Starbucks 8 Weeks of Bold Coffees

Week 2: Italian Roast

I picked up a tall cup of Italian Roast on my way to the office and for the short drive from Starbucks to work the car was filled with a fantastic aroma that transported me back to Italy, back to a late night café bar on Lido, a piazza in the early morning light in Firenze, yes, even a bustling auto-stop on the autostrada to Roma – and freshly brewed espresso at every turn. It was like being trapped in a box with the scent of Proust’s madeleine.

The flavor profile of Italian Roast is less complex than that of Yukon Blend, with fewer spicy and more sweet notes. It was smooth and easy, with an espresso-like aroma and aftertaste but none of espresso’s verve and swing. Starbucks calls it “sweet, smoky, intense,” and while I agree with sweet and agree to some extent with smoky, I didn’t get the same intensity from Italian Roast that I got from Yukon Blend. American coffee drinkers very rarely truck with tiny white espresso cups and Old World piazzas just don’t exist in this country by the very definition, so you’d have to call Italian Roast the American commuter’s answer to the Italian coffee culture that either drinks standing up in one gulp or lingers for hours in the café – it is a little bit of Italy for Americans on the move.

The aftertaste is what I would call “typical” for bold roasts. It was a little one-dimensional, and a tiny bit bitter. This is usually what has turned me away from bold roasts in the past, that sense of being stuck with “coffee breath” for the rest of the day; the medium roasts I usually drink don’t leave me with the same feeling. Maybe I should have paired it with something to eat, the way I usually pair my espresso at home with chocolate or hazelnut biscotti. Something was missing from the flavor profile that could have been complemented excellently even by the traditional, anise-scented biscotti that aren’t even among my favorite flavors.

If I want a little taste of Italy, a remembrance of things past, I don’t think I’ll be turning to Starbucks’s Italian Roast. Instead I’ll make my own Illy espresso at home, in my Bialetti stovetop espresso pot, and take my tiny white espresso cup and a hazelnut biscotto out to my porch on a morning when the sun is getting up slowly, or on a lazy, still-hot summer evening. And I will watch the world go by, the way I learned in Italy.

Next week: Saving the world with (Starbucks)RED East Africa blend, one cup at a time.