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Take a look at the Starbucks taste tester headquarters, and the process of sampling 600 coffees a day
“Anyone can taste coffee — you just have to be in it all the time.”
In this video, Bloomberg News takes us inside the Starbucks coffee lab in Seattle, inside which a small and select team of coffee tasters have the job of trying out up to 600 different coffees a day (“cuppings”).
There are seven dedicated tasters that report to the Seattle headquarters, and fewer than 15 tasters worldwide.
Tasters like Leslie Wolfert go through the daily process of intense quality control.
The tasters evaluate the green coffee beans, roast the coffee, and then pour boiling water directly on top of ground coffee. They let it sit for three minutes, and finally taste and evaluate the coffee.
“We’re really looking at acidity, body, flavor, and overall complexity in the cup,” says Wolfert.
Many of you may be wondering how one gets the job of professional coffee taster.
According to Wolfert, “Anyone can taste coffee — you just have to be in it all the time.”
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
Unless it is very popular, all All Starbucks stores are under the direct management of Starbucks Coffee. There are currently no plans to franchise.
- Q: Does Starbucks Franchise?
- A: No, Starbucks does not franchise to individuals. However, in situations in which a master concessionaire or other company controls or can provide improved access to desirable retail space (such as an airport), the Company may consider licensing its operations to such a company.
Starbucks has 10,000 stores worldwide, some 4,400 of them are licensed shops. It’s nearly impossible to open Starbucks store as franchise in US or Canada, but in other countries, there is always a possibility.
Franchising is a way to help stores to grow, but the coffee retailer prefers licensing to keep more control over stores and product quality. Licensees don’t own stores, as franchisees do they basically rent the Starbucks brand by paying a licensing fee.
What Do Product Testers Do?
After receiving the item to review, you’ll use it as you ordinarily would while paying careful attention to your experience. Companies could ask you to assess design, packaging, colors, fit, comfort, effectiveness, taste or countless other aspects.
Some companies will require specific usage amounts. For example, testing footwear may require that you use them for several miles, or testing a washing machine may require you to run a specific number of laundry loads.
Independent Sensory Testing Companies Offering Taste Tester Jobs
The way sensory testing companies work is similar to market research businesses that serve on behalf of food manufacturers and other food companies.
Market research companies hold focus groups and use online and in-person surveys to provide feedback on food products.
However, the big difference is that sensory testing companies specialize in conducting food-related trials.
Signing up for a taste tester job at a sensory testing company is as simple as signing up for an online survey.
Click here to learn about online survey sites that will pay you in cash.
For a sensory testing company, you can sign up for free and start filling out your profile.
Your profile will tell the company what type of demographic you fit.
Sensory testing companies holding food testing studies that align with your profile and demographic will invite you to take part in the trial and pay you money for your service.
Earn Everything… nearly!
Join Opinion Outpost, one of the few faithful and honest survey panels and earn cash and gift cards for your opinion. Stack your points and redeem them: Simple! No hidden fees and completely free!
You will receive either cash or check for taking part in the study.
Below I outline a number of sensory testing companies that hire food taste testers and produce food testing studies for various food manufacturers.
1. The Consumer Product Testing Centre
The Consumer Product Testing Centre is connected to the Food Processing Development Division of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
Click here to check out their website.
This agency looks to hire food taste testers located in Alberta, Canada for a bunch of different taste testing studies.
The food you’ll get to taste varies from all kinds of snacks such as potato chips, crackers, and tortilla chips to yogurt or pasta.
If you like a meal that includes meat, you’ll get to taste test steak like beef or bison and pork chops, fried chicken, hot dogs, deli meats, and chicken fingers.
And you can also taste test chocolate, candy, sports drinks, and energy bars.
One thing’s for sure: you’ll be full after a day of eating such tasty options!
The website explains that you will likely only get to taste test for their studies about four times per year.
The average taste testing session is usually about 15 minutes long and pays about $15 total.
2. Contract Testing Incorporated
One of the biggest companies in the sensory testing industry is Contract Testing Inc.
You can check out their website and sign up to be a food taste tester by clicking here.
This agency works with plenty of different food manufacturers as well as a bunch of restaurants.
As such, you’ll get a chance to try all sorts of different food products with this company.
