One of the problems with airline food and beverage service is what tastes good on the ground loses taste at cruising altitude. Alaska Airlines has worked with local Portland OR Stumptown Coffee for the past year to make their coffee taste great at cruising altitudes.
Alaska Airlines, the premier West Coast airline, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a third-wave coffee pioneer and certified B Corporation, are proud to introduce a custom coffee blend that’s specially crafted to be enjoyed up in the air – brewing soon on all Alaska flights.
The Search For The Perfect Pot of Coffee
Taste and smell are inextricably combined and people’s sense of smell is significantly altered in the sky. Food and drinks taste different because pressurized cabins lower blood oxygen levels, which reduces the ability to smell. The extremely dry air of the cabin, with its low humidity levels, also affects smell which influences the sense of taste.
For over a decade, Alaska Airlines has been serving Seattle’s Best Coffee both in the air in on the ground at the Alaska Lounges. The airline will now source their coffee from Stumptown Coffee in Portland OR.
The journey of Stumptown Coffe with Alaska began in the fall of 2022 when they shared a sip of Holler Mountain at their offices in Seattle, WA. From there, they began considering the guest experience at 30,000 feet and created a blend that’s fit for the skies. Did you know your taste buds behave differently at high altitude? That’s why food and drinks can taste different in the air compared to on the ground.
After selecting the coffee, Stumptown conducted extensive brewing tests with the Alaska team—on the ground and in the air—to understand how it tasted both below and above the clouds. They also wanted to ensure our roast profile worked with all types of brewing machines on Alaska aircraft.
Here’s where we landed: the custom blend served on flight is an organic coffee roasted deep enough to bring out notes of toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate, while remaining exceptionally smooth and balanced. It uses the same clean and sweet base as Holler Mountain, but with a focus on a roast that mellows acidity and introduces just enough toastiness to please a wide range of palates.
More than two decades ago, Portland, Oregon’s beloved Stumptown led the third wave – a craft movement in coffee sourcing and roasting emphasizing quality and sustainability – in the Pacific Northwest and beyond through its uncompromising commitment to craft and unwavering dedication to its top-tier roasting methods, partners and the planet.
“We wanted a crowd pleaser – something that would delight folks who enjoy milder coffees and also speak to guests who enjoy medium-bodied roasts,” said Stumptown President Laura Szeliga.
Alaska’s medium-dark blend uses the same clean and sweet base as Holler Mountain, but with a primary focus on a roast that mellows acidity and introduces just enough toastiness to please a wide range of palates. It’s exceptionally smooth and balanced, with aromatic notes of toasted marshmallows, browned butter and toffee with delicate hints of citrus and cherry. Additionally, Stumptown dialed in this roast to be delicious when served black or with the addition of creamer or oat milk (also now offered on Alaska flights).
Putting A New Coffee Through Its Paces
After selecting their signature coffee, Alaska Airlines conducted extensive brewing tests both on the ground and in the air. They did this to
1) understand how it tasted both in the air and on the ground; and
2) ensure our roast works with all types of brewing machines on Alaska and Horizon aircraft.
Together, Alaska and Stumptown Coffee Roasters have taken steps to ensure each sip of our signature coffee is handcrafted and unlike anything else being served in the skies.
- More than 200 pots of coffee were brewed for the development of the project,
- Over 20 variables including changes in grind, dose, filter paper and filter pack dimensions were used to ensure passengers will love the new taste,
- Multiple flights and blind customer surveys were conducted to ensure the taste would be the same as it is at Stumptown Coffee in Portland OR,
- Alaska taste-tested the coffee with Alaska’s inflight oat milk and Biscoff cookies to ensure both pair with the coffee.
After selecting the coffee, they conducted extensive brewing tests with the Alaska team—on the ground and in the air—to understand how it tasted both below and above the clouds. Alaska also wanted to ensure our roast profile worked with all types of brewing machines on Alaska aircraft.
Here’s where they landed: the custom blend served on flight is an organic coffee roasted deep enough to bring out notes of toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate, while remaining exceptionally smooth and balanced. It uses the same clean and sweet base as Holler Mountain, but with a focus on a roast that mellows acidity and introduces just enough toastiness to please a wide range of palates.
Alaska’s custom roast will be available exclusively on all Alaska flights starting this fall and will be on every flight by Dec. 1, 2023. Plus, guests can sip Stumptown in our Portland and JFK Lounges where they’ll be proudly serving Stumptown’s Holler Mountain for our brewed coffee and Hair Bender in our hand-crafted espresso beverages. Trapper Creek will also be available as a decaf option.
One of the things that Alaska Airlines does well is share the Pacific Northwest experience with its passengers by sourcing locally as much as possible. Being based in Seattle, Alaska Airlines uses many food and beverage sources from the West Coast. In addition to local sourcing, the airline also aims to excel in sustainability when it comes to inflight service. They are proud not only to serve California, Oregon and Washington wines but also many other local staples:
- Tillamook Cheese,
- Beecher’s Cheese,
- Salt & Straw ice cream,
- Elite passenger chocolate bars from Seattle Chocolate Company,
- Fremont Brewing and
- Evergreens and Straightaway cocktails.
Alaska Airlines celebrates the unique culture of the West Coast with the many craft beer brewers and coffee houses.
My hat is off to Alaska Airlines for trying to solve the food and beverage taste challenge at cruising altitudes. Alaska Airlines has been proud to cater their flights with as many locally sourced food and beverage options as possible. Their commitment to sustainability is evident during the inflight food and beverage service. Stumptown Coffee has been a local favorite in Portland OR since 1999. I look forward to trying the new coffee with my favorite onboard creamer, Five Farms Irish Cream on my first flight in December.