January 30, 2008

It's the coffee!

What's wrong with Starbucks? Certainly not that it's pushing out independent coffeeshops. They are prevailing. The big trick: Make better coffee! Meanwhile, Starbucks has been switching to push-button espresso machines. In New York City, I'm stuck patronizing Starbucks, and I was shocked when I saw that they had automated the machines. Starbucks used to seem like a luxury brand, and now it feels like a fallback when you can't get to the real thing.
The man who built the chain, Howard D. Schultz, has retaken the reins in an effort to revive it. He is scheduled to roll out a plan on Wednesday that will almost certainly involve shutting down more stores in the United States while accelerating expansion overseas.

Mr. Schultz has said he wants to refocus on the “customer experience,” recapturing some of the magic of the chain’s early years...
As the company grew and customer traffic increased, Starbucks expanded its food offerings while introducing efficiencies like those automated espresso machines. Gradually, complaints surfaced that Starbucks felt more like a fast-food restaurant than a coffeehouse....

Mr. Schultz had already outlined many of the problems in a Feb. 14, 2007, memo that is now famous. Entitled “The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience,” the memo acknowledged that rapid growth had diluted the Starbucks magic.
Part of the fast-food feel is the people who work there. You can call them "baristas," but you can tell that the job for them feels like a fast-food job.

ADDED: Starbucks also pre-steams big pitchers of milk. Even when the place isn't busy, those pitchers of hot milk are sitting around simplifying the barista's job. You go over to wait for your coffee and instead of seeing your cup made to order, you see a button pushed and old milk dumped in.

UPDATE: Schultz announces his plan:
Starbucks will close about 100 U.S. stores this year, scale back its U.S. expansion and begin focusing on faster growth overseas as it seeks to revive its cachet and rekindle sales growth that by one measure sagged to an all-time low last quarter.

The Seattle coffee-shop chain also will stop selling warmed sandwiches, which don't contribute much to profits but take employees' time and interfere with the smell of coffee in stores.
We don't need no stinking sandwiches.

122 comments:

former law student said...

Do the automated machines use the machine gun belts of premeasured ground coffee? Those aren't so bad.

Before Starbucks, independent coffee houses were few and far between. I can remember when the city of Chicago had only one.

rhhardin said...

Starbucks opened in a local Kroger supermarket last November.

Nobody is ever at its tables.

Now they have free wifi signs up on the tables.

No electrical outlets though.

Nor any customers.

It has as many customers as the Sushi stand. Ohio is not New York.

They could probably advertise wifi for the sushi stand too. I'm sure it reaches over to it, another twenty yards is all.

Hell, combine them, coffee and sushi. Share the tables.

Henry said...

The problem is the coffee.

It's burnt. They overroast the hell out of it.

The other problem is the lousy baked goods. Push-button espresso machines don't bother me a lick. I have a push-button machine at home.

Mass-produced baked goods, however, are one of the great banes of modern life.

Between home and work there are three Starbucks, about twenty Dunkin Donuts, and two fantastic artisanal bakeries. Guess where I go. Interestingly enought, the bakeries make the best coffee and espresso as well.

Balfegor said...

Starbucks used to seem like a luxury brand, and now it feels like a fallback when you can't get to the real thing.

But so expensive. The real fallback is instant coffee from the office. Starbucks is for sugar.

hdhouse said...

Lewis Black had a dandy routine about Starbucks ... you know you have enetered the last days when they build a Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks

SGT Ted said...

The problem is the coffee.

It's burnt. They overroast the hell out of it.


DOn't drink the dark roasts then.

They started going down the tubes when they quit focusing on a good cup of coffee and started making all the frapalapahoopadoopadiabeticcomamyassneedstobebiggerchino coffee "drinks" that have more calories and fat than a BBQ Rib Cookoff.

I can make a better cup of coffee at home using Starbucks beans bought at Costco than they make in their own shops. They need to go back to basics.

froggyprager said...

A friend who had an opportunity to talk with Mr. Schultz told me a story about his experience. He claimed that Mr. Schultz told him that there are other places that sell better coffee and other places that sell cheaper coffee. He explained that the unique draw they built their chain on was that the customer was always right and always could get the best service. If you don't like your drink they will happily make you something else and not roll their eyes. At Starbucks you can be in control and be the boss.

They definatly have lost this part of the experience.

nansealinks said...

Help wanted:

Bakess.

Cam women apply or better we keep them in Grandmother's kitchen.

What do you say, Ann?

Kolaçki bakeoff? Hamantacschen or Mohntaschen?

Applestrudel bakeoff, YES!

Alan said...

I love coffee, but regular coffee. So I'm not much of a fan of Starbucks. I've tried a number of Starbucks' blends you can purchased at the grocery. But I've never liked any of them. As Henry noticed, Starbucks roasts their coffee way to much. It gives their coffee an almost oily flavor. Yuck.

HdHouse, Starbucks just built a drive through acrossed the street from another here in my area. :)

Jennifer said...

The only thing I love about Starbucks - and this still probably works for them - is that you can find Starbucks in places where you can't find independent coffee places. When we lived in Portland, we never went to Starbucks. Here in the Dirty Souf, it's Starbucks or nothing. Thank god for Starbucks.

jfm said...

Starbucks--The home of burnt, watery, coffee.

You can get better coffee at McDonalds.

MadisonMan said...

You know who has much better coffee? Tim Hortons. I love their coffee. There's an empty store on State Street next to the Starbucks that used to be the big Rocky Roccoco's, and I think a Tim Horton's there would be very profitable.

Maxine Weiss said...

You'll be sorry when you discover the dangers of caffeine, and putting that junk in your body all these years.

Nevermind the complete waste of money.

By my estimates, you've wasted over $4,659.00 in the last 5 years alone, on junk caffeinated beverages that will cumulatively wreck your health in the long run.

Cheers,
Maxine

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

RH Hardin: All of the Starbucks locations in Safeway are NOT operated by Starbucks, but by Safeway under license. The employees are store employees. Wonder if that is true for Kroger.

Ann: As the average Starbucks employee is paid $9-12/hour, receives paid vacations, and is covered by a 401(k) and health insurance plan, they don't seem to me at all similar to the typical fast food restaurant employee. I haven't seen recent numbers, but at one time, Starbucks' employee turnover rate was significantly lower than fast food restaurants as well.

PatCA said...

I got hooked on espresso in Italy and so went on a tasting tour of espressos in my neighborhood when I got home. Sorry, but Starbucks is the best--the small shops' jolt tasted like burnt coffee, not the caramel taste of espresso like in the old country.

