April 3, 2012

Review: Starbucks Veranda Blend K-Cups

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Long before there were Folgers K-Cups & ages before there were Dunkin Donuts K-Cups, the one coffee brand most people wanted in single serve format was Starbucks. The company went through quite a bit over the past few years. They tried creating pods which were sold primarily in limited quantities within their own stores but that failed to take off as most people weren’t even aware Starbucks pods existed. Then many a wish was answered when they announced they’d be partnering with Kraft to release Starbucks Tassimo T-Discs.

Fans rejoiced as the various T-Discs hit the market, however, not all was perfect… many complained that the coffee was way too strong/intense while others complained that it was more than living up to the Charbucks reputation by tasting extremely “burnt”. Before things could be fixed, both Starbucks & Kraft stopped seeing eye to eye and the partnership was dissolved. Those who loved the T-Discs bemoaned the loss while others panicked at the prospect of not having Starbucks in single serve format anymore. So, fresh off being burned (pun intended) by Kraft, Starbucks decided to give the single serve market another try with the largest entity in the business… GMCR. Starbuck & GMCR announced with typical fanfare that Starbucks K-Cups would be sold not only in their own retail stores but also in various grocery stores & online (something which Dunkins fans are still wishing for to this day). The announcement also revealed that Tazo Teas would also be returning to the K-Cup format with the new addition of their Zen green tea blend.

While we’ve yet to try the Tazo K-Cups, we decided to stop by our local grocery store recently and bought whatever Starbucks flavors were available. Today marks the first of many upcoming reviews with the Starbucks Veranda Blend K-Cups.

Starbucks recently decided to redo their coffee lineup by categorizing all of their coffees into 3 new "flavor profiles"… Dark Roast, Medium Roast and their new Blonde Roast (a.k.a. "Light Roast"). The Veranda Blend falls into the Blonde Roast category and is supposed to be the lightest-flavored coffee in Starbucks lineup. Let’s have at it & see what develops.

Brewing these K-Cups resulted in the signature Starbucks aroma filling the room and the only thing missing was a complacent clerk behind the counter and a room full of hipsters hiding behind their MacBooks. A closer look at the final brewed cup revealed deep notes of molasses which was hiding faint notes of chocolate & hickory.

Body had very dark amber notes which reminded us of the hues normally found in jars of wild honey. Bright bursts of red revealed themselves when held in front of a light source. We were pleased by this turn of events as we had the preconceived notion that we’d be staring at an opaque black cup from which no trace of light could escape. Acidity was present but a bit lighter than expected, however, it was very well balanced and kept things lively where needed.

Flavor is where some people tend to agree to disagree. If you were comparing this K-Cup to any OTHER brand of K-Cup on the market today, this would be classified as an extra bold medium or even possibly a dark roast. When compared to other STARBUCKS coffees on the market, this is actually the lightest-flavored coffee in their lineup. So they’re not lying with that description. Mouth feel was surprisingly smooth at first with a light oily finish and only yielded the characteristic “burnt” notes of a Starbucks coffee in the aftertaste.

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Ah, but the surprises don’t end there… the most obvious shocker being the sticker price for a 10-pack which seemed to average as high as $10.99 in some areas (our Canadian correspondent, SH, confirms 10-packs are indeed priced at $10.99 CAD in his area). We noticed Wal-Mart is selling 16-packs for $13.98 USD, so some savings are to be had there at least. So, why the high price? After all, the old T-Discs came in 12-packs (not 10-packs) for roughly the same price or even less. We decided to dissect a used Starbucks Veranda Blend K-Cup to find out what could possibly justify the pricing and were surprised to discover 2 things:

  • The K-Cup is FULL of coffee… almost ¾ of the K-Cup is nothing but coffee. We don’t think some extra bold K-Cups even have this much coffee in them.
  • GMCR have introduced a new curved plastic “filter disc” in the bottom of the K-Cup. We contacted them to find out the purpose behind this and their official reply was "This plastic disc is a device used to prevent filter paper puncture so grinds do not enter the drinking cup."
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So there you have it… you’re paying more because you’re getting more coffee (at least it appears that way) & because it likely costs a bit more to manufacture the new “filter discs” which are being inserted inside Starbucks K-Cups to prevent the piercing needle from blowing-apart the paper filter during brewing. Interesting.

