I am a big coffee fanatic. This Starbucks Whole Bean Coffee review will share my thoughts and feelings about the following coffees that I have been tasting over the past few months. I prefer Whole Bean over pre-Ground because the taste is fresher and persistence of effervescence is protected.

I grind the beans moments before the heated filtered water touches the beans’ rare internal essence. Each mini-review below begins with the title of the coffee, the price per pound and a blurp from Starbucks explaining the background of the coffee. I then share my take on the reality of the taste experience and if the description matches the truth on the tongue.

KENYA BOLD

$10.19 a Pound Kenya

Medium-bodied Kenya has layers of flavor, from black currant or blackberry to sweet, tropical fruit. The coffee is prized for its bright and refreshing quality.

This is a fine coffee for everyday use. It is a bit acidic but that can easily be cut with soy milk or regular milk.

Even though this a Bold coffee it has a kind tone and an even flavor temperature across the tongue.

This is a good first choice if you don’t know which Whole Bean Coffee from Starbucks to purchase first.

This is a can’t-miss coffee that should be fine for any entertainment event because it will please many people.

ORGANIC SHADE GROWN MEXICO

$12.99 a Pound

This light-bodied coffee with bold acidity and a crisp, refreshing finish comes from hundreds of small farms in the Southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

While I prefer the Bold coffees over the Medium blends, this Mexican coffee is quite rich and authentic.

This is a good pick for a coffee if you want to experiment a bit with tastes and aromas and flavors.

It is a fun party coffee. When you swallow its murky goodness you get a fine buzz.

You are also completely comforted in knowing no chemicals have been used to entice the mind or fool the palate.

ESPRESSO ROAST

$9.99 a Pound Espresso Roast

A blend of coffees from Latin America and Asia Pacific, Espresso Roast has a dense, caramel-like sweetness and smooth, satisfying finish.

This is a harsh coffee.

This is a crunchy coffee. It is hard to swallow.

Sure, it’s an Espresso Roast, but the gritty texture of the liquid is unsatisfying in the everyday taste experience.

You can cut the grit with some water or other tastier liquid, but a true Espresso Roast fan will want the heavy quilted taste of each sip to linger lovingly in the mouth and not grind between the teeth on its way down and out for expression.

ARABIAN MOCHA TIMOR

$12.95 a Pound Arabian Mocha Timor

Arabian Mocha Timor strikes a perfect balance between the clean, fresh floral notes of washed Timor coffees, and the wild and exotic berry, cocoa, spice flavors of naturally processed Arabian Mocha Sanani. It’s a complex blend with up front berry notes, medium body and a clean finish.

When you see “mocha” in a title you expect to get a blaze of cocoa across your lips. In reality, that never happens.

The cocoa/chocolate taste is rightly barely there but to advertise “mocha” in the title could mislead the uninitiated.

This is a stealthy coffee with a silky, nutty taste that awakens the beast within while taming all wild berry desires. Arabian Mocha Timor is a good coffee for experimentation.

Can you taste the “flowers” embedded in the beans? If you cannot, try using more beans and less water next time.

KOMODO DRAGON BLEND

$12.95 a Pound Komodo Dragon Blend

Indonesia is the home of the world ‘s largest lizard — the Komodo dragon — and this blend of Asia Pacific coffees bears its name. Spicy, herbal and earthy with a full body, each sip of Komodo Dragon Blend ™ evokes the lushness of Indonesia.

You taste the land when you drink the Komodo blend. You are of the forest. You are dipping in the river.

This coffee takes you on a wild and exotic journey that allows you to chew it down into your stomach.

This is a powerful coffee with a punching muscle that pulses your tongue and delights the nose.

SULAWESI

$11.69 a Pound Sulawesi

An assertive coffee with a heavy body and creamy texture, Sulawesi is precious and in great demand. Many coffee tasters use words like “herbal” and “spicy” to describe the complex flavor present in the best Sulawesi coffees. Sulawesi is my all-time favorite coffee.

There is a tangy goodness in this blend that is incredibly satisfying.

The beans are super-dark and supremely oily when you open the bag.

You are treated to a whirlwind of senses stimulation.

When the aroma of a coffee can do that to you before the first sip you no longer need any convincing this is a bean for the rest of your ever-loving life.