My two complaints: the baked goods have consistently sucked. Costco has better muffins! And the soggy lettuce in the sandwiches is bad--put the lettuce in between the halves and we can put it in ourselves!

And my baristas are nice and know my name, etc. I actually like Starbucks and hope they do well. Just fix the donuts!

rhhardin said...

Kroger opened a snack bar (I guess to find a use for almost-expired Kroger branded groceries) years ago, and I was their only customer, just about. I'd order coffee and spend an hour each day reading the next bit of Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik _A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language_ (a steal then at $80), until I'd gotten through all 2000 pages.

The manager later expressed some resentment of my taking advantage of their tables.

It seemed like a nice ritual to me.

But who has the time to read today.

Gretchen said...

Oh, Starbucks is the devil. Bad, burnt coffee- not just the dark roasts taste burnt!, poor service- try ordering just a plain-old cup of joe, only to met with a blank stare, and don't get me started on the frappuccino/caramel macchiato/ green tea latte stuff.

I'm a barista at a small, independant, fair-trade coffeehouse in the Madison area. Our coffee is pretty awesome, locally roasted by Just Coffee Roasters. Never "burnt", and mindful of fair-trade and organic growing by their suppliers.

The number of people expecting the Starbuck's experience seems to be dwindling, though we get a few that seem to think a cappuccino should be delivered instantly. No push buttons for us!

Our customers are happy to support a local business, and appreciate the importance of fair-trade practices. Buy local when you can!

Invisible Man said...

I actually went to a Starbucks last night for the first time in several months and was reminded again why I would rather have Caribou, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts or any of the local places in Atlanta. Slow service and burnt coffee just aren't a recipe for success.

Madisonman,

You couldn't be more right about Tim Horton's. As my buddy Mike used to say, "Canada's only great contributions were Hockey and Tim Horton's".

MadisonMan said...

You know what Starbucks needs to sell? A good old-fashioned egg salad sandwich! Made with luscious hard-boiled eggs, paprika, hot mustard, mayonnaise and crisp lettuce on soft white bread. What could be better?

Beth said...

I live in a mixed residential-business neighborhood of New Orleans. Within six blocks, I can walk to four coffee shops, one independently owned, two statewide chains, and one in the Whole Foods. There was a Starbucks on that stretch but they didn't re-open after the storm. Perhaps because New Orleans is where America's coffee enters our distribution network, the city has a long history of great coffee, available everywhere. I bring my own when I travel, but Starbucks is the fallback when we're in an airport or on the highway, because at least it's a known quantity--and I know better than to eat any of their brick-like pastry! Just get a dark roast and be glad for it. I'm blessed to be able to get great coffee pretty much anywhere here in town, and buy locally roasted beans from at least 5 companies in the grocery store.

My first job was serving cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde across from Jackson Square. I bleed coffee.

Beth said...

invisible man, thanks for reminding me of Dunkin Donuts. I learned to love that when we spent a few months in the northeast after Katrina. Their dark roast is much better than Starbucks'.

former law student said...

Beth, what's the useful life of Cafe du Monde? The coffee it makes tastes great when I first open the can, but within days the chicory overpowers the coffee.

ricpic said...

"You can get better coffee at McDonalds."

That's true. McDonalds makes a consistently good cup of coffee. So it can't be all that complicated a thing to do.

Blue Moon said...

I am a coffee geek -- I roast my own coffee, rarely drink coffee at restaurants or at work. My beef with Starbucks is that their employees are not knowledgable about their product. You should be able to tell me what the origin of the coffee. "Triceratops Blend" tells me nothing about whether the bean is from Panama, Peru, or Papua New Guinea. Also, when was the coffee roasted? Six week old coffee is terrible, especially when at my house the coffee is less than a week old. Finally, could you PLEASE take the coffee off the heat and make a fresh batch -- it takes Starbucks' crappy, 2 month old, over roasted coffee and makes it worse. For $2.00, drip coffee should be less than 15 minutes old and not being destroyed by 195 deg heat in a vat.
When I want coffee when I'm out, I just go to the gas station -- at least they are honest and are not acting like fake gourmands.


If you are a really coffee person you likes the taste of coffee and not merely the caffine, invest $100 in a Salton popcorn maker and a Sunpentown convection oven and roast your own.

Paddy O. said...

That's true. McDonalds makes a consistently good cup of coffee. So it can't be all that complicated a thing to do.

And free wi-fi too now. I hadn't been to McDonalds in years, and these two things got me back in the habit. Much better than Starbucks all around.

Freeman Hunt said...

I go to Starbucks once a day for a venti non-fat, no-whip mocha. It is delicious. I have yet to have an independent shop mocha that actually tastes like chocolate and isn't WAY too sweet.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

If you are a coffee geek, Blue Moon then I'm suprised you claim Starbucks over-roasts their coffee. They don't. I believe that they roast their most of their coffee to a classic Italian Roast standard. (As you ought to know, both Espresso and French Roasts are darker still.) That may be a different roast than you prefer, perhaps you finish after first crack. Maybe you like a city roast. That you like one thing and Starbucks does another definitely doesn't make your preference the only right choice. Or are you arguing that Espresso & French Roasts are burnt as well?

BTW, why are you claiming that Starbucks heats its coffee for long periods after making it? They most certainly do not! The coffee goes directly into a vacuum container where it maintains a minimum temperature for a period of time. I'd prefer otherwise, but brewing individual cups of coffee is next to impossible and their containers sure beat the hot pots rampant in other coffee bars.

You should be able to tell me what the origin of the coffee.

Oh, now come on! How many places with more than a sole proprietor can you find anyone who can do that? A handful? Talk about being a snob.

Doyle said...

I don't think anything's really wrong with Starbucks, it's just maturing. The stock had been trading like it was going to keep growing incredibly quickly even off a much larger base.

Once people realized that they really, finally are reaching saturation, the stock took a nosedive and Schultz stepped back in.

I think the loss of the "Starbucks experience" is a necessary consequence of having tens of thousands of locations. Schultz might not like that but I don't think he can do much about it.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

I think you are right, Doyle.

Hoosier Daddy said...

You can get better coffee at McDonalds.
True. While they don’t over roast their beans, they do have a tendency to roast your crotch though.

Personally I like Starbucks. Prior to Starbucks, I can’t even think of where there was a ‘coffee shop’. 90% of the draw is not so much the coffee but the coffee shop atmosphere. One of the cycling routes we ride has a Starbucks at the tail end of the ride and it makes a nice end of ride stop.

