Reserved For You

My experience with the Starbucks Reserve stores begins inauspiciously enough. Barely five minutes in the Forbes Town store, agog and abrim with excitement, I’m told that I can’t be served because the store’s run out of water, some piping problem in the building, they say. Since it’s a Sunday, I drive rush to the other Starbucks Reserve store on Tomas Morato in Quezon City. Once there, as I’m easing my car into the parking slot, the guard rushes out, waving his hands wildly. In Tagalog he says that the indoor of the store’s been flooded. (!!!)

It’s almost comical really, one store has no water and the other has too much of it. Oy. But this is coffee, my blessed, beloved brew, so I wait a few days and then return to the Forbes Town store. Today everything’s working, ahhh!

Zambia Peaberry Terranova Estate
Image courtesy of Starbucks.

The Starbucks Reserve stores are, as their name suggests, places where coffee is properly revered. Only the finest coffee beans, meticulously sourced and usually rare, are served here: Finca Nuevo Mexico, Sumatra Blue Batak, Sun‐Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Zambia Peaberry Terranova Estate, to start with. However exotic and lyrical their names may be, all are available only for a limited time depending on supply before being replaced by other newly discovered gems.

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There are a few things that differentiate these specialty stores which opened earlier this month. The door handles for one, are thick and heavy and black, gilded with white lettering, “Starbucks Reserve.” Push (push hard as the doors are exceptionally heavy), and you’re drawn into an interior awash in sleek blacks and browns, wood and slate. An observant customer will immediately notice that while the regular Starbucks wares are available, there are prominently displayed stands for the Starbucks Reserve merchandise. These include a Brushed Stainless Steel Tumbler with its unique rotating lid, the ceramic Pour-Over Brewer And Mug, and the 16-ounce Starbucks Reserve mug made of bone china.

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The Starbucks Reserve stores are for coffee connoisseurs, a premium experience for people who know and love their coffee. Thus, aside from the vastly different look and feel, these stores also host a larger space with one area dedicated to what I’m told is “theatre-side entertainment”, or the specialty coffee bar (photo above). It’s here where rigorously trained baristas who’ve attained the rank of Coffee Master reign over a domain of pour-over coffees.

Sure, you can come here and just order your usual beverage, but should you wish for a more specialized experience, order the Starbucks Reserve Featured Coffees mentioned above, head over to the bar, and watch magic materialize in front of you. This is also a great place to learn more about coffee.

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The Coffee Master primes the paper filter by pouring a stream of hot water over it.

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The coffee bean of your choice is ground to medium fineness and is then spooned into the filter.

Starbucks Reserve
A small amount of hot water is slowly drizzled into the center to allow the coffee to bloom. Pouring water slowly in a circular pattern in the middle of the filter, a “mushroom” blooms – see it in the second photo on the right.

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With the remaining amount of water poured in, the Coffee Master steps aside to allow the coffee to do its work.

I marvel at the skill and ceremony accorded to brewing my cup, and what an exquisite cup of coffee it is! However, I find the Coffee Master’s spiel too lengthy and rehearsed, as if she’s reading a script in her mind. I wish she would ditch the script and engage with me instead: why does she use paper as opposed to gold mesh filters? And why does she train the water only in the center as opposed to swirling it all around (as I do at home?) Still, don’t let my quibble detract you from the experience.

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  Above, my tasting cups from trying all four of the Starbucks Reserve Featured Coffees, with a big cup of water to cleanse my palate in between varieties. My favorites of the four are the Zambia Peaberry Terranova Estate with its pop of citrus at the end, and the Finca Nuevo Mexico whose brown sugar sweetness adds to the coffee’s body. These coffees are also terrific iced, especially the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. Each variant is differentiated with a sticker (see below).

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The food served exclusively at Starbucks Reserve is so well executed that I can’t recommend them highly enough. Gone are the days for searching for Manila’s best muffins – they’re found here. Breakfast and healthy benefits are in the Granola Cheese Muffin rippled with cream cheese; the Double Chocolate Muffin has a daredevil truffle center; and the Carrot Muffin is moist, and as they say in the UK, “moreish.”

But it’s the set of scones that I can’t get out of my mind. Rock hard specimens are forever gone as I make way for scones that are whisper-soft and only slightly sweet, scattered with delicate clumps of streusel. The classic Blueberry Scone is done well, as is the aromatic Apple Cinnamon Scone that tastes like a tender apple pie. I love the Black Pepper & Cheese Scone, it’s a savory revelation awash in a peppery tang tempered with cheese.

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From top left and clockwise: Granola Cheese Muffin, Double Chocolate Muffin, Carrot Muffin, Black Pepper & Cheese Scone, Blueberry Scone, Apple Cinnamon Scone.

So I snack and sip and revel.


Starbucks Reserve
Stores are located in Tomas Morato, Quezon City and at 8 Forbes Town in BGC, near Burgos Circle.
Two more stores are set to open later this year.

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