RWANDA BLUE BOURBON

$13.00 a Half-Pound Rwanda Blue Bourbon Rwanda Blue Bourbon imparts a subtle acidity with its unique herbal, spice and cocoa notes. The beans of this Black Apron Exclusives ™ were grown in western Rwanda, on and around the Virunga Mountains, and in central Rwanda near Kagili. With its high elevation, traditional arabica Bourbon trees, rich soil and good rainfall, Rwanda is ideal for growing high-quality coffee.

Rwanda Blue Bourbon is the first Starbucks coffee from Rwanda. In 2001, with assistance from international aid organizations, Rwandan farmers began investing in specialty coffee for the first time. In just a few years, they have transformed their production and gained the world’s attention.

Their coffee now holds its own with the world’s finest beans and makes coffee farming in Rwanda sustainable once again. Rwanda Blue Bourbon is more than just a great cup of coffee–it is a source of hope for a brighter future for Rwandan farmers.

While the idea behind this coffee is grand — through this Starbucks program coffee brings freedom and financial security — the problem is the coffee is expensive at $13.00 for a half-pound and the taste of the coffee is harsh and bitter.

There is little to love in this coffee beyond the intricately designed laser-cut black box that cradles the bag of whole beans. If you care about the world, buy this coffee. If you care about drinking a great cup of freshly ground coffee choose any other variety in this review.

52 Comments

  1. I’m a big wuss when it comes to coffee. I mainly like a little bit with my cream and sugar. I also prefer flavored. Barnie’s (which has a store at my local mall) has a flavor called Santa’s White Christmas — even though it’s available year-round. I can taste caramel, coconut, vanilla… oh it’s so yummy! 😛
    They also have a Cool Cafe Blues that has flavors of rum and caramel. Nummynummynummy…
    Pardon me, I have to go clean up my drool. 😉

  2. Hi Carla!
    That White Christmas sounds really good!
    Janna is the same way. She wants her coffee sweet and light. She’s addicted to the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. She even bought the Starbucks Peppermint syrup so I could make it for her at home!

  3. Hiya Simms!
    I’m glad you liked the review and you can use any of those coffees as the base for lots of intensive home flavoring with syrups or cream or milk or even half coffee/half hot chocolate!
    I tried the pre-flavored whole bean coffees from Dunkin’ Donuts. Ooff! Not so good. I have an allergic reaction to their French Vanilla coffee.

  4. Well, I’m not allergic to the coffee itself, Simms. It seems I have an allergy to the chemical flavoring they add to the roasted beans to give it a French Vanilla flavor. When I drink it I sort of break out itching in a bad way.

  5. Heh!
    With McDonald’s now selling premium coffee you can say it tastes like “fast food coffee” because that will soon be true!
    :mrgreen:
    The most popular whole bean coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts is the Original Blend followed by French Vanilla and then in a distant last place, Hazelnut.

  6. I, too, was disappointed in the taste of the Rwandan coffee. I suppose a decision needs to be made between doing the right thing and having something good tasting. At $26.00 a pound people would likely flinch at the price but selling it in a fun container at $13.00 for a half-pound people may just hold their nose and go with the flow.

  7. My favourite part of the coffee experience is the smell. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Rwanda coffee will smell like because one of my best friends (I live with him) bought a half pound of it to use during Passover.

  8. Hello Mr. Vampire Bear!
    How is your friend Googy Bear? Or is it Gooby Bear? Or are you one of those in disguise? I get so beary confused keeping you all straight!
    😀
    I am with you 100% on the smell of coffee. It wakes you up faster than tasting it. I will be eager to hear your critique of the Rwandan coffee. I hope I just bought a bad bag. Mine was kind of stinky when I opened the bag and, as your best friend knows, the first thing you do when you open a bag of coffee is a take in a deep breath of it through your nose!

  9. Oh, it’s Goobie Bear. No worries about the spelling. The best way to remember is to sing it along to the mickey mouse club song.
    g-o-o
    b-i-e
    b-e-a-r
    goobie bear (goobie bear!)
    goobie bear (goobie bear!)
    There’s more to the song but that is the gist. 🙂 Anyway, I actually found that the Aged Sumatra that Starbucks had last year was amazing. Gordon said he could literally drink it with nothing added – no sugar, no soy milk, nothing – and it was still great tasting.

  10. Sadly it was just a limited release last year. Before they were sold in fancy laser cut boxes they just put them in plain bags.
    The coffee they have now in Starbucks – the peaberry blend 2006 – that should be excellent and more affordable – $14 for a pound – last year’s peaberry coffee was exquisite smelling.