Starbucks also pre-steams big pitchers of milk. Even when the place isn't busy, those pitchers of hot milk are sitting around simplifying the barista's job.

I get lattes all the time and I have never seen this done.

George said...

Pretentious atmosphere, overpriced stuff, and slow service.....

rhhardin said...

I just drink decaf. You really do have to drink a lot of it to stay awake. Starbucks would be much too expensive.

class-factotum said...

Buy local when you can!

I didn't know that coffee grows in southwest Wisconsin.

Pogo said...

I enjoy the fact that I live in a country where I can bitch about the coffee and find one that slavishly responds to my infantile wheedling (and I am infantile about my cuppa jobe).

Beth reminds me of the many trips to Café du Monde, at any hour a fine blast of the black stuff, and beignets in orders of three, each inhaled while savoring the beauty of that ancient town (and on it lives, God willing).

Helluva place we live. Starbucks may fall or survive. It matters not, save to their investors. They spurred a creative interest in the love and format of java delivery, and now it is discussed as if it mattered. For it does.

Helluva country, that's all I'm saying.

Blue Moon said...

Randy:

Yes, I am a coffee snob -- not as bad as my beer snobbery yet. (Don't get me started on "Miller Lite won the world beer cup for 'American Style Light Lager'). And I know that the coffee = wine analogy has been taken too far by many people, but if I expect the waiter at Chili's to be able to tell me that the red wines they have are Cabernet and Merlot, than shouldn't I be able to expect someone to tell me the "Triceratops Blend" is Costa Rican and Guatamalan and the "Gecko Lizard Blend" is Sumatra plus Yemen.

As to your other points, italian roast is way to far to roast EVERY bean. Why pick bright snappy coffee and then roast that which makes it special out of it? Costa Rican coffee tastes just like Sumatran when roasted till the beans scream for mercy. See that shiny bean -- that's the flavor bleeding out of the bean.

My bias is towards drip coffee -- espresso is different, but even then you can get great espresso from lighter roasts.

AFAIK, every Starbucks I have been to has served be coffee out of a heated urn attached to the commercial grade brewer they use.

Superdad said...

"Push-button espresso machines don't bother me a lick. I have a push-button machine at home."

I have a piece of crap drip coffee maker and cheap beans at home - that is why I go to a coffee shop. I expect better than at home.

I have found that keeping the can of Cafe du Monde in the freezer does help it keep longer. I know your not supposed to do that, but it has been working. I think it keeps the chicory in check.

That said, I go to Stone Creek or Altera over Starbucks. I drink regular black coffee and Starkbucks, regardless of the roast or blend, is consistently oily and bitter.

One of the best coffees is Karuba coffee found at any Kwik Trip gas station.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Beth reminds me of the many trips to Café du Monde, at any hour a fine blast of the black stuff, and beignets

I was there once with a co-worker while attending a conference. Maybe its just me but I didn't see the allure. The coffee didn't blow my skirt up and the beignets were nothing more than a fancy name for a powdered donut. To top it off, I got yelled at by one of the staff for smacking one of the stupid birds that kept landing on my table.

Pogo said...

The allure?

I was tipsy, and with friends, and at the end of a good day. The cafe was in the right place at the right time, several times in a row. There is a cafe down the street from there, old as hell, with a killer atmosphere for breakfast, that's the perfect place to read the paper for an hour while skipping a lecture.

Hell, I tend to really like wherever I am, long as I ain't workin'. Having slept under a few bridges in my younger days, I greatly appreciate the nearly-exotic-or-maybe-just-to-me, even when the service is lousy. The quaint, the pretty, the overly cute, the rundown and sad, the seen-better-days, the new and trendy, the mom-and-pop, the trying-too-hard, the not-trying-at-all, the comfy chair cafe. I been to 'em all, and like them just for being there. They smell like hope.

My memories are mostly viewed through rose colored glasses.

My favorite college hangout was a cheap lunch cafe called Charlie's that was by any measure disgusting. The apple pie was called "floor sweepings" on the menu, and the chef/owner never did anything but bitch at you. It was hilarious, actually, so I went there whenever I could scrape together 3 bucks. Best crappy hamburger in the world.

ZPS said...

Every time I walk into a Starbucks I feel like some sort of cog. With the music, merchandising, food items, flavorings, and "push push push" of everything under the sun, it seems like any given Starbucks is one giant commercial for commercialism. I feel embarrassed for the employees, the consumers, and myself whenever I am unfortunate enough to have to step foot in one.

Each location is almost like a joke on itself. If the coffee were outrageously delicious or less than $2 a cup, then that might make it different. But there's absolutely nothing noteworthy about it...not good, not bad, just average coffee. For $3.

If you must go the chain route, try a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (they're all over Southern California). Peets is pretty good too. Deidrich's was good too...but Starbuck's bought out most of them. Th across from UC Irvine is stil there, I think.

MadisonMan said...

I was just in NO last week, and had beignets at Cafe du Monde. Alas, I was wearing black pants. Bad idea.

Croissant D'or on Ursulines had far superior baked goods.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Croissant D'or on Ursulines had far superior baked goods.

Say what you want but Dunkin Donuts beats them all hands down.

And it's easier to pronounce Dunkin Donuts.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I feel embarrassed for the employees, the consumers, and myself whenever I am unfortunate enough to have to step foot in one.

Then why do you? I mean all that stuff about wicked commercialism of Starbucks sounded great but what Series of Unfortunate Events would propel you to go to one if doing so causes such risible emotions?

Freeman Hunt said...

Does anyone else only buy coffee at places that have a drive-thru? I don't mind coffee already being made or pre-steamed milk; I just want my coffee immediately.

Pogo said...

I feel embarrassed for the employees, the consumers

Oh those moronic proles. Don't they know how shameful it is to be making coffee for the man?

ZPS, I hope you showed some idiotic barista (trying to make ends meet in college), or a witless consumer automaton your righteous truth, and brought the hammer of enlightenment down, and beat their stupid capitalist ass within an inch of its life.

ricpic said...

The wording of Pogo's post at 2:02 sounds almost as though he's channeling Trooper York.

Where is that guy?

Blue Moon said...

I remember some textile workers who had just been laid off because of competition from China being interviewed in the parking lot of Walmart after having purchased clothes made in China. When confronted with this, one of the workers said "Where else am I going to go to buy cheap clothes?"

ZPS said...

The place is a parody of itself at this point, and I don't fault people for working or shopping there...it makes sense for some people, just not me. Same goes for Wal-Mart; I don't EVER step foot in Wal-Mart.

