St. Helena is one of the world’s most remote destinations, not yet served by commercial flights and a five-day journey by sea from South Africa. Although the tiny island in the South Atlantic covers an area of only 47 square miles, roughly the size of San Francisco, it is the source of some of the world’s most extraordinary coffee, a rare arabica varietal called green-tipped bourbon.
Ann Traumann, Starbucks coffee buyer devoted to sourcing the world’s most unique coffees for the premium Starbucks Reserve brand, secured this lot, which was roasted at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. The first 25-pound allotment of Starbucks Reserve® St. Helena was set aside for Roastery customers, selling out in four days.
The remainder of the coffee, 204 hand-numbered 8.8-ounce bags, will be available online beginning September 1. St. Helena Reserve is a once-in-a-lifetime coffee, retailing at $80 per 8.8-ounce bag. In addition, four Starbucks stores with immersive, Reserve Bar experiences will also get three bags each to share with customers, including Peachtree in Atlanta, Harvard Yard in Boston, Williamsburg in New York and Oak & Rush in Chicago.
History of St. Helena Coffee
St. Helena’s coffee descends from seeds brought to the island nearly 300 years ago from Yemen, its volcanic soil and temperate climate perfect for growing arabica coffee. In 1815 St. Helena gained notoriety when the British exiled Napoleon Bonaparte there after his final defeat at Waterloo. Legend has it that Napoleon even begrudgingly acknowledged the excellence of the local brew: “The only good thing about St. Helena is the coffee.”
Although coffee production foundered in St. Helena over the years, the industry is slowly rebuilding. Starbucks total purchase of 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of St. Helena coffee represented one-third of the island’s harvest for the year.
“We are thrilled to be able to share this very special coffee,” said Starbucks coffee specialist Leslie Wolford. “It is a delicate cup with subtle floral aromas leading to soft citrus fruit and caramel notes. This is just one example of how our scale and longstanding relationships with farmers allows us to bring the most incredible coffees to our customers.”
Did you know?
The artwork on the bag of St. Helena tells the island’s story with a traditional baroque pattern that features its terrain and distinctive flora and fauna. Look closely to see whale sharks, succulents, wirebirds and Jonathan, the island’s famous tortoise. The design also pays tribute to the island’s colorful history with Dutch tall ships and even Napoleon’s hat.