  11. Yes, it is sad, but we have faith in Gordon to find some hidden somewhere in a bunker in North Korea or something. HE CAN DO ANYTHING!
    Loved the Peaberry blend! They’re round and not oblong! Huzzah! I wish I’d saved the bag for today’s review! Peaberry was a delicious favorite and is no longer on the Starbucks site.
    I also really enjoyed the “Christmas” and “Holiday” blends. Lots of fun and a good, woody, spicy, aroma. Didn’t save those bags, either.

  12. You are in luck. Gordon has a bag of the peaberry blend – maybe you can add its info to your review?
    Starbucks Peaberry Blend 2006Complex & Refined
    An alluring blend of rare peaberry beans
    Bean Biology – The peaberry develops as a single oval bean, unlike the more common pair of flat-sided beans.
    The consistent peaberry shape makes for a consistent peaberry roast.
    Only 5% of all coffee cherries develop into peaberries.
    The Mystery Bean
    Once every 20 beans or so, we discover something very special – some even say magical. A bean that’s just a little smaller and a little rounder than the norm. The shape is so unusual that these beans are seperated from the rest and brought together to create a nice consistent roast. Then, to achieve a bright full flavor with floral and herbal notes, this year we blended only those peaberries from East Africa and the Asia / Pacific coffee-growing region. Magic beans? Probably not, but a coffee this remarkable does make you wonder.

  13. I like Panera Bread’s Mocha coffee with whipped cream on top with swirls of chocolate syrup when I feel like I need to buy something to take advantage of their free WiFi services.
    Otherwise, I usually stick with the generic food service quality coffee provided at work.
    There are some guys at the office who have to make their daily trip to Starbucks for their caffine fix. They won’t drink the office coffee.

  14. Chris!
    Hey, I’m big on cheap coffee if it’s free! It’s those around me who want to spend the big money on the wild arrays of beans. Janna could never stand the taste of coffee. She’s been trying to get into it for the researched health benefits for the past six months or so. She’s doing a fine job so far!
    😀
    I spent most of my teenage and adult life drinking “rust water” and I’m not too proud to beg for a bit more!

  15. I’m not a huge coffee fan like you are, but I do enjoy a cup every now and again. Unfortunately I HATE Starbucks Coffee’s lol. We have a place out here in Canada called Second Cup that do amazing coffee’s from rich dark roasts to light mellow flavours. I don’t really like the Dark roasts, although my partner does. I’m more into the light mellow flavours, although I don’t have a favourite as such. However, give me Irish Cream flavoured Coffee and I’m yours for life! lol.

  16. Hey Dawn!
    Ha! I’m not really a Starbucks fan, either, but it is thrust upon me because of its convenience, advertising campaign and reasonable prices for whole bean coffee.
    Peet’s Coffee —
    http://www.peets.com/
    — is a lot of fun and it was supposed to be Starbucks but they wanted to remain local and turned down the offer to expand: GAH!
    :mrgreen:
    Flavored coffees are big! They’re candy for adults!
    😉

  17. I spent most of my teenage and adult life drinking “rust water” and I’m not too proud to beg for a bit more!
    I’m glad that ever since moving to Indiana, I’ve been lucky to have lived in places that were served by lake water.
    Our water in Northwest Indiana is from Lake Michigan and is excellent in my opinion. All of the zebra mussels in the lake filter out all of the impurities before it goes into the water purification at the water company. (It might not be good for the ecology, but it does make for excellent drinking water!)

  18. Good water is always necessary for good coffee.
    Bad water ruins good coffee.
    We don’t think about water much in the U.S., but it’s always an important issue.
    We are blessed to have the Lake Michigan water. We’re in the watershed, so we’re allowed to use the water, since we can return it to the lake eventually. Places further inland have to drill wells or find other sources.
    The problems facing Nebraska sound daunting. I can’t even imagine living in the westeren states where water is a precious commodity.
    It’s good that people have thought ahead to protect the Great Lakes from plunder by those who would be tempted to bottle it and sell it around the country. There are laws the prohibit taking the water from the Great Lakes and bottling it or otherwise diverting it out of fear it could be depleted.