Hey I hear they give their employees great benefis, at Starbucks (certainly not at Wal-Mart!) so that's a plus. But the way the stores are set up, and the ridiculous amount of locations is just too much for my taste.

I have been unfortunate to have to go there when my need for caffeine overpowers my need to support my anti-capitalist agenda.

Middle Class Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

AFAIK, every Starbucks I have been to has served be coffee out of a heated urn attached to the commercial grade brewer they use.

Look again. The urn itself is not
heated. It is far superior to the average poorly maintained hotpot found in most other places.

The commercial grade brewer Starbucks uses is no different than the ones used at almost any independent or chain coffee place, whether it be Peets, Its a Grind, or Coffee BEan and Tea Leaf.

What you say about roasting is basically true, although a city roast espresso is a sacrilege to most snobs. My suggestion would be to make that point rather than claim the coffee is burnt or over-roasted. It is neither. It is roasted to a point you do not appreciate. I don't buy a lot of their beans any more, but IIRC not all of them are roasted for identical lengths of time.

Drip is the best of the easy-to-use systems for coffee (as opposed to espresso), but it is definitely not the best. I believe that a syphon like this is. I've been using one of those for over 30 years, so I may be biased, but I've never read an "expert" who didn't agree. I'm sure they are out there, though.

Until recently, the Japanese consortium was the largest purchaser of fine whole beans in the world. Until a few years ago,almost all coffee houses in Japan made each cup of coffee individually in syphons like those. Well before Starbucks arrived, syphons began disappearing in large numbers due to the cost of providing the coffee. I won't say standards went up as a result. They didn't. Life changed.

As to your expectation that someone serving the coffee ought be able to make all the distinctions and explanations you desire, tht seems to me to be an unreasonable expectation unlikely to be met in 99% of the coffee houses in the United States.

BTW, as you may have noticed, someone mentioned Peet's Coffee as being superior. While Peet's, like Starbucks is fine for what it is, the roasting method is not substantially different than Starbucks.

Pogo said...

I don't EVER step foot in Wal-Mart.

Why not?
I'm no fan of the decor, but is it the frugality that bugs you?

ricpic said...

The French Press is simple as pie and always delivers the goods.

ZPS said...

I don't step foot in Wal-Marts, first and foremost, because I hate crowds. Especially "those" kind of crowds, if you get my drift.

-The screaming, misbehaving children
-Pushy, "bargain-hunting" housewives
-Idiotic teenagers parked in front of the video game consoles
-The barely mobile senior citizens, hogging up aisles with their walkers, wheelchairs, and lead feet

All in all, it's a nightmare.

I also don't go in Wal-Mart because the products are crappy. I'm not a snob, but I have to have some sort of quality if I'm spending my money on something.

And finally, I don't go to Wal-Mart because I don't think one company should ever have too much of a presence in a given community. I'd rather go to the Mom & Pop store, or the specialty store (i.e., the hardware store for hardware supplies, the toy store for toys, the grocery store for groceries, a clothing store for clothes) than some "convenience" monster store that, I believe, takes advantage of communities and the people who need work there. Some will say, "Hey, they're employing people!"...but is that the best kind of work (without good benefits) we, as a society, should expect for people? Maybe a temporary gig, or for fresh out high school teens...but why contribute to such a shady system?

Maxine Weiss said...

PatCA: "And my baristas are nice.."

What on earth is a 'barista'???

It must be one of those trendy new words somebody dreamed up.

Karl said...

"While Peet's, like Starbucks is fine for what it is, the roasting method is not substantially different than Starbucks."

And yet, a cup of coffee I make with Peet's beans tastes 100x better to me (also, my wife, friends, co-workers all seem to prefer their products, specifically the Ethiopian).

In fact, I don't know that I can recall anyone claiming to prefer the harsher roast of Starbucks when given the option of something like Intelligentsia or Peet's.

There must be something about the way they roast, handle, store, or brew that creates the negative characteristics that people are discussing here. Or, do you think there's some sort of anti-corporate psychology going on here? In which case, are you just an apologist for Starbucks?

Oh, my preferred method is the AeroPress, by the way...with my electric kettle, I have a perfect Double Americano every morning less than 5 minutes after I wake up.

-kd

ricpic said...

Wal-Mart shoppers! Aisle 3!!

Barista. That's a sodajerk, yes?

Blue Moon said...

Randy: I guess I am being unreasonable, but hey I can dream can't I? Also, didn't realize the tank was separate from the brewer.

ZPS: I have this dream of a program for middle-school girls called "Scared Celibate." I take them to Walmart on a Friday night, watch mothers with 3 kids under 6 running around and say "So, is this the life you want? If not, then keep your knees together."

ricpic and karl:
The pour over is a decent method as well, although I have yet to perfect it. Thinking about buying a Yama vacuum brewer and trying it out.

mcg said...

Starbucks snobbery is really very amusing. It kind of reminds me of when someone says they like a particular rock band---but only the albums they put out before they got popular.

Don't get me wrong, if you like the coffee better somewhere else, that alone is not snobbery. And frankly I understand your view if you're a fan of drip coffee. When I lived in CA I preferred Peets when I felt like having drip; and Peets did a lot more drip business than Starbucks in our neighborhood.

For those who like espresso and espresso drinks, it is inarguable that Starbucks has done you a service precisely because it is successful, even if you prefer to go elsewhere. Because frankly, many of those "elsewheres" wouldn't have existed except that Starbucks has helped expand the market for such products way beyond its

Having recently moved back to the Austin area I met with a couple of professors to discuss some collaboration, and one took me to a coffeeshop I hadn't been to before. Only, actually, I had been to it before, many times---back when it was a beer joint. Now come on, this is a block from campus, you can't tell me that beer doesn't sell well anymore. It probably does: but nowadays, coffee sells better.

My wife grew up in a small town a couple of hours outside of Nashville, TN. You want a Sonic cheeseburger and cherry limeade? You got it. You want a McDonald's drip? Sure. A double macchiato? Not a chance---at least, not until a few months ago, when not one but two independent espresso shops opened up. The nearest Starbucks is 30-40 minutes away, but now these rednecks got them some real hand-tamped, manual brewed espresso.

JSinger said...

Say what you want but Dunkin Donuts beats them all hands down.

I absolutely agree. Bakeries are fine for breads, cakes and pies, but I've never yet encountered an "artisanal" donut that came close to D&D (or Tim Horton). And they charge a fortune for greasy cookies that aren't near as good as Pepperidge Farms, let alone what I could make in my kitchen in 15 minutes with one eye on a Seinfeld rerun.