You’ll get your set of frozen dinners that need to be microwaved, but you’ll also taste test cookies, pizza, dessert, crackers, soups, and more.
The company states that you can participate in as many as five taste testing studies per year.
3. Northland Laboratories
The company Northland Laboratories has a sensory testing facility in Northland, Illinois.
So if you’re located close to this general area, you can definitely take part in their food taste testing studies.
You can learn more about the company by clicking here and browsing their website.
The type of food you’ll taste test can also vary drastically at this company.
The taste testing studies at Northland Laboratories can last anywhere from 15 or 20 minutes to an hour or more depending on the type of trial you sign up for.
4. Apex Life Sciences
Apex Life Sciences is a laboratory seeking to hire food taste testers.
According to Indeed, the company is hiring for a long-term and part-time taste tester job in Pleasantville, New York.
You could work for six to eight hours per week making $15 per hour.
That would add up to a minimum of $360 per month.
This would definitely benefit anyone in need of some extra cash.
Your job would be to evaluate food products including offering feedback on taste, color, texture, smell, and look of the snacks or meals.
5. Dairi Concepts
This company offers a variety of sensory services for restaurants and food manufacturers, including storage evaluations, quality control, and product launch testing.
Dairi Concepts uses an in-person facility for its testing that includes optimal lighting for taste testing.
In addition to internships that can get your feet wet in the food industry, Dairi Concepts sometimes has openings for full-time and part-time positions for testers.
You can find open positions on its Careers page.
MMR is a sensory science research company providing its services to clients in the food industry.
The company sometimes has openings for part-time product evaluators that need to be located near one of its on-site locations.
Some of the projects may also be able to be worked on in your home.
You’ll need about four days a week set aside for a few hours each day.
Full training is provided by MMR, so you don’t need previous experience to start.
Before you begin, your senses will be tested to make sure you’re a good fit.
Candidates should have no known food allergies or other allergies that may affect their senses.
3. Panera Bread
It seems like every time I order an iced coffee, the initial joy and excitement are diminished by the whooshing sound of the straw as it scavenges for every last drop of the liquid gold. With Panera, those days are in the past. Not only is the regular iced coffee refillable like their lemonades, teas, and fountain drinks, but it's also customizable to suit your every need. While the iced coffee itself isn't ground breaking in flavor, it still has a pure and natural flavor.
My favorite aspect of Panera's iced coffee is the ability to add as many or as little mix-ins as you want. Personally, I still like my coffee with a good amount of cream and sweetener, so being able to choose from an assortment of alternatives took my visit to the next level. While Panera does offer specialty cold coffee drinks made to order in the kitchen, the quality and price weigh on the side of simply ordering a regular iced coffee and tweaking the flavor on your own.
10 things Starbucks won’t tell you
With more than 20,000 stores spread across 65 countries, Starbucks has all but redefined coffee and the coffeehouse experience. The company, which started in Seattle in 1971, is known for bringing high-end java to the masses—as in coffee that’s a cut above what you might find in your neighborhood diner.
Starbucks has also helped to train a generation of coffee-drinkers who don’t blink at paying, say, $2 or more instead of 99 cents for a cup of joe. That’s due in part to their success in establishing Starbucks as a comfortable respite from home or the office (its stores have been dubbed a “third place”) and in emphasizing a socially conscious corporate philosophy (where even part-time employees can receive benefits).
It’s a formula that’s clearly worked, even in today’s increasingly competitive coffee market: Starbucks Corp. racked up nearly $15 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2013, a 12% increase over the prior year. And the company’s stock SBUX, -0.44% has risen by more than 700% since early 2009.
But for all the company’s success, Starbucks still has plenty of naysayers, especially when it comes to its core product: coffee. The company has long been dogged by complaints that some of its java offerings have a harsh, over-roasted quality—earning the moniker “Charbucks.” And some of its offerings haven’t fared well in taste tests, including studies by Consumer Reports. In a 2013 blind taste test, The Bold Italic, an online magazine based in San Francisco, found that Starbucks’ Medium Roast House Blend finished the worst of six packaged coffees. (Even supermarket mainstay Folgers ranked higher.) To quote one tester’s opinion of Starbucks: “Gross, dark, yuck!”
