Starbucks might have a viselike grip on the fall beverage scene, but the brand has officially lost some influence in the friendly skies. Alaska Airlines has chosen to end its partnership with Starbucks in favor of creating a new custom coffee blend with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, soon to be available on all flights.
In-flight coffee can be hit or miss for many travelers (even when it comes with a cookie), so Alaska Airlines is specifically seeking to up its game. After a 10-year run of serving Starbucks roast on its flights, Alaska Airlines is ending its relationship with the nation’s number-one coffee chain. Don’t despair, Starbucks devotees—Delta Air Lines still serves Starbucks in-flight, and it’s hard to find an airport without at least one location.
As enjoyable as a Pumpkin Spice Latte tastes walking out of your local Starbucks, there are multiple factors that could make that same seasonal cup taste very different at 30,000 feet. Our sense of smell and taste are heavily connected and tend to change when we’re up in the air. The pressurized cabins of airplanes lower blood oxygen levels, which reduces our sense of smell and in turn causes food and drinks to taste and smell different, CNN Business explains. On top of that, if you’ve ever flown anywhere, you’ve likely noticed that the air can feel dry—this can also affect a person’s nose.
Taking all of these factors into account, Alaska Airlines and Sumptown Coffee Roasters took their time tinkering with the new custom blend. Per the airline’s announcement, more than 200 pots of coffee were brewed, flight tests were conducted, and blind customer surveys were taken. The two brands also considered over 20 variables, including grind, dose, filter paper, and filter-pack dimensions, to perfect the in-flight experience with the coffee. The airline also wanted to ensure the coffee could taste consistent no matter which machine was being used to brew it, as the airline has multiple models on board different planes.
The coffee was also tested with the airline’s inflight milk and Biscoff cookies to ensure a tasty pairing. The medium-dark roast itself has a sweet base, mellow acidity, and contains “aromatic notes of toasted marshmallows, browned butter and toffee with delicate hints of citrus and cherry,” according to the press release.
The elevation-customized coffee will be served on Alaska flights throughout the fall and will be on all of the airline’s flights, including its subsidiary Horizon Air, by December 1 of this year. Sorry, Starbucks, but Stumptown might soon become the coffee of the skies.