A Large Coffee, Light and Sweet, Please

2009 McDonald's Moms' Quality

PassionDiva_NY visiting McCafe at the McDonald's

Moms' Quality Correspondents Summit.

The following is a guest post from CafeMom member PassionDiva_NY.

Mmmmm coffee. One of my favorite drinks. On our second day of the 2009 McDonald's Moms' Quality Correspondents Summit, we visited McDonald's corporate office to learn about what went into creating their coffee line McCafé 

Before their national release of McCafé, you could buy regular coffee at McDonald's. However, it was not a signature blend. The research to create their custom premium coffee blend began in 2004. It took two years of market research, finding potential suppliers, visiting coffee farms and learning about the entire coffee making process. 


I like my coffee very simple. However, when researching what kind of blend to create, McDonald's found a ton of variables and statistics about coffee drinkers. They found that 62 percent of coffee drinkers drink traditional coffee while 38percent drink a specialty blend.

They learned that when someone purchased a cup of coffee, 50 percent bought a hot brew, while 30 percent got an espresso, and the other 20 percent would buy either/or depending on other factors. And, of course, purchasing habits changed throughout the year and even throughout the day.

Oh wait; let's not forget that if you are on the West Coast, your coffee tastes may be totally different from someone on the East Coast. McDonald's had a big task on their hands to say the least. They not only had to create a signature blend of coffee, but they needed the ability to serve all types of coffees for all types of customers. Along with that ability came creating the machinery to outfit most of their national restaurants and the training resources to teach all employees how to create custom coffee drinks. Having choices, variety and the ability to customize was huge on their to-do list. 

After scouring the industry for the best coffee producer, and of course one that could sustain the supply and demand for McDonald's, they enlisted a company called Distant Lands. Distant Lands spoke to us about the creation of coffee, from harvest to roasting.   

We got to see green coffee, which is unroasted raw coffee. They showed us a green coffee grading chart, which identifies green coffee defects. They had several green coffee defects and explained how some beans can have no flavor while others can distort the flavor of the blend. This is why they still do inspections by practicing the traditional method of hand filtering the green coffee beans.

 The presentation on Distant Lands was very informative. They appeared to have a high regard for how their coffee is grown, how their farms are maintained, and how their workers are treated. They do not use herbicides or pesticides on their land and participate in replanting on their farms.

During this meeting we were able to participate in traditional coffee cupping. Coffee cupping is the method used to test the tastes and aromas of coffee. We tested the four componentsof the blend that McDonald's uses: Brazilian, Costa Rican, Guatemalan, and Sumatran. I liked the Brazilian taste best, which I learned probably had a lot to do with the coffee drinking practices that I grew up with.  

So with the help of this company, McDonald's decides its venture into coffee is solid. Then Distant Lands begins setting up procedures in their mills on the farms that would eventually supply a national line of coffee. 

The other half of releasing this new product is, of course, marketing. We had the opportunity to view several commercials that targeted different markets around the country. Coming from a Hispanic background with coffee being a big part of our culture, I was really interested in how their commercials would target the Latino community. And, I was surprisingly pleased. As learned through their research, tradition and culture also come into play when people drink coffee. I, for one, definitely use coffee as a conversation tool and any-time-of-day treat, and their commercials definitely spoke to me. Other cultures may only use coffee as their morning drink or as an end-of-day-treat. Their marketing efforts for this product I believe spoke to all cultures and they really tried to capture the true behavior of all types of coffee drinkers.  

During our break we got to eat lunch with Chef Dan, McDonald's head chef and culinary director. Chef Dan made us three potential new menu items: a wrap, a snack, and a drink. He also taught us a recipe for a wonderfully delicious fruit dessert that included pineapples, raspberries, whipped cream and vanilla syrup. After lunch we got to visit their beverage machinery room and made our own custom coffee. It was really important to Chef Dan that we understood this new line of coffee that McDonald's released is all about choice and customization.  

This McDonald's meet gave me valuable insight into what it took to prepare and release a brand new product line in a mega corporation. I also gained some really interesting facts about the coffee making process and have a greater appreciation for my morning cup of joe.

For more information on the Moms' Quality Correspondents Summit, please visit McDonalds Moms.

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