As might be expected, Starbucks takes a different view. A spokeswoman makes the point that “some like a lighter coffee and some prefer dark” and to that end, Starbucks says it’s been working to accommodate a wider range of tastes. In 2012, the company introduced its line of Blonde Roast coffees, which were billed as “subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied.” And that same year, Starbucks began promoting what it calls its “Roast Spectrum” -- essentially, that means patrons who visits its stores are sure to be offered dark, medium and “Blonde” options.
To some critics, a Pumpkin Spice Latte is equally scary.
2. Our Pumpkin Spice Latte comes with chemicals (and no pumpkin)
If there’s a single drink that’s come to define Starbucks, it’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte—a fall favorite, introduced in 2003, that’s become a runaway seller (more than 200 million sold to date, according to the company). Indeed, the drink is so popular, it’s often referred to by just its initials: PSL.
But some nutrition-minded writers and health professionals have complained that the PSL and other Starbucks drinks feature one too many ingredients they consider unnatural or even harmful. Food blogger Vani Hari (aka the Food Babe), has taken a particularly harsh view of the PSL, pointing to the fact it contains Caramel Color Class IV—one of whose byproducts, a compound called 4-MEI, has been identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Hari also takes PSL to task for having artificial flavors, a “huge dose” of sugar and “no real pumpkin.”
Dr. Mark Smith, a chiropractor in Osceola, Ind., who runs the Good Living Warehouse online store, which sells nutritional supplements and other items, has also publicly faulted the chain for relying heavily on nonorganic coffee that could come from farms that spray with pesticides. “No amount of pesticides are safe,” he writes.
For its part, Starbucks stands by what it packages and brews, saying there’s no cause for safety concerns. The spokeswoman says that the company is “actively looking at phasing out caramel coloring,” but meanwhile, the level of such coloring used in Starbucks beverages is “safe to consume.” (While the company doesn’t make mention of it, it’s worth noting that Hari’s research has come under fire in other contexts.) As for the pumpkin matter, the spokeswoman says the Pumpkin Spice Latte “features the unmistakable pumpkin pie spices of fall…but not actual pumpkin.”
It’s true: You can turn an iced-coffee drink into a really strange iced-coffee drink.
3. We’ve got a secret menu
Starbucks gives its customers plenty of drink menu options, from brewed coffees to espresso drinks to frozen favorites (Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino, anyone?). But apparently, that’s not enough. A cult of sorts has emerged around the chain’s “secret menu”—drinks that Starbucks doesn’t publicize but that baristas can create using the ingredients they have on hand at any given moment. For example, there’s the “Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino” that mimics the taste of the cereal—it’s a mix of the Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino (a standard menu item) and vanilla and raspberry syrups, among other ingredients.
The key, according to the Starbucks Secret Menu website (which, it almost goes without saying, is not an official Starbucks site), is for customers to know the drink’s recipe, since “not all baristas are familiar” with each and every secret drink. (Oh, and “be prepared for extra costs”—beverage add-ins equal price add-ons.)
Another “secret” option: Ordering drinks in a “short” (or 8-ounce) size. (And, yes, a short is cheaper than a tall—or 12-ounce—drink, the smallest option on the normal menu.)
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has acknowledged the existence of the “secret menu,” saying he’s “amazed at the concoctions that people order.” Indeed, the Starbucks spokeswoman says “there are more than 170,000 ways” beverages can be customized at Starbucks by mixing and matching coffee and espresso options, syrups, toppings and other ingredients.
Acquiring a bigger presence at the breakfast table.
4. We’re thinking big (maybe too big)
Starbucks gets 26% of its revenue from products other than beverages. And even in the beverage department, a substantial chunk of sales comes from drinks other than coffee. The chain dropped the word “coffee” from its logo in 2011, and its acquisitions since that year include tea maker Teavana, juice company Evolution Fresh and the La Boulange Cafe & Bakery brand. And that’s on top of forays over the years into everything from music to soda.
Certainly, Starbucks isn’t the first company to step outside its comfort zone. But some investment and retail analysts have expressed concern about the expansion, noting problems in Starbucks stores that can potentially result, including longer lines and frustrated employees.
For its part, Starbucks has seemed comfortable with its think-outside-the-coffee-tin strategy. “Sustainable growth requires that we preserve the integrity of our core business as we carefully expand our products and expertise into new channels, brands and markets,” Schultz wrote in the most recent Starbucks annual report. And the spokeswoman notes that Starbucks’ approach to business has paid off, as evidenced by its 18 consecutive quarters of same-store sales gains of 5% or more.
