Starbucks introduces Rwanda Blue Bourbon coffee

14 Mar 2006 --- Arabica Bourbon, one of the world's oldest and rarest coffee species, thrives in Rwanda's high elevations and is prized for its elegant flavor.

Starbucks Coffee Company this week introduces Rwanda Blue Bourbon coffee, its first ever from Rwanda and the 10th coffee in its Black Apron Exclusives(TM) line-up.

"Until recently, high quality coffee from Rwanda did not exist," explains Dub Hay, Starbucks senior vice president of Coffee & Global Procurement. "But Rwanda has the perfect terrain and climate for growing the highest quality arabica coffee, and the proof of that is in this cup. As our first coffee from the country, Rwanda Blue Bourbon should be celebrated not only for its amazing flavor but also for the promising future it brings the people of Rwanda."

Until a few years ago, farmers grew low-grade beans as their main cash crop -- and almost stopped growing coffee altogether after the violence of 1994. In 2001, individuals from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Agribusiness Development Activity of Rwanda (ADAR) helped Rwandan farmers write business plans and obtain bank loans necessary to purchase equipment and build coffee-washing stations, which are essential to ensure quality. They also taught farmers how to better cultivate arabica Bourbon trees. Farmers learned to prune, mulch, control pests and diseases, and select the ripest cherries.

"In 2004, the Starbucks green coffee team traveled to Rwanda to evaluate its potential as a premium coffee supplier," continues Hay. "That expedition led us to the Gatare and Karengera washing stations, which this year, delivered an amazing coffee."

Arabica Bourbon, one of the world's oldest and rarest coffee species, thrives in Rwanda's high elevations and is prized for its elegant flavor. Rwanda Blue Bourbon, Starbucks second Black Apron Exclusives(TM) offering of 2006, imparts a subtle acidity with herbal, spice and cocoa notes.

"With continuing help from Starbucks and international aid organizations, and with a renewed focus on quality, farmers can increase their incomes, can afford necessities such as shelter, education and medical care, and can invest in the future for themselves and their families," concluded Hay.

Starbucks awards $15,000 for each Black Apron Exclusives(TM) coffee for a project that will improve the lives of the farmers in the community. These projects have made immediate impacts in education, transportation, coffee-processing facilities and the environment. For Rwanda Blue Bourbon coffee, we will award $15,000 to the Karengera and Gatare washing stations in Rwanda. The money will be used to make immediate improvements to these station communities, improving efficiency and coffee quality, ultimately ensuring that farmers who use these stations will realize higher quality coffee and obtain higher prices for their crops.

The Black Apron Exclusives(TM) line of coffee is named for Starbucks most knowledgeable buyers, roasters, tasters and Coffee Masters, who wear black aprons in the tasting rooms and in Starbucks(R) coffeehouses. Since Black Apron Exclusives(TM) coffees hail from very distinct and scarce crops, subsequent introductions will be announced shortly before their arrival in select retail stores. Four rare and exclusives coffees will follow this coffee this year, with the next selection expected to be available on May 16, 2006.

Rwanda Blue Bourbon coffee is available starting tomorrow in Company-operated stores throughout North America (1/2 lb price: US $13, CAN $16) and at www.starbucksstore.com. It will only be available while supplies last.

Starbucks travels the world in search of great coffees which contain defining flavor characteristics that distinguish their origins. The Company's whole bean coffee assortment includes more than 20 single-origin offerings and blends from around the world, including many worldwide exclusives. The Black Apron Exclusives(TM) line-up presents customers with rare, exotic tastes from remote coffee farms. Starbucks Coffee Masters are stationed in stores to answer coffee questions and help customers navigate the world of coffee. Exploring this world can also take place from one's desktop; visitors to www.whatmakescoffeegood.com can follow the journey of the Starbucks coffee bean from farmer to customer and beyond.

Starbucks Corporation is the leading retailer, roaster and brand of specialty coffee in the world, with approximately 11,000 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim. The Company is committed to offering the highest quality coffee and the Starbucks Experience while conducting its business in ways that produce social, environmental and economic benefits for communities in which it does business. In addition to its retail operations, the Company produces and sells bottled Frappuccino(R) coffee drinks, Starbucks DoubleShot(R) espresso drink, and a line of superpremium ice creams through its joint venture partnerships. The Company's brand portfolio provides a wide variety of consumer products -- innovative superpremium Tazo(R) teas and exceptional compact discs from Starbucks Hear Music(TM) enhance the Starbucks Experience through best-of-class products.

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