JSinger said...

You want a Sonic cheeseburger and cherry limeade?

Oh, man -- I do now!!!

SGT Ted said...

My favorite college hangout was a cheap lunch cafe called Charlie's that was by any measure disgusting. The apple pie was called "floor sweepings" on the menu, and the chef/owner never did anything but bitch at you. It was hilarious, actually, so I went there whenever I could scrape together 3 bucks. Best crappy hamburger in the world.

There's a burger shack in Pittsburg, CA called Al's Diner. Al was a rude cranky old Italian guy who would greet everyone who came thru the door, with "What the fuck do YOU want?" He has since sold it to another local who has kept it like it is, but he's polite. I still go there when I can to swap "rude Al" stories with the guy.

MadisonMan said...

As long as we're beefing about food, I'll say that Cold Stone Ice Cream is as appealing as congealed gravy.

SGT Ted said...

Or, do you think there's some sort of anti-corporate psychology going on here?

I tink that's alot of the source of the anti-Starbucks mouthings I hear from the modern beatniks. I say that because I remember when SBs was shiney, new and hip-ly trendy with that very same crowd.

Maxine Weiss said...

'Barista' sounds a bit pretentious. Why would anybody use that term?

I think 'helper' is sufficient.

Maybe 'coffee maker' ?

6 ounces of caffeine is the same thing as taking a dozen aphetimines.

Coffee = Speed, and we know the effects of that kind of drug abuse.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

And yet, a cup of coffee I make with Peet's beans tastes 100x better to me

That's the important thing, isn't it? (No sarcasm intended)

Or, do you think there's some sort of anti-corporate psychology going on here?

Without doubt. Of course. It is tres chic to be down on Starbucks and has been for some time, although the trend is in danger of reaching the masses. (mcg has a good take on that)

In which case, are you just an apologist for Starbucks?

Not particularly. Never worked there. Made good money on their stock but bailed on it much too early and long ago. I do think they are unfairly maligned, however. I regularly drink either Peets or Starbucks when I'm in the East Bay, and am more inclined to visit Peets than Starbucks. (I'm only talking about black coffee, I should say.) Peets does not roast by computer, but the bean quality and sources are quite similar. And so are the roasts, I think. YMMV, of course. If you buy a cup in the store, like as not you're getting a blend. That's their forte.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

Karl: Meant to add a thanks for the tip on the Aeropress. Looks interesting.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Ah, Tim Horton's. He played for the Leafs back in the early '70s, eh? and it is the best road coffee going.

I haven't made it there often since I left Canada almost 20 years ago -- high taxes and dysfunctional health care -- but the coffee at Tim Horton's is just great.

Two cups'll take you all the way down the 401 from Muntreal to T.O.

Karl said...

"Meant to add a thanks for the tip on the Aeropress. Looks interesting."

It's absolutely freaking brilliant, is what it is...seriously, unless you need to make an entire pot of coffee (in which case, it's just too much work, as you cannot make more than 4 shots at a time).

I love the idea of a French Press, but it's too messy. The grounds that make it through the mesh are just gross. Plus, when I'm half asleep it just doesn't work for me. It's not rocket science, but it seems like you need a scale and an abacus to figure out how much of what to add when...

By comparison, the AeroPress results in NO grounds in the cup and measurements are built into the parts - perfect for the groggy. It creates espresso strength shots, so you dilute with as much water or milk of whatever temperature as you like (or nothing at all).

I am in no way affiliated with the makers of the gadget, I just think it's great.

-kd

ZPS said...

I'll go on record saying that I didn't like Starbucks 10 years ago when they opened two of them up on 2nd St. in Belmont Shores. Why? The stores are 300 feet away from each other, on the same street, serving the same thing. It was ridiculous then, and they are all ridiculous now.

Nothing to do with being "anti-corporate"...I'm just anti-ridiculous.

Revenant said...

Why? The stores are 300 feet away from each other, on the same street, serving the same thing. It was ridiculous then, and they are all ridiculous now.

The reason behind it was pretty straightforward -- they sell a consumable luxury item that nobody actually *needs*, so they wanted to make it as convenient as possible to stop in and get a drink at one of their stores.

The reason for having shops on opposite sides of the same street is so you don't have to make a left-hand turn in traffic to get your coffee. I.e., one shop serves east-bound commuters, the other west-bound.

ZPS said...

The traffic on 2nd St. is all foot traffic...not the kind of place you drive thru to stop for coffee. You can't get a parking spot for your life and no one is worried about the convenience of where they can get coffee. There are Coffee Beans, Peets, donut shops, restaurants, cafes, Vie De Frances, you name it...on every corner.

But Starbucks has to have 2.

And both stores are usually serving plenty of people. Plenty of ridiculous people who have to spend $5 on a cup of sugar and "speed" (Maxine!) when they could walk two doors down to the donut shop and spend .85 cents on the same thing. Ridiculous.

Susan said...

Anyone like chai? That's my morning beverage of choice. I make my own but Dunkin Donuts makes a great vanilla chai.

Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

ZPS: I lived where you are talking about until 1990. IIRC, there were approximately zero coffee houses you could go to in or remotely close to that area before Starbucks arrived a couple years later. Up until then, most people maintained that a coffee house could not succeed in Southern California's hot climate. (I kid you not.)

ZPS said...

I totally remember that ideology about coffee houses not being able to succeed in the "hot California climate"...good thing Starbucks has all those Frapps.

Sheriff Cobb said...

There's nothing like dunkin' donuts coffee and a bakers dozen cream donuts to start the day. It smells like victory. Or perhaps coronary. But it smells damn good.

Henry said...

I've never yet encountered an "artisanal" donut that came close to D&D (or Tim Horton)

You don't live in Rhode Island, I guess.

I don't think there is such thing as an "artisanal" donut, but there is such thing as a better donut.

Try Allie's Donuts in North Kingston. Or, for an entirely different atmosphere (Portuguese), go to Olde Time Donuts in Central Falls.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I have been unfortunate to have to go there when my need for caffeine overpowers my need to support my anti-capitalist agenda.

Well you can always move to someplace like say, Cuba and keep your anti-capitalist agenda pure.

The stores are 300 feet away from each other, on the same street, serving the same thing. It was ridiculous then, and they are all ridiculous now.

ZPS there is this amazing thing in capitalism called supply and demand. See, if there is a demand for a product people will buy it. If the demand is really high and one store on Elm Street can't keep up, maybe a second store will soak up that excess demand. So what may seem ridiculous to you evidently makes perfect sense to the owners of the two Starbucks until such time as demand slackens to the point where two store are no longer necessary.