Remember the Chantico?
5. We’ve had our share of failures
Starbucks has had plenty of breakthrough beverages like the Pumpkin Spice Latte. But it’s also had its drink duds. Among those that didn’t quite work out: the Mazagran, a bottled coffee-cola hybrid that, in Schultz’s words, was “a niche product” the Chantico, a chocolate “drinkable dessert” that was said to be similar to the hot chocolate found in Europe and the Sorbetto, a cold concoction that tapped into the tangy yogurt craze.
Of course, product failures may not mean much to average customers, unless they have a particular yen for an item for an item that’s discontinued. But they can have an impact on a company’s bottom line.
Starbucks characterizes its failures as signs that the company is always looking ahead to the next big thing. “We test and bring new products to the marketplace all the time and we will continue to listen to what our customers are looking from us,” the spokeswoman says.
They’re compensated well by industry standards, but baristas still have some beefs with Starbucks.
6. Our ‘partners’ have had some rocky times with us
Starbucks is routinely lauded for its workplace practices and remains a fixture on Fortune magazine’s annual “100 best companies to work for” list (in 2013, it ranked 94th). But its relationships with its employees (or as Starbucks calls them, “partners”) have hit some bumpy patches over the years.
In 2013, the company settled a class-action lawsuit for $3 million that stemmed from workers saying the company prevented them from taking breaks they were owed during shifts. (The spokeswoman says Starbucks’ “employment practices have been in compliance with all applicable laws” and that the “parties reached a settlement to avoid the risks and uncertainties of litigation.”) More recently, the company has come under fire for not giving employees enough advance notice of their schedules, making it difficult for employees to plan for child care, school schedules or other employment.
Starbucks says that it truly considers its employees to be “partners,” noting that the chain offers a comprehensive benefits package—including affordable health care, company stock and eligibility for merit increases every six months—that “many other companies do not.” As for the scheduling issue, the company has announced it’s making changes to its procedures and that work hours will be set at least one week in advance.
Chicago’s Intelligentsia is one of the newer ‘third-wave’ competitors.
7. We’ve got more competition these days
In many ways, Starbucks is like a McDonald’s without a Burger King—that is, the chain doesn’t have an archrival when it comes to high-end java. But that could be changing. In recent years, a “third wave” of artisan-minded coffee houses has opened up, emphasizing everything from single-origin beans (“harvested like wine grapes,” according to one report) to refined roasting techniques. Players in this market include Intelligentsia Coffee (based in Chicago), Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Portland, Ore.) and Blue Bottle Coffee (Oakland, Calif.).
“What we’re seeing is a maturation of the coffee segment. There’s room for different tiers of quality,” says Andrew Hetzel, a coffee industry expert, based in Hawaii, who serves as a consultant to many stores.
To some extent, Starbucks is joining this bandwagon in that it plans to open at least 100 “reserve” stores, emphasizing even higher-end java, over the next five years. The chain is also testing an “express” store concept, which seems to be tied to the competitive threat from fast-food chains—like McDonald’s—that have moved increasingly into coffee.
For now, Starbucks may have one advantage over its third-wave competitors: it generally charges less—in some cases, easily 25% less—for a cup of drip coffee. (In New York, a 12-ounce “tall” Starbucks serving runs around $2.) And that’s despite the fact that Starbucks has itself been faulted for high prices, leading some critics to dub the chain “Fourbucks.”
It’s like a Big Mac, with more caffeine.
8. Our calorie counts can be ‘venti’
Many Frappuccinos have more than 400 calories in a 20-ounce “venti” serving the Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino even hits the 500-calorie mark. Add a slice of Iced Lemon Pound Cake (470 calories) and a coffee-break drink and snack could be close to 1,000 calories.
To put that in perspective: A Big Mac and large Coca-Cola at McDonald’s clock in at 810 calories. (Keep in mind the Agriculture Department says an adult between the ages of 31 and 50 should typically need between 1,800 and 2,200 calories a day.
Starbucks’ spokeswoman says the company is committed to “providing full ingredient transparency to our customers.” The chain lists calorie counts for menu items on its website and has a section devoted to “Delicious Drinks Under 200 Calories.”
