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Originally published August 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Starbucks launches new coffees for Clover machines

After testing Clover coffee machines in Seattle for several months, Starbucks launches a new line of small-batch coffees for Clover machines that will be available at 10 Starbucks stores in the Seattle area. One independent coffee-shop owner in Seattle who also has Clover machines doubts Starbucks can do it on a large scale.

Seattle Times business reporter

Information

To see a demonstration of the Clover single-cup commercial brewer, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p030kQN5q1U.

Starbucks shops with Clovers

Here are the Starbucks stores in the Seattle area with Clover machines:

701 Fifth Ave.

505 Fifth Ave. S.

1420 Fifth Ave.

721 Pine St.

4000 E. Madison Ave.

2135 Queen Anne Ave. N.

7100 E. Greenlake Drive N.

10214 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue

601 S. Grady Way, Renton

21920 Highway 99, Edmonds

Source: Starbucks

Starbucks has launched a new line of small-batch coffees for Clover machines that will be available at 10 Starbucks stores in the Seattle area, about 30 in Boston and an undisclosed number of stores in San Francisco.

The company has tested the Clovers in Madison Park, Queen Anne and downtown Seattle for several months and bought the small Ballard company that makes them, The Coffee Equipment Co., earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

Now Starbucks wants to get the most out of the specialized machines, which are basically semi-automatic French presses that allow baristas to set the temperature and brew time for individual cups of coffee. There were about 250 Clovers in coffeehouses around the world when Starbucks decided to buy the company.

Tatiana Becker, who co-owns Trabant Coffee and Chai with her husband Michael Gregory, said they have a Clover machine in each of their two shops in Seattle.

They aren't worried about Starbucks buying the maker of Clover, because "a pair of Air Jordans can't make you play like [Michael] Jordan," Becker said. "The Clover can't add any flavors that aren't there already, so the giant would have a long way to go before their coffee is on par with ours."

She said she doubts the small-batch coffees for Starbucks' Clover machines, which the chain will sell for $2 to $4 a cup, will be feasible on a large scale.

"To be getting the best coffees in the world, they would have one coffee at five stores, another coffee at five stores. How would they keep track of it and train baristas in those stores how to talk about those coffees? I think it would be an operational nightmare," she said.

A Starbucks representative stopped by Trabant a couple weeks ago to say that CEO Howard Schultz wants to meet with third-wave coffee-shop owners — the third wave being a new industry standard for high-quality coffee.

Becker wrote to the rep but hasn't heard back.

"I wanted to hear what he had to say, what their grand plan is," she said. "If he wanted to know third-wave secrets, that would be pretty hefty consulting fees."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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