  19. Hi Chris!
    Your comment got caught in my Spam trap. I have no idea why!
    We have filtered water here in the house. Jersey City is notorious for having lots of bad stuff in the water. If you don’t filter at home you get sick.
    The Midwestern states are going to have trouble. They have no natural water reserves. Nebraska was basically accused of illegally siphoning off too much water from the Missouri River for crop irrigation and for livestock and that deprived the downstream states the right to pull their fair share of water. Nebraska settled with Kansas. Missouri is next!
    Love that law link, thanks! You’re right Michigan is smart to protect their water. It is an invaluable asset and fruitful commodity.

  20. Not a huge coffee drinker, prefer tea with milk and real sugar.
    When I do drink coffee I tend to get white chocolate mocha, I preferred Seattle’s Best as they used to put white chocolate flakes on the top (which I don’t think they do anymore).
    I did drink Starbuck’s white chocolate mocha for a while only because Carolyn worked there and got 30% discount.
    I like the smell when Carolyn has pot of coffee brewing but rarely drink it.
    Mik

  21. david,
    fyi the white chocolate sauce they use is dairy. not sure to what extent that is important to you but thought you should know from a former barista.
    i’m writing this on elizabeth’s computer because guess what? my hard drive is completely dead. fortunately i backed it up and have a new one waiting to be installed but it still stinks to lose a hard drive. 🙁

  22. Hi Gordon —
    Thanks for the scoop on the dairy in the sauce.
    I’ve been reading your blog and feeling the woe of your computer trouble. Everything you were writing about the problem over the past week seemed to point to a virus. Did you run an anti-virus check before giving up the ghost drive?

  23. Hi David,
    Have you ever worked for Starbucks? I only ask because I am rather impressed with how you describe coffee. I have been working with starbucks since 2000. I really love having a conversation with a customer over coffee. I would love to have a coffee tasting with you if you are in the Philadelphia area.
    Sulawesi is also my all time favorite. I am performing a coffee tasting with my bosses next week, which is how I found this site. I’m planning on comparing Sulawesi with Papua New Guinea. I find it difficult to compare two coffees that are so similar; but, I like a challenge.
    I was recently talking with one of my new partners about Sulawesi. I’m helping him fill out a coffee passport, which helps us to understand all the coffees through tastings and food pairings. I was really impressed with his description of Sulawesi. He said that it smelled of ozone and then tried to talk about how it was green smelling. I told him that’s what we refer to as herbal. For years I found the word herbal very deceiving. It took me awhile to realize that herbal meant herbaceous and not basil or rosemary.
    Kathryn

  24. Hi Kathryn —
    I have never worked for Starbucks or any other coffee company.
    Are you a Starbucks employee?
    I’m in Jersey City so Philly isn’t too far away!
    😀
    I just bought the Papua New Guinea Estate and I’m drinking it right now and I will be reviewing it here in a future article here.
    I don’t think ozone is a very enchanting way to describe anything — especially coffee — unless you’re full-on hating it!

  25. Hi David.
    I stumbled upon your blog while googling for ‘starbucks peaberry blend’. Just bought a bag of this ‘limited-edition’ coffee. Not sure if that is just a marketing hype. I must admit to being a Starbucks junkie myself (not for anything else but their whole bean coffee selection.)
    Those are great reviews. Your descriptions are more accurate than Starbucks’. You should write for them.
    I am quite getting into this coffee thing as well, as i find that they make great companion drinks when i smoke my cigars. They are the next best thing to wine. I drink mine black, coffee press style. Now you have talked me into getting my own home grinder.
    Some of their beans i have tried are French Roast, Komodo Dragon, Gold Coast Blend, Sumatra, and now Peaberry. A hundred more to go…

  26. Is Starbucks mingling in some Robusta into their Peaberry? The bag suspiciously does not say 100% Arabica, so they could be putting in whatever they want. I brought home a bag of the whole bean and just smelling it is making me jumpy. Or am I having a case of Peaberry paranoia?

  27. About the picture on mug and signs is a mythical Chinese Dragon, and NOT a comodo dragon! They are such thing as comodo dragons you know, they’re lizards.
    Check Chicago Shedd Aquarium at http://www.sheddaquarium.org.
    PS.
    I’m a regular customer (almost, every morning) for several years now at chicago starbuck at deming. Enjoy your coffee and friendly services, great, great people out there. – good job!
    JL.