Fuel for an early-morning liftoff.
9. We’re winning the caffeine arms race
Many coffee drinkers rely on the beverage for the caffeine jolt it provides. And in the case of some Starbucks drinks, they’re getting more than an everyday wake-up call.
In 2012, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group focusing on nutrition, examined caffeine levels in medium-size cups of coffee from various chains and found that Starbucks—specifically, a grande (16-ounce) serving of the company’s popular Pike Place roast—had the most, with 330 milligrams per cup. By contrast, java from Dunkin’ Donuts had 178 milligrams of caffeine (unless, of course, you added a “turbo shot”) and McDonald’s 133 milligrams.
So, what’s the problem, some java junkies might ask? Well, as the center noted at the time, caffeine intake has been linked to sleeplessness, problems with calcium metabolism and other health issues. That said, there’s no clear medical consensus on how much caffeine is too much (and it’s generally agreed that the ceiling is far higher than 330 milligrams).
As with calories, Starbucks lists the caffeine content of its drinks on its website.
You actually can try this at home.
10. You can do just as well making your own java
Is Starbucks giving you something you can’t make yourself at home, for less? Unless you crave complicated espresso drinks, probably not. “I make great coffee every day,” says David Rosengarten, a cookbook author and former Food Network host who now runs his own mail-order gourmet business.
Just keep a few rules in mind, Rosengarten and other experts say: Pick beans that have been roasted within the few past days--and don’t buy too much, either. (“Roasted beans start to go downhill after eight days,” says Rosengarten.) Grind the beans at home with a burr grinder. (Blade grinders just don’t, um, cut it, coffee geeks insist.) Use a brewer that can get the water up to a very high temperature (around 200 degrees Fahrenheit)—the Techniworm is a popular manufacturer of such machines--so that the brewer can extract the flavor out of the ground beans. (Or boil water in a kettle and use the pour-over method.)
And the cost? If you drink 2 cups a day, you’ll spend no more than $5 a week (or $260 annually) for quality coffee (priced, say, at $10-15 per pound). (A one-pound bag yields more than 60 cups, according to Starbucks’ measures.) Buying a top-rated burr grinders and coffee brewer will set you back around $650—but of course, that gear should last for many years. Add milk and filters and the first-year costs of home-barista status come to about $1,000. (Of course, if you opt for a cheaper grinder and coffee maker, you can easily shave a few hundreds from the tab.)
By contrast, that first year’s tally at Starbucks, based on two $2 cups a day, will run more than $1,400—and that’s not including gas to and from the store or all those muffins and scones you’re likely to buy, too.
(The rules are a little different when it comes to espresso. A top-level machine, easily costing $5,000, is needed to replicate coffeehouse quality, some experts say.)
Of course, Starbucks can still do business with those who prefer their coffee at home. After all, the company also sells packaged coffee and brewing equipment.
What Does It Taste Like?
The secret honey cold brew is the equivalent to sipping on summertime and sunshine. That's how good it is. Cold brew is known for its powerful caffeine taste, but the honey brings out a naturally sweet flavor without sending your body into a sugar comatose, or worse, the postcoffee jitters. When I saw the recipe card, I was anxious it was going to be way too sugary. I literally read: sugar rush. Black iced coffee isn't for me, but I also don't like overly sweet drinks. I stuck with the instructions (they are the professionals, after all) and am so happy I did.
18 Guilt-Free Starbucks Drinks For When You're Trying to Lose Weight
Here are all the Starbucks health hacks you need to know &mdash because giving up coffee and tea just ain't gonna happen.
What's the first thing you think of when you roll out of bed in the morning? If your answer is coffee, you're not alone. While it's tempting to grab an overloaded Frappuccino on the way to the office to get you through the morning, the sweet treat is packed with fat, sugar, and calories and is best left to special occasions.
When it comes to your daily brew, trying to be a smidge healthier will do your body good, and Carolyn Brown, registered dietitian for Food Trainers, as well as Keri Glassman, registered dietitian and founder of The Nutritious Life, know exactly which drinks should become your go-tos &mdash and which should get the boot.
Before heading to Starbucks, remember these three golden rules:
- Avoid sweeteners at all costs. Syrups, both real and artificial, skyrocket your drink to meal-like proportions. And with that many chemicals in one sitting, it triggers sweets craving for the rest of the day.
