand’s Signature Espresso Roast was introduced over 40 years ago.
The company says the option of this new Blonde roast will be available for all of its espresso-based drinks including Caffe Latte, Cappuccino, Flat White, Macchiato, and Americano beverages. “Our partners are so passionate about their craft and now they get to help our customers discover and personalize the foundation of the beverage—an espresso that is either bold and rich or smooth and bright,” Kris Engskov, president US Retail for Starbucks, said in a statement. “We want every experience our customers have with us to be perfect for them.”
To craft this new roast, Starbucks says its team of master blenders and roasters picked beans from two especially trendy coffee regions, Latin America and East Africa, known for their brighter, fruitier bean varieties. These beans were then “roasted to the peak of their flavor to showcase the coffee’s balanced, subtle sweetness.”
“We set the standard for a dark, boldly roasted coffee and in this case, we broke a few of our own rules by taking a lighter approach to espresso which created a bright taste with sweet citrus notes and a smooth body,” Andrew Linnemann, vice president of Global Coffee for Starbucks, stated. “We are really proud of the roast and think customers are going to love experimenting with it.”
While Blonde Espresso is new to the American market, Starbucks has been offering alternative espresso options in some international markets since as far back as 2013. Blonde Espresso specifically was added in Canada last year “to an overwhelmingly positive response from partners (employees) and customers.”
So why did this roast take so long to hit the US? Well, Starbucks didn’t specifically say; however, in general, espresso-based drinks tend be more of the standard at cafes abroad. Finding drip coffee at European joints can be surprisingly difficult; lots of times you’re left drinking an Americano as the closest equivalent. So rolling out espresso choices in other markets would make more sense. But additionally, Starbucks also cites a 2017 National Coffee Association report that American demand for espresso beverage has been on the rise. And as we know, Starbucks loves to find a way to be just enough ahead of the curse to vex their mainstream competitors.