Starubucks’ Blond Roast and kiruv

In 2007 I wrote a post titled Kiruv Models for  In it used Starbucks as a model and today I find myself doing the same.  At locations across North America Starubucks revealed their new “Blond Roast”, a light roasted coffee being introduced to attract those who are buying coffee at donut chains and fast food joints.  “We know we’re not serving those customers now. We’re going to bring in new customers,” Andrew Linnemann, director of coffee quality at Starbucks, said of Blonde, in an article today in the Chicago Tribune.

For the people like me, I love a dark roast.  That’s why I like Starbucks (at a cRc recommended kiosk).  I have never had McDonald’s coffee, but Dunkin always tasted watered down.  Over the years Starbucks has introduced “new” things into their stores that seem to grab customers like skim milk, soy milk, and blended frozen drinks.  Some have been more successful than others.

This trend of attracting those who are not part of your market share has always been important in kiruv.  In the past few years this has surfaced in the following ways:
  • The success of The Mussar Institute, popularity of Dr. Alan Morinis’ books, and the introduction of “Mussar” as a buzzword among non-Orthodox branches of Judaism prompted Aish’s Jewish Pathways (self-contained distance/online learning) to get Dr. Morinis to author a “Mussar Program” offering.
  • Popularity of the Maccabeats’ pop music parody vidoes have spawned (time and time again) private individuals and kiruv organizations to put out their own “Jewish” versions of music videos (of course Shlock Rock originally and skillfully did this eons ago).
  • NCSY, the most successful Orthodox youth group, has cornered the market of teen outreach since its’ inception.  In the two years Chabad has begun massive outreach in the form of CTeen,.  “CTeen is a social club where teens learn about themselves and their heritage through giving to others and participating in interactive, hands-on activites.  With over 85 chatpers, CT is the fastest growing network for Jewish teens.”  They even are hosting a massive shabbaton in NYC next month.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I guess those who serve light roasted coffee (a code word for watered down coffee) will be thrilled.  In regard to the bullets above, I’m not sure what the approach should be.  The Mussar Institute has made Mussar relevant for thousands of people (their Facebook group alone has almost 800 members).  More and more I read about Reform and Reconstructionist groups running Mussar programs.  I think that it’s about time adult kiruv groups serve up “Blond” mussar programs to the non-Orthodox community.  The Maccabeats had two very successful parodies and this Chanukah they went with a more traditional route by covering a song by Matisyahu.  NCSY continues to be on the cutting edge of programming, but Chabad has massive funding behind all of their programs.

Opening up your doors to a new market is always a risk.  As is changing the way you make your signature product.  We do, however, have an amazing an unique product to offer…Hashem’s Torah.


10 thoughts on “Starubucks’ Blond Roast and kiruv

  1. micha

    Less roasted does not mean fewer beans per cup. In fact, if Starbuck$ uses the same amount of coffee per cup, “blond roast” will have the same amount of taste, albeit a very different one, and MORE caffeine. More roasting means more damage to the caffeine molecules. Starbuck$ is only hi caf because they put in much more bean per cup. Also why making your own at home never quite tastes the same. Put in another 50%, and you get the barrista taste.

    I used to love Starbuck$; it was the first coffee I tried and so became “the default coffee taste” for me. I have co workers who consider the taste “burnt”; they simply got used to something else.

    Then I started paying for high schools, and suddenly the office freebie was good enough.

    WRT your nimshal, JEP reached out to teens decades ago. But a non-co-ed program isn’t a viable model for public HS youth. (Although NCSY is trying it for those areas where their Jr HS program is predominantly yeshiva kids. But that’s not kiruv, and only Jr High ages.)

    I think it also bears mention that while The Mussar Institute teaches mussar to non-O Jews, that’s the only part of Torah we really focus on. Therefore, it’s not “kiruv” in the sense of getting people to keep Shabbos, kashrus, taharas hamishpachah, etc… I don’t think readers will understand that part of your post without this tidbit.

  2. micha

    And before Shlock Rock there was Gershon Voroba. For that matter, that kind of Judaicization of pop music was a mainstay of NCSY culture since well before my day. Which is where Lenny got his start.

  3. Neil Harris

    To get coffee at home to taste like SBUX you need to use a dark roast and make sure it’s 2TBSP per 6 ounces.

    Micha, I appreciate the explanation about The Mussar Institute. The point of the first bullet was that Aish has picked up on this via the course at Jewish Pathways. However, they have not brought the teachings to the masses.

  4. Neil Harris

    Before Gershon, there was KESHER: Lenny Solomon, Joey Freidmen, Zvi Pill and (I think) Yonah Lloyd). They first took Pat Benatar’s “Hit me with your best shot” and turned it into “Hit me with your best P’shat” on either the first or second Kesher tape.

  5. micha

    Thanks for the memories. Kesher were regulars at LI NCSY events too. They once put in a free evening at a “slave auction” fundraiser, figuring it would mean working an NCSY event. My sister won, and so I had a great band at my wedding.

    Yonah Loyd’s name rings a bell from the NCSY circuit, but I can’t remember if it was Kesher, Ruach or someone else. Which band had Shmoo Klaver on the drums?

  6. Neil Harris

    Also bei us, in the supermarkets.
    If you follow their suggested 2tbsp/6 oz of water, then it’s not too bad.

    On Shabbos my wife uses the Starbucks VIA packets…she loves them. I just use the cold coffee that’s leftover from the Fri morning brew. However, I like iced coffee year ’round.

  7. micha

    Via says it contains raw coffee. CYLOR before using it on Shabbos!

    Personally, I only would using a keli shelishi. Using a french press mug eliminates the birur problem, uses roasted — so it’s at least bishul achar afiyah, if you goof and forget the keli sheini, and gives you a choice of better coffee. In practice, I rarely have coffee on Shabbos, using that french press mug to make whole leaf tea.

  8. Neil Harris

    VIA is roasted beans that have been “microground”. We always use a keli sheini. Is a french press mug the same as a one cup french press that you drink out of?
    I never asked, but figured there are bo’rair issues with a press?

  9. micha

    Unless the ingredients changed… I was in Phoenix when they first came out, a guest of the local kollel. They raised the issue. Not that it is entirely raw coffee, but for some reason some part of the coffee is raw.

    As for my cup, it’s a french press that makes 12 oz, and has a travel mug lid. Filtering happens as you drink, so (1) it’s derekh akhilah, and (2) you’re removing the tea from the leaves (or coffee from the grounds), so it’s okhel mitokh pesoles. Either factor alone is enough to remove it from the category of “boreir”.

    There is still the issue of avoiding bishul if you’re cooking the leaves. There is R’ Moshe’s pesaq that tea leaves are spices and are never bishul. Tea importers claim the same thing, by the way, that the tea doesn’t cook, and slow brewing by cold water leaves the leaf in the same condition. I don’t know anyone who follows Rav Moshe, though. So, I do the keli shelishi thing. And whole leaves, aside from being better tasting for less money (although you can say you’re “paying” in the work of washing the press), are less arguably “easily cooked” than tea crumbs.


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