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Unlocking the Ultimate Sky-High Brew: Alaska Airlines’ Game-Changing Coffee Experience

Unlocking the Ultimate Sky-High Brew: Alaska Airlines’ Game-Changing Coffee Experience

Alaska Airlines has partnered with Portland-based roaster Stumptown to create a custom coffee blend that is immune to the negative effects of altitude on taste.

Alaska Airlines has developed a custom coffee blend in collaboration with Portland-based roaster Stumptown. The aim is to counteract the negative effects of altitude on the taste of coffee served on flights. Airborne-served coffee often tastes bitter and weak due to the altitude-changing effects. However, Alaska Airlines believes its custom blend will provide a better coffee experience for passengers.

The custom coffee blend, a first for a major airline, will be exclusively served on every Alaska flight, including its regional carrier Horizon Air, starting from December 1. The taste and smell of food and drinks are closely linked, and the sense of smell is significantly altered in the sky. Pressurized cabins lower blood oxygen levels, which reduces the ability to smell, and the extremely dry air affects the nose. These factors contribute to the perception of a different taste when consuming food and beverages on flights.

To combat these effects, Alaska Airlines turned to Stumptown’s Holler Mountain, a medium-dark blend, as the base for their custom coffee. They then infused it with punchier notes of marshmallows, browned butter, toffee, and a delicate hint of citrus oils and cherry essence. This combination creates a more complex taste when consumed in the air.

The development of the custom coffee blend took a year, during which 20 different versions were tested, including during flights and through blind surveys. Alaska Airlines even conducted taste tests with creamer and Biscoff cookies to ensure the best combination. The partnership with Stumptown marks the end of Alaska Airlines’ decade-long partnership with Seattle-based coffee company, Starbucks. However, Delta Air Lines, which also has a major hub in Seattle, will continue to serve Starbucks on its flights.

Edward Russell, editor of the Airline Weekly newsletter, commented that airplane coffee is often a joke for many travelers. He believes that most onboard coffee options are mediocre, and airlines often try to improve their coffee offerings by partnering with various global coffee brands. While he doubts that the custom coffee blend will attract new customers to Alaska Airlines, he sees the partnership with Stumptown as a way for the airline to support businesses from the Pacific Northwest, which is in line with their focus on boosting regional companies.

Alaska Airlines has a history of partnering with regional companies, including Tillamook cheeses, Salt & Straw ice cream, and Straightaway canned cocktails. The introduction of the custom coffee blend is another step towards enhancing the overall in-flight experience for passengers and distinguishing Alaska Airlines from its competitors.

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