When Starbucks called Tom Douglas asking the Seattle restaurant icon to collaborate on a Starbucks coffee blend for Thanksgiving, Douglas figured what the heck. He’s carried Starbucks coffee in his restaurants for almost 20 years.
“I thought it was going to be more of a marketing thing.”
Turns out, it was a serious culinary experience, beginning with a three-hour tasting at Starbucks’ headquarters this summer.
Douglas and his executive chef, Eric Tanaka, sampled 20 kinds of coffee with Starbucks’ top tasters, created some blends and narrowed the field to two.
“I got a little edgy, even though you spit it all out,” said Douglas, whose restaurants include Dahlia Lounge, Lola and Serious Pie.
Then Douglas whipped up an early Thanksgiving dinner at his Palace Kitchen, and they tried the coffees with turkey in a sage and sweet onion gravy.
“I didn’t realize how much the herbs in the turkey would bring out the herbalness of the coffee,” Douglas said.
“We went with the more acidic coffee, to break the fattiness of the gravy.”
Thus was born Starbucks’ first Thanksgiving Blend, a combination of beans from Sumatra and Guatemala that Starbucks stores will sell from Nov. 4 until the limited supply runs out. It will be available in 1-pound bags for $10.95 but will not be sold as a drip coffee in Starbucks stores.
Starbucks’ popular Christmas Blend, which has been around since the mid-1980s and contains aged Indonesian coffee beans, will be available this year beginning Nov. 28.
Douglas plans to serve Thanksgiving Blend as the house coffee at all his restaurants in November, and it will accompany turkey dinner on the menu at Palace Kitchen.
The collaboration surprised Douglas in a couple of ways. For one, the coffee is not as heavy on Sumatran beans as he initially expected.
“I was thinking big and fat, but that’s like putting a big fat chardonnay with a crab,” he said.