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How Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz likes his coffee

Julia La Roche
Howard Schultz thinks the best way to brew coffee is in a French press. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Many people like to start their days with a cup of coffee. And some of those people can be extremely particular about how they take their coffee.

One of the people is Howard Schultz, the outgoing CEO of Starbucks (SBUX). The billionaire coffee magnate’s go-to is a cup of Sumatra, brewed his favorite way — in a French press.

“For me, the best way to brew coffee has always been in a French press. That was how I’d brewed it at home for 25 years. Unlike the drip method, where water passes over coffee grounds and drips through a filter, the coffee grounds in a press pot are continually steeped in water; the full immersion brings out a taste that just cannot be achieved by a drip brewer,” Schultz wrote in his 2011 bestseller “Onward.”

He described his first time drinking a cup of Sumatra while visiting the original Starbucks store in the Pike Place Market district in 1981. At the time, he was a general manager for Swedish drip coffee maker, Hammarplast. Starbucks, then a single-store roaster and retailer of whole bean and ground coffee, was a client.

“As we spoke, the counterman scooped out some Sumatra coffee beans, ground them, put the grounds in a filter in the cone and poured hot water over them. Although the task took only a few minutes, he approached the work almost reverently, like an artisan,” Schultz wrote in his first book, “Pour You Heart Into It.”

“When he handed me a porcelain mug filled with the freshly brewed coffee, the steam and the aroma seemed to envelop my entire face,” Schultz continued. “There was no question of adding milk or sugar. I took a small, tentative sip. Woah. I threw my head back, and my eyes shot wide open. Even from a single sip, I could tell it was stronger than any coffee I had ever tasted.”

Three sips in, Schultz was hooked.

After visiting the original store that day, Schultz went to the Starbucks roasting plant to meet the owners of the company, Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker. Baldwin brewed him a cup of coffee in a French press for the first time, showing him the way coffee should be brewed.

Schultz would eventually buy Starbucks and expand it into the coffeehouse empire it is today, with more than 24,000 locations worldwide.

Last week, Schultz announced his resignation as CEO, effective April 2017. He’ll assume the role of executive chairman, while Kevin Johnson, the company’s president and COO, will take over as CEO.

On Wednesday, Starbucks will host its Investor Day in New York. Yahoo Finance will live streaming Schultz’s Q&A with Johnson.

Starbucks Investor Day

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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