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Starbucks' $7-a-cup coffee: Can you tell the difference?

November 29, 2012|By Tiffany HsuLos Angeles Times

Some coffee aficionados have a difficult decision to make: Spend $7 on a full lunch or on a single cup of Starbucks coffee?

The brew in question: the Seattle giant's new Costa Rica Finca Palmilera, its most expensive offering ever and also one of its rarest. The coffee is part of the company's Reserve line and costs $7 for a grande — a 16-ounce cup.

An 8-ounce package of beans costs $40.

The uber-premium beans and brew are available only in 46 Starbucks stores in Portland and Seattle, a licensed store in Idaho and Starbucks' Roy Street Coffee & Tea offshoot in Washington.

With a limited quantity of beans available, the company said it will not expand the offering beyond the Pacific Northwest to its more than 11,000 Starbucks stores nationwide.

Online, Starbucks already has sold out of a similar premium offering — the Costa Rica Tarrazu Geisha, listed on the website as having "rose petal aromas with ripe banana and subtle red current notes and silky mouth feel." The 450 half-pound bags of beans available were snapped up within 24 hours after being offered Nov. 8.

Both kinds of beans are known as Geisha heirloom varietals, which were first discovered in Ethiopia before making their way to Central America in the 1950s.

Starbucks justifies the high price by explaining that Geisha plants don't produce many cherries, making the beans extremely rare and also full of concentrated flavor. This is the company's first go-round with Geisha beans.

Starbucks is working through 3,800 pounds of Finca Palmilera beans, which feature notes of white peach and pineapple, company spokeswoman Alisa Martinez said.

"It leaves a tingly, kind of light feeling," she said. "It's a very exquisite coffee."

But try telling that to the consumers pranked this week by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who set up a fake taste test in Hollywood asking people to distinguish between standard coffee and what was supposedly the Finca Palmilera brew. Turns out, both cups contained the same basic Joe.

"I feel like this is a test to find out just how stupid we are," Kimmel said on his show. "Although, while it's ridiculous to spend $7 on a cup of coffee, it's actually not that much more ridiculous to spend $4 on a cup of coffee."

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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