Java Enabled: Southwest's Coffee Gets a LIFT

Sep 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm
It's been a while since I've taken a vacation and even longer since I've flown. So when a good deal on a Labor Day weekend in Orlando, Florida, popped up, I jumped at the chance to go. As I filed down the ramp with the rest of my fellow passengers, I was surprised to see an ad on the wall for LIFT, Southwest's new on-board coffee. My interest was piqued. When was the last time you were excited to taste an airline's coffee?

Southwest served the first cups of LIFT in May of this year. The boldest part of the new coffee is the branding effort the airline has rolled out. The stout, wide-mouth cup features a tiny gray sleeve with descriptions of the coffee as well as ads for the charitable foundation -- the Guatemala Light Project -- that the airline supports in the name of the coffee. Southwest even put together a tongue-in-cheek YouTube video for the campaign.

Dark-roasted Arabica coffee from Central and South America, an eco-friendly cup, a charity: Southwest has successfully brought airline coffee into...the 1990s. And the coffee is still just okay.

"Dark roast" suggests a bold, satisfying cup to some drinkers. However, a darker roast can also serve as a way to mask the beans' true flavors by emphasizing the flavors that the roasting process creates. Despite its dark roast, though, LIFT coffee still has a thin taste. The bold might be there, but there's no body to back it up.

Southwest also advertises that its coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans from Central and South America. While Arabica is generally considered to be a higher quality bean than Robusta, this tells the drinker nothing about the coffee's taste. Considering the amount of coffee grown in Central America alone -- in Guatemala alone, even -- we're talking about a massive amount of coffee. Add the entire continent of South America to the mix and...well, let's just say this isn't your single-origin cup of coffee.