Will Clover Prove Lucky for Starbucks?

When Chowder attends a tasting dinner, the liquid accompanying the food is typically a form of alcohol. We’ve done wine tastings, beer tastings, even tequila tastings, but last week we attended a coffee tasting dinner at Sauciety.

1219699457The event was held by Starbucks to herald the arrival of Clover, a new high-tech coffee machine, along with several small-batch varieties of coffee specially purchased for the device. We happily sipped on a cup of El Salvador Pacamara as a barista demonstrated how the Willy Wonka-esque machine works.

“This is highly caffeinated,” she explained. Since an evening cup of regular-strength coffee keeps us up well past our bedtime, we made our peace with the prospect of a restless night ahead.

The coffee is so potent because of the Clover’s brewing technology. The brewer sets the time, size, and water temperature for the specific variety of coffee, then adds the ground beans to a reservoir at the top of the machine. A vacuum pulls the coffee through an extremely fine filter, leaving an aptly-named puck of grounds behind and a rich cup of coffee in your cup.

Anthony Carroll, manager of Green Coffee Quality for Starbucks, says the Clover machine and beans give customers a greater appreciation for the coffee in their cup. “Baristas can talk to the customer while the coffee brews,” Carroll explains, “[They also] can tell them where their coffee comes from, and how the geography effects the flavor profile.”

Even chefs are taken aback by all the terms we usually associate with wine being applied to coffee.

“Are you crazy?” That was Sauciety Chef de Cuisine Roy Darling response when the company approached him to do a 5-course tasting menu paired with their coffees. Even as servers brought the courses and beverages out, Darling admitted he was still apprehensive, saying it was easier to read the company’s descriptions of the coffee’s flavor than to determine how to best compliment the characteristics of a specific brew on his own.

The coffee is good—we generally take our java with cream and sugar, but the smooth Clover small batch coffees were good black—but it was odd to drink coffee with a grilled lollipop of lamb. We were almost relieved when dessert came out and we were back to drinking our coffee with sweet food instead of savory once again. Now if only we could catch up on all that sleep we missed after sipping black coffee for two hours. . .

Clover and its accompanying small batch coffees will be available at Boston-area Starbucks locations starting today. Head to Starbucks.com to find a Clover-equipped store.