Or maybe that basic economic principle wasn't taught in Intro to Marxist Philosophy 101

Beth said...

former law student, I second super dad's freezer suggestion--that's worked for me. (Or you can move here and get it fresh every day. Or just drink lots more coffee, and use it up faster.)

Pogo and MadisonMan -- thanks for your CDM memories. I keep thinking if this teaching gig ever goes bad, there's always slinging coffee and beignets. But I'm glad I'm not there now -- Mardi Gras at the cafe was the hardest work I've ever done. People line up by the hundreds and it just doesn't slow down for two weeks straight.

MadisonMan said...

The best part of Allie's donuts in North Kingstown (note the spelling Henry!) is that they're right across the street from Allie's Tack Shop!

ZPS said...

There's a difference between supply and demand and turning people into programmable mass consumption machines.

I don't think people would "demand" $5, 2000- calorie drinks if they weren't hurled upon them every 300 feet. But that's just me...I have less faith in human intelligence and their resistance towards manipulative corporate powerhouses than people here, I suppose.

Somehow supply and demand has been given as an excuse for any gross act of public consumption.

And then again..."if you build it, they will come." And we complain about being poor and fat.

Zeb Quinn said...

The further away you get from Rome, the less likely you are to meet a Roman. I don't see any of that stuff at any Starbucks in Seattle.

Sheriff Cobb said...

Is an "artisanal donut" what came out of Basquiat's ass when he copped a squat?

vnjagvet said...

My neighborhood Starbucks is a friendly and congenial spot. Their espresso is always good. The brewed coffee is good, but I like my coffee very strong.

Like all locally managed chains, quality depends on on the ground management and continuity.

This store has been managed by the same guy since it opened, and much of the staff has been there as long.

TROBlog said...

Diet Coke.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I don't think people would "demand" $5, 2000- calorie drinks if they weren't hurled upon them every 300 feet. But that's just me...I have less faith in human intelligence and their resistance towards manipulative corporate powerhouses than people here, I suppose.

Well at least your honest about your low opinion of human beings to make individual choices.

ZPS are you old enough to remember 'New Coke'? That was one of those products that that huge corporate powerhouse Coca Cola spend zillions marketing to us poor schleps. Know what happened? It sucked and it sucked bad. No one drank it. You couldn't give it to a thirsty man in the desert it sucked so bad. Oh and the dumb ass masses let that corporate powerhouse know it to by switching to Pepsi.

Coke then figured out that those dumb ass customers really can't be brainwashed into buying a product that no one wants no matter how much money they spend making shit taste good. Cause in the end its shit and even a dumb ass knows it doesn't taste good.

Molly said...

I honestly don't understand. Do people who drink espresso from automatic machines not have taste buds? The automatic machines don't even steam milk properly, employees just set the pitcher on the machine and leave the wand spewing steam at the bottom of the milk rather than precisely tilting the pitcher to create a whirlpool of perfectly evenly heated milk. After four years of barista experience I am STILL gradually improving my frothing technique. The worst thing is that the automatic machine can't save more than 20 seconds per three drinks, since that's about what you can make at once on one machine. Is that really worth it?

Henry said...

MadisonMan -- North Kingstown, of course. I was all focused on getting the apostrophe right in Allie's.

cardeblu said...

"...You see, when my father opened this store 30 years ago, he cared about only one thing: making a great cup of coffee. Sure, we may take a little longer to brew a cup, and we may not call it fancy names...I guess we just care a little more. And that's why Tweek Coffee is still home brewed, from the finest beans we can muster. Yes, Tweek Coffee is a simpler coffee, and a simpler America."

(South Park episode 30, "Gnomes": When Tweek's Coffee is being run out of business by "Harbuck's".)

Maggie45 said...

Here's a site about Starbucks run by Jim Romenesko of Poynter Online. Baristas and customers both post, and sometimes it can get quite heated.

http://starbucksgossip.typepad.com/_/

Viewfinder said...

As a Starbucks Barista myself, I'll assuage worries of steamed milk pitchers sitting out in the open and talk a bit about my experience.

After steaming a pitcher of milk to a standard 160-170 degrees, you can re-steam it back up to 160-170 ONE time, and only if it hasn't dropped to 140 yet. So your pitcher of milk never loses its touch. The way the milk is steamed at Starbucks gives it a much sweeter flavor than at other coffee shops, because there is a mandatory aeration period that gives it flavor.

Starbucks will not give you a shot of espresso after it sits for 10-13 seconds. They'll pour you a fresh one. For coffee fanatics, or regular people with refined senses, the difference between an old an new shot is extraordinary.

The pastries are not freshly made on site. Still, most are sweet, soft, and flavorful; the cookies are great. Try the lemon loaf too.

Starbucks doesn't control stores in Kmart, Target, Kroger, your gas station, etc.

My experience has been somewhere between respected barista and fast food service provider. Unlike at McDonalds, I am encouraged to go out of my way to chat up our customers, give them free samples of whatever they want to try, help them out in any way I can, and actively look for ways to help them out in any way I can. I know more about coffee than I want to, more about the Tazo teas, and cleanliness/food illness standards than I thought I would.

When I was hired, many baristas and I were paid to discuss our histories, bond, and watch PR videos that outline what the inner-workings of Starbucks Corporate involve, how we can move up in the company, and what Social Responsibility programs they engage in.

Starbucks issues "green apron awards" for being welcoming, involved in the community, knowledgeable of the product, and a few other things. They give you awards for helping your "teammates". All in all, although the pay isn't quite that of an Ibanker or attorney at Skadden, it's not a terrible job, the health benefits are lovely, and you can get stock in the company. If anyone has any questions, post them and I'll field em!

Blake said...

Hoosier,

Interesting example. The poor Coca-Cola company (there's a phrase you won't hear often) had actually done all this research in response to those "Pepsi Challenges". The problem was, people really did prefer the taste of Pepsi to that of Coke.

So the Coca-Cola company made a new, more-Pepsi-like flavor that all their tests showed was preferable to Coke. But they didn't factor in Coke's cultural significance. People might have, in the abstract, preferred the taste of New Coke, but they didn't want old Coke to change.

I'm not sure what that proves: Did Coke make itself such an icon so large that even it couldn't move it?

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm not sure what that proves: Did Coke make itself such an icon so large that even it couldn't move it?

Perhaps but I distinctly remember New Coke and it was horrible. But thats my opinion.

The point I was making to ZPS is that he believes that corporations simply lead us around like sheep and that we simply don't have the basic self control not to buy their products.