- Stick to the 60-100 calorie range. Consider it the safe zone that won't derail your diet. If the local 'Bucks doesn't have calories listed on the menu, opt for tall and grande sizes (sorry, venti). And you're only allowed one refill &mdash max.
- Get back to basics. Coffee, tea, espresso, and cappuccino are all great, healthy options. If you're really watching your overall calorie and sugar intake, you can use healthy add-ons like cinnamon or nutmeg to give it some punch.
Now that those tips are converted to memory, it's time for the fun stuff. While these definitely aren't the healthiest drinks to walk the face of the planet (you know, if drinks could walk), Glassman says they're healthier, and drinking one won't be the end of the universe.
Healthier Drinks to Order at Starbucks
1. Teavana Shaken Ice Passion Tango Tea. Ask for the unsweetened version of this fruity drink. It's already packed with zest, so there's no need for sugar or syrup.
2. Iced Coffee. You can't go wrong with this favorite drink. Brown recommends drinking it sans sweet stuff, or Stevia if you must, and using a little almond, soy, or coconut milk for flavor instead.
3. Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers. Berries give this drink a sweet flavor and the green coffee extract provides a caffeinated boost.
4. Orange Mango Smoothie. Glassman says this is better as a snack, not a drink, but hey &mdash it's better than the cupcakes being passed around your office.
5. Classic Chai Tea Latte. While this drink is higher than the calorie range suggested, you can ask for it without the added sweetener to put it back in guilt-free territory.
6. Brewed Coffee. This classic drink will never go out of style, plus there are loads of health benefits to drinking a daily cup of joe. If you're looking for an extra energy boost, choose the blonde roast, which Brown says is super caffeinated.
7. Skinny Vanilla Latte. You can have this cold or hot &mdash just make sure to skip the added pumps of sweetener and use Stevia instead.
8. Red Eye. It's not listed on the menu, but this added shot of espresso in your coffee will give you an extra jolt without upping your drink size.
9. Cappuccino. It may seem counterintuitive, but Brown says it's best to opt for whole milk over the low-fat or skim variety here, thanks to the added nutrients. Or, go with soy, coconut, or almond milk to cut down even more.
10. Pineapple Kona Pop Brewed Tea. Looking for drink options with brewed-in flavor, like this zesty tea, is an easy low-cal option. It's rich in flavor and caffeine-free &mdash perfect for an after work treat.
11. Caffè Americano. This drink is simply water and espresso, making it a great option if you like strong coffee and loads of caffeine.
12. Coffee Mini Frappuccino. While this drink definitely breaks the added sweetener rule, it's the best option if you're going to indulge in a Frappuccino. Go for the whole milk option, which has added nutrients, and ask for the 120-calorie mini size.
13. Ombré Pink Drink. The pink drink everyone is going crazy for is now officially part of Starbucks' menu, and it's actually pretty healthy. The ombré beverage &mdash made with a coconut milk base &mdash will only cost you 100 calories. And that's for a grande. (Gasp.)
14. Violet Drink. Another day, another Starbucks beverage almost too pretty to sip. This one's full of blackberries and creamy coconut milk, making it taste more like a guilt-free dessert.
15. Strawberry Açaí Starbucks Refreshers. A new take on the classic Refreshers, this drink is flavored with strawberries, passion fruit, and açaí. Plus, you'll get a boost of caffeine from the green coffee extract.
16. Caffè Latte . Sometimes it's better to just keep things simple, and that's definitely the case with the classic caffè latte. You can get a 12 oz. almond version that's just as foamy as the original, but much easier on the waistline.
17. Pumpkin Spice Latte. If you're a major PSL fan, there is a healthier way to order the drink. Just opt for almond milk, skip the whipped cream, and tell your barista you only want one pump of the pre-sweetened pumpkin-flavored syrup.
18. Peppermint Mocha. The festive peppermint mocha can easily pack on hundreds of calories if you order as-is, but try this hack: Order almond milk, no whip, no dark chocolate curls, and only one pump of peppermint-flavored syrup for a option that's better for your body.