  • Aroma – 10 – Signature Starbucks aroma during brewing, closer inspection revealed notes of molasses and faint hints of chocolate, mild hickory undertones as well.
  • Acidity – 7 – While there is some acidity present here, it’s very well balanced and much weaker than your standard cup of Starbucks coffee. Nicely done for a “light roast” and lively where it counts.
  • Body – 9 – Very dark amber like wild honey with deep brown colors throughout. Bursts of bright red shine through when held in front of a light source. We were expecting an opaque black, so this was a welcome surprise.
  • Flavor – 10 – Despite some Starbucks fans claiming it’s too weak, we actually liked it. More flavors of molasses from the aroma come to the forefront followed by light waves of chocolate & tinges of hickory.
  • Mouth Feel – 8 – Smooth at the beginning with only a slight oily feel on the finish. You only get the “burnt” notes during the aftertaste.
  • Coffee Drinker – Do you like Starbucks? Do you routinely stand in line each morning at their shops waiting to order a drink that most of us can’t pronounce? Then you’ll probably enjoy this. Recommended for Starbucks fans that are looking for a lighter alternative to their usual cup o’ bucks coffee. Die-hard dark roast Starbucks fans should likely steer clear of this one.

Overall Rating: 94 – Exceptional

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So overall, this is a rather unique K-Cup in more ways than one. We’ve got a coffee which seems more like an extra bold medium in our minds but is the lightest Starbucks coffee we’ve had to date, plus this marks the first time a secondary filter has ever been used in a K-Cup (well, ok… it’s more of a retention mechanism for the paper filter, but it has holes in it somewhat like a pasta strainer, so we’re calling it a filter regardless). While we’re a little miffed over the pricing (24-packs are selling for well over $20 USD at Keurig.com), at least we now understand why such had to be the case. It will be interesting to see if similar mechanisms/pricing will be in place this Fall once the new Starbucks V-Cups (we refuse to call them Vue-Packs) are released.

All the surprises aside, the bottom line is that this is a satisfying K-Cup addition that proves Starbucks wanted home users to continue enjoying their coffee after the whole Tassimo debacle. We’re glad they decided to continue their foray into the single serve market and can’t wait to see what the future holds in store this Fall. If you can find these K-Cups for a decent price, we recommend giving them a try. We really enjoyed them overall.

Starbucks Veranda Blend K-Cups will work in all Keurig brewers and are available in 16-packs for $13.98 USD at Wal-Mart in USA or 10-packs for $10.99 CAD at various grocery stores across Canada. Some Starbucks shops in USA & Canada might also be selling these K-Cups.

A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that we purchased a box of these K-Cups ourselves for the purpose of this review.

Read how we review and rate single-serve coffee and other single-serve coffee beverages here.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at April 3, 2012 7:23 AM

Recent Comments

In the part of Canada where I live (Ottawa), 16 packs of Starbucks K-Cups are going for $15.77 (Wal-mart) - $15.99 (Loblaws).


Posted by: Black Rose at April 5, 2012 11:28 PM

You mention that “Starbucks decided to give the single serve market another try with the largest entity in the business… GMCR.” They are only the largest in the US. Globally they are at 8% which is far behind Nestle and Sara Lee and tied with Kraft. I’ve found that the Starbucks name doesn’t warrant the premium they are charging on top of the already premium prices that GMCR charges. However, as unfortunate as it may be, people are just going to look at the name(s) and pay whatever prices are being charged rather than exploring their options.


Posted by: ao at April 5, 2012 8:19 AM

@jbviau... Oops, my bad! Thanks for advising of this. Was not aware previous K-Cups had this disc in them.

Guess I don't follow the forums as closely as I should. ;-)


Posted by: SH at April 3, 2012 1:35 PM

You gave it a rating of 94? To me a 49 would be more like it. This K-Cup was horrible and doesn't even taste like coffee to me. The flavor is so light that this is more like a coffee for tea drinkers!


Posted by: wasabipeas at April 3, 2012 10:18 AM

Point of clarification: these plastic discs inside the k-cups aren't new. We've known about them since Dec. 2010 (see discussion starting here: http://www.singleservecoffeeforums.com/post80261.html#p80261). You'll also find discs inside "travel mug," Barista Prima, revv, and "brew over ice" k-cups. Thanks for confirming their purpose, and for the review!


Posted by: jbviau at April 3, 2012 10:16 AM
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