He basically admitted that he doesn't have much faith in the intelligence of his fellow man which pretty much sums up modern liberalism for me. "You're too stupid to do anything on your own and need smart people like me to think for you."

Moose said...

Man, I hate to, but I have to jump in here.

I travel all over the place, and usually not to cute pretty places like Madison and Austin. I'm normally stuck in corporate suburbs where there are very few, accessible "independent" coffee shops. So, the first thing I do is look online for a Starbucks. I go out of my way to hit it every morning.

Starbucks coffee is very, very good. In particular their espresso drinks. I find their coffee too strong, but well flavored. However, I've always taken my coffee with cream and sugar, so the snobs on this thread are already looking down at me.

Now, the absolute best drip coffee I've ever had was at Lou Mitchells in Chicago - really great, smooth, flavorful. Good stewed prunes too.

I grew in in Ann Arbor, and we had numerous independent coffee houses, and Zingerman's. To my taste - none of them held a candle to Starbucks. I find that while Starbucks has gotten overally corporate, the still make good coffee.

Danny said...

I am surprised that no one has mentioned making coffee at homein a stove-tp Moka-Pot. You know - the faceted, two piece aluminum pot that all Italian households use?
Now what is going on with Starbucks setting up coffee stands in places like Krogers or in Hospital cafes and such places? The people who staff these licensed coffee stands, are usually not too sophisticated food service workers, who wouldnt know a cappuccino from a hole in their head. And if Starbucks roasts werent bad enough, imagine what happens when those coffee beans are used by some food-service worker attempts to brew up a cup of an espresso-based drink.
I was at the Univ of Michigan's hospital yesterday,and stopped by at their licensed Starbucks counter. There a employee, speaking Ebonics and with multi-colored ghetto nails, tried to make me a cup of espresso. It tasted worse than used machine oil. That woman didnt know the difference between drip coffee and "expressow", she could even pronounce words l ike latte or cappuccino correctly!!!!
What are the execs at Starbucks HQ in Seattle thinking?

Nacho said...

Err... I thought Starbucks was part of McDonald's

Pogo said...

1. ZPS gives here the best example of Hillary's compassionate misanthropism I have seen in awhile. The loathsome masses, too stupid to tie their own shoes or shop in the right stores, following the diktats of their corporate taskmasters at Walmart and Starbucks. If only they knew how contemptible they were, and how much he suffers for them to become the right sort of person, and if he could he'd force them whether they liked it or not. But it's all a mask for the dislike of people as they are, and the lust for control.

2. Maxine's caffiene < amphetamine equation was hilarious, even if unintentionally so.

3. I fell out of love with Starbucks just like I cooled on my romance with every song I ever loved, by overfamiliarity. Self-imposed absence and then infrequent visits tends to recapture some of the charm. It was fun, Starbucks, and we had a great time together, but I think we both should start seeing other people.

Michael_H said...

All this obsessing about Starbucks and coffee confirms the wisdom of my decision to give up coffee and drink only Scotch.

Not just any ordinary ol' blended Scotch, but peaty, oaky, deeply aged single-malt, distilled in the Highlands by fourth-generation whiskey makers. Luscious and rich, each bottle filled with its own subtleties.

No worries about fat or non-fat, whipped, flavor shots, double expresso add-ins, the cherry on top, etc.

Just add ice or not. That's the only decision.

My co-workers have commented favorably regarding my happier mood at work since I kicked coffee and went Scotch.

Lynn O. Doughty said...

Starbucks.....Wasn't she married to Terry Bradshaw? These comments are all skating on thin ice. Go down the stree to Mickie D's and get a good cup of coffe at a decent price...especially if you're over 60! Free refills too.

halojones-fan said...

I remember when Starbucks rolled in and everyone freaked about how it was going to Destroy The Independent Market. It was going to Shut Down All The Diners, and the Only Coffee Left Would Be Starbucks.

Now it's ten-some years later, and not only are independent shops proliferating, but they're at least equal to (and arguably better than) Starbucks. Holy crap, turns out that free-market competition does lead to a better product.

*****

The problem with all these "Starbucks-brand, owner-operated" places is that they really do dilute the brand. People don't look at them and think "oh, here is a place that is operated by Barnes&Noble employees that sells Starbucks products". They look at how the Starbucks logo is plastered over every flat surface and think "that's Starbucks". And if they get crap service and bad coffee, well, they put that on Starbucks's tab, not Barnes&Noble.

*****

Coffee snobs are making the mistake of self-styled connisseurs everywhere; they're assuming that their personal preferences are actually objective statements of quality. See, they believe that they're smart and well-educated and -experienced and knowledgeable; therefore when they don't like something there's a reason they don't like it. It's not just that they don't care for the taste; it's "over-roasted", or "used reheated milk", or "ground the beans too fine".

Prime Designer said...

(shrug) I just don't feel like I'm getting my value for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

It costs 12 cents to make a cup of coffee.

The only reason I go there is when I need a place to sit down and socialize or study.

Kevin said...

I don't mind Starbucks are a cookie-cutter capitalistic mass market thing (many local coffee shops very much deserve to go out of business for their incompetence), but Starbucks coffee is TERRIBLE. Their drip coffee is literally the worst I've ever had this side of the Jiffy Lube waiting room. Whether it's a burnt roast, or Robusta beans in the blend, I don't know.

Bart said...

Not to be a shill for another company, but all coffee tastes like crap to me except for what I make at home using Gevalia beans delivered to my door.

zophiel666 said...

Kevin,

Starbucks only, only uses arabica beans. Like Viewfinder, I once worked for Starbucks, so I can tell you-- they never ever use robusto beans.

I find some of their roasts too dark for my tastes (my mother loves those), but I found that their milder roasts I did enjoy, such as the Columbia or the Guatemala.

That said, having first learned to even like coffee from working at Starbucks, I now find many other places are too weak (taste like water) for my tastes.

However, I agree that there has been an oversaturation of the brand, and I'm sooooo very glad to see they're getting rid of the warmed sandwhiches--those things made a horrid morning rush even worse, with no extra staff and added responsibilities. Of course the customer experience suffered!

And I also agree that it's fabulous to live in a country where we can seriously argue about something so, ultimately, trivial. ^_^

Roger said...

Someone mentioned Italian espresso up thread--I have yet to find an espresso in the US that tastes anywhere near one of those italian espresso shots tastes like. I do find if I double the coffe and half the water I start coming close. (and use one of those aluminum stove top espresso makers)

mcg said...

