A while back I heard some buzz about the $11k Clover and how it made an incredible cup of coffee. Intelligentsia installed several in their stores, and started serving all coffee, brewed one at a time from the Clover (at some locations). I have a lot of respect for Intelligentsia, so I figured that whenever I made it up to Chicago I’d stop by and give it a try.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Chicago, so I checked to see which locations had a Clover. None. I learned that way back in 2008, Starbucks bought the manufacturer, and stopped selling new units or parts. After 5 years, no other clovers were left, they finally figured out how to use them, and they started introducing Clover into select locations. One of these locations was convenient on my trip, so I stopped twice to give it a try.
Starbuck uses the Clover to brew only their Reserve coffees, which seems reasonable to me, though it also gives them an extra reason to charge a pretty penny. Day one I had a Mexican bean, and the entire cup was dominated by the typical Starbucks char. Maybe the Clover was amazingly transparent, or maybe I was influenced by the hype, but I tasted even more char than usual. It’s disappointing that an origin as subtle as a Mexican wouldn’t be handled better.
Day two I ordered a Ethoipian Yirgacheffe, figuring the (potentially overbearing) berry flavors would shine through. And they did! Unfortunately, the strong berry odor out of the cup disappeared as soon as the coffee had cooled enough that I could drink it. In the end, I got two cups of coffee that were mediocre at best. And with several excellent roasters in Chicago, that’s a real shame.