  28. David,
    I enjoy your comments as well as the others that post on your website.
    Several months ago I purchased a bag of Starbucks Papua New Guinea coffee. We were immediately impressed and decided to put some additional bags in our pantry. I visited several Starbucks in the area and was able to find 11 bags. We are on our last bag and can no longer find any. Do you have have any idea where I might find some?
    Any help you can provide would be appreciated.
    Bob Bedwell

  29. As I understand it, Bob, these Starbucks special coffees are only offered for a limited time and then they disappear forever.
    If you’re down to your last grounds, you’re out of luck! Don’t save the beans, either, because they have a limited lifetime for enjoyment!

  30. If I may interject here it is valuable to know that sometimes seemingly forever disappearing coffees make a comeback if they were super popular in the stores.
    There is a coffee they sell every summer even though it was going to be a one-off thing – it makes really good iced coffee. Actually this year they have two options for good to make into iced coffee beans. One of them I am impressed – they are offering it in single serving pre-ground in case you don’t want to plunge the full $12 or whatever it is for a full pound.
    Then again, is $12 really that much for a pound of coffee?
    If I get a pound of coffee I am guaranteed I can make a full pot every morning (except for Saturday of course) for two full weeks. That’s twelve full pots of coffee. That breaks down to about a dollar per pot, which means you are paying about twenty five cents per serving.
    🙂

  31. I apologize if this is a redundant post. I didn’t have time to read through all of them.
    Great post David. Are you getting paid for this advertisement?! 😉
    I am a coffee connoisseur and I did some research awhile back. Apparently the Coffee chains DO NOT use the same bean that they sell “per pound.” I can only assume to protect the proprietary blends.
    Give me a triple shot of espresso mocha latte or a cappuccino from Italy and I’m a happy boy!
    CK-

  32. hi David.
    so what do you have brewing lately?
    the Starbucks Christmas blends aren’t much of anything to write home about.
    i’ve come full circle with all of their blends and im back to French Roast. interesting how you notice some more of the nuances the second time around.

  33. I don’t like Starbucks coffee either, when you get it in the store. I think they have lots of great whole bean stuff. Its funny – whenever i go to buy a pound, they always offer me a free cup! But I kindly decline, because I know I can take the bag I just bought home and make it proper – and its much better. I just got the Komodo Dragon blend. What a coffee! Delicious, rich, mellow, yet flavorful. The last one I bought was the guatemala/antigua, and I thought it was boring. The Kenya was a bit disappointing too – I thought too acidic with not enough redeeming flavor. I liked the Eithiopian Sidamo better than the Kenya – acidic but so flavorful. The tanzania was also delicious.

  34. Hi David, I thought since it was such a long time since anybody posted this might be dead! I love coffee, and I love talking about coffee, so I’ll keep posting. But I’m going today to buy some more whole beans at starbucks and I’ll write a review! I seriously need to get another roaster. I had a small one, but it broke. Boy… what an intriguing aroma coffee beans produce when they are being roasted! What’s your favorite method of brewing? I like the French press most. Then I have my nice espresso machine, that’s second. Then I have a really cool, fancy looking glass thing that heats the water and it percolates up (I don’t know what the proper name of that device is called, but looks like part of a chemistry set!).

  35. Thanks for the review, Rich! I love talking about coffee, too, but sometimes people miss these fab-o older articles! 😀
    I’m currently out of coffee as well! Gotta get another few pounds in the house.
    A French Press is just too complicated for me. Getting the grounds out is too much work for me. 😀
    I have a Melita grind and brew and I love the taste and speed at which it satiates my hunger.

  36. Well, I just picked up the Arabian Mocha Sanani. And WOW, what a unique coffee! As I opened the bag, the first thing I noticed, before the wonderful woodsy aroma, was that the beans were curiously small. I ground them up, and used the good ol’ french press with clean, good water. Steeped for 2.30 with very clean, oil-free equipment. This coffee is full bodied, with a great mouthfeel. The flavor is amazingly complex! So many different flavors bombard the mouth! At first, there is a smooth, refined brightness, followed by hints of sweet fruityness, but hard to describe – its a fleeting, berryish aroma. A pronounced, long lasting finish, with an almost sweet woodsy after flavor. Very nice. Smelled wonderful while brewing in the press, an aroma explosion! – unlike any other coffee I’ve had from Starbucks, as they advertise it as their “most exotic coffee.” I would definitely say this is exotic.