How do I become … a coffee taster
A lison Currie possesses a casket of scent bottles unequalled by the wealthiest fashionistas. From one small glass phial you can inhale basmati rice. Another wafts pipe tobacco and its companions contain the aromas of straw, earth, rubber and a full menu of garden vegetables. The 36 scents teach novice palates to identify subtle strands of flavour and, unnervingly, any of these flavours are liable to crop up in our morning coffee.
Currie, 45, is a senior scientist at the UK headquarters of Mondelez International, formerly Kraft Foods, which is the world's second largest coffee company. It's her job to collate national preferences in coffee flavours and to liaise with product developers to produce blends that will appeal to Europe's different markets. Crucial to the process is a team of coffee tasters who sample the latest product and analyse the strength, textures and flavours. It's Currie, armed with her scents, who teaches them to articulate what they are tasting. "I might give them coffee that has been brewed with elastic bands in their training sessions so they can learn to identify rubbery flavours," she says.
Sindy Parker, who joined the tasting team 16 years ago, is now accustomed to odd experiences in the tasting booth. "When I applied for the job I didn't know what to expect and was surprised to find green beans in the coffee sample I was given," she says. "Until then coffee was just coffee and I had no idea how many different flavours and textures were involved."
Parker, 48, and her colleagues are near the end of a lengthy production line which starts with tasters who decide whether the raw coffee beans should be classed as Arabica or Robusta, and passes through the product developers who tinker with the blending, grinding and roasting time and temperature to arrive at required flavour and texture. "Tasters like Sindy validate what they produce then we take it to consumer panels in the different countries and if they dislike it it goes back to the developer," says Currie. "Eventually the finished product is tested by quality assurance tasters before it hits the shelves which is usually around two years after work started on it."
Parker, who trained in childcare before finding a job in a jigsaw factory, spotted an advertisement for coffee tasters while searching for work that would accommodate the school run. "They screened us first to test our sense of taste and smell and whether we could describe what we were experiencing," she says. "We were given water with citric acid in so we could identify a sour taste and coffee that had had cornflakes in to help us distinguish between smooth and grainy textures." Over a dozen or so two-hour sessions candidates sipped their way through the entire coffee portfolio and learned the vocabulary to describe the attributes of each blend.
Now she spends four hours a day in one of a row of booths sipping coffee samples delivered by a member of kitchen staff and scoring them on a list of attributes that the team will have discussed and decided on beforehand. "They try to replicate what the average consumer likes in the country being targeted," she says. "If the product is aimed at France, where they like their coffee darker and smokier, we test it black, Germans prefer it with UHT milk and the British prefer it milky and weaker. When I started I was simply testing instant, roast and ground coffee, but now with the launch of Tassimo products I do lattes, cappuccino, hot chocolates and flavoured coffees and that involves lots more attributes like the texture and how peakable the foam is."
A discerning palate is the only qualification necessary to become a coffee taster – and a fondness for the beverage, although Parker admits she now rarely touches the stuff outside work. "I find I don't just drink it any more once you know how to pick out the different notes you analyse it." According to Currie, the less background expertise the tasters have in the science and manufacture of it the better because they need to approach each sample without preconceptions. "We like to keep them innocent so that their tastebuds do the talking," she says.
However, despite the relatively short hours, the work is more demanding than it sounds and a strong mind as well as a strong stomach are advantages. "It's not a job for everyone because you are very isolated in your booth, except when you meet for discussions, and some find it claustrophobic," says Parker. Plus there is the requirement to swallow occasionally unpalatable flavours with an open mind – "soya milk coffee was my worst moment," she says.
After 16 years she finds her daily sensory adventure as stimulating as ever indeed tasters are tested every three months to check that their senses remained undimmed, but those who imagine it is like being paid to drink through the menu at Starbucks are in for a shock: "Some people think my job is like one long coffee morning," she says, chasing the residue of an assertive Rustica with a water biscuit. "Believe me, it's not!"
Professional Chocolate Taster Salary
The average salary per year for a chocolate taster is $21,000, but at the top of the chocolate taster salary pyramid is the one who earns $90,000 to $100,000 per year.
The life of a chocolate taster may seem rosy from the outside, but those in the profession know the hard work that is involved. So, only if you have an innate passion for chocolates and centring your life around it should you take up this niche profession.
In this article, I hope to shine a bit of light on the subject “How to become a Chocolate taster” so that you can make the right choice for your career.