People don't look at them and think "oh, here is a place that is operated by Barnes&Noble employees that sells Starbucks products". They look at how the Starbucks logo is plastered over every flat surface and think "that's Starbucks". And if they get crap service and bad coffee, well, they put that on Starbucks's tab, not Barnes&Noble.

You know, it is funny that you say this. I think you're right, but... one of my more regular "Starbucks" stops is to a Barnes & Noble in NW Austin. It just happens to be close some activities I bring my daughter to. And I will say that particular B&N Cafe is a net credit to the Starbucks brand. Very friendly staff, perfectly decent coffee, and better baked goods and other foodstuffs than a normal Starbucks (including some from Cheesecake Factory).

I guess others have had worse experiences, but for me it has served to endear me a bit to that particular bookstore.

Bubba McCarroll said...

I'm not a coffee snob by any means, but I grow my own beans on two acres of hillside near Como, then roast them at an abandoned crematorium just outside town. Thereafter, I shop hammer/chain whip them to near perfection, rounding out the grind via the differential of a 1947 Clinton-Willard connected to a straight eight sporting four dual-throats on an offset manifold. After flinging the grinding into a Number three washtub full of swamp water over a blazing hickory log, I rush to Sonic, grab a #3 cheeseburger and some Tater Tots made from ground particle board.

That's the way we roll Down Souff!

rightwingprof said...

I don't mind their coffee, and I patronize them, but more now that they have drive-through windows, because what I can't abide about Starbucks is the phony "cultured" yuppieness, and the idiocy and rudeness of the employees (I have been chewed out more than once for ordering a "double espresso," and I have had employees give me deer in the headlights because they had no idea what I meant). All of the phony dolphins and rainbows and rainforest nonsense annoys the hell out of me. I wouldn't sit down and spend any time in one for any amount of money; when I go, I get my coffee and get the hell away from those people. In the article, somebody whines, "It feels so corporate!" demonstrating that it's nothing but superficiality. Yes, it *is* a corporation. Deal with it.

It's all "class" with no class, "culture" with no culture, nothing but things to make people feel like they're pinkie-up little yuppies. Ack.

MadisonMan said...

Someone mentioned Italian espresso up thread--I have yet to find an espresso in the US that tastes anywhere near one of those italian espresso shots tastes like.

The local altenative rag did a story on this a few weeks back. I'm thinking that part of the beauty of Italian espresso is that you're drinking it in Italy. Why this quest for the sameness of an experience everywhere?

I've never had lemon ice cream that was as good as the lemon ice cream I had next to the harbor in Bergen. I don't even try to -- part of the beauty of that experience was the setting.

Monkeydarts said...

Coffee is 9 cents a cup at Steak 'n' Shake. "In Sight Must Be Right". Of course the place smells like cookin' food but at least it's supposed to unlike S-bux which smells like a deli and not an overpriced coffee shop. BTW, Bubba, I like how y'all roll. Durty souff.

Anthony Leonson said...

I have to agree with you. I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day in which we classified Starbucks as 'the fast food of coffee'.

And heck, they got rid of Almond flavoring. That's the final sin right there. =)

swag said...

The problem is dilution. Starbucks could not expand its operations 100x in so short a time as it did without lowering standards for the staff they hire to fill all those stores, for introducing mind-numbing automation to make up for the skills gap, and trying to ensure some level of consistency (which they mostly fail at compared to most chains, IMO) across thousands of stores.

It's hard to feel special when there are 15,000 others just like you.

ZPS said...

"You're too stupid to do anything on your own and need smart people like me to think for you."

Well, thanks for putting words in my mouth!

It's not that people are too stupid to do anything on their own...man has made tremendous advances, great "leaps", and shown impressive intelligence overall, obviously.

We are inherently free thinking, I believe, and I'd like us to remain that way. The last thing I want is "Hillary" style government "helping" people. I can't believe some would equate my disdain for corporate greed with a nanny state.

Remove over saturated corporate sponsored Main Streets, sugar water, "Who Wants To Marry My Dad" tv, tabloid culture, and all the rest of it that dumbs us down.

We should and could shun the likes of Starbucks on our own volition...and we don't need the government to help us one bit.

Pogo said...

I can't believe some would equate my disdain for corporate greed with a nanny state.

Phew.
You're just a plain ol' curmudgeon, that's what you are.
Well alright!
Join the club.

We'd have monthly meetings, but we hate goddamned meetings.

rightwingprof said...

"Coffee is 9 cents a cup at Steak 'n' Shake."

Not even one here in Pennsylvania. God, I miss Steak 'n Shake.

SGT Ted said...

I can't believe some would equate my disdain for corporate greed with a nanny state.

OK. But then you say:

Remove over saturated corporate sponsored Main Streets, sugar water, "Who Wants To Marry My Dad" tv, tabloid culture, and all the rest of it that dumbs us down.

Which implies that the free choice to watch the trash TV or fill-in-the-corporate-devil-du-jur should be stopped. Which would take someone do enforce it against someone elses free will. Because of "corporate greed", like thats a crime. Which shows the typical leftwing ignorance of what corporations are for; to make money for the shareholders.

Donald Sensing said...

"Hey, don't you know that drinking coffee is slow poison?"

"Must be slow, I've been drinking it for 60 years and it hasn't killed me yet."

Attributed to Voltaire

kermit said...

They won't carry a tasty breakfast sandwich but sure as hell they carry the New York Times. I refuse to buy that paper so why the hell would I want to give money to some idiots that distribute it just cause they think it makes their crappy stores look more sophisticated?

LifeTrek said...

Why can't you get a good cup or regular American coffee any more?

I have never liked Starbucks burnt cup of crap, and for the price...give me a cup at the Diner any day!
DKK

Joshua said...

Lewis Black had a dandy routine about Starbucks ... you know you have enetered the last days when they build a Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks

I guess this means those days are gone now. Also, no more Starbucks in the restrooms of other Starbucks.

On the other hand, the little hamlet of Navarre, Minnesota (about 20 miles west of Minneapolis on Lake Minnetonka) has two Caribou Coffees within two blocks of each other.

Mimi said...

Anybody besides me have a problem with coffee (and tea) not being hot enough? Especially after milk/cream is added? I have encountered this issue at many coffeehouses, Starbucks included. A truly hot cup can withstand the addition of milk/cream and still be too hot to dip a fingertip in for more than a second. If I can dip my finger in and hold it in for 2-3 seconds or more, I know the drink isnt hot enough. Happens alot. Not in Gas Stations - especially those that dispense from an urn (not a carafe on a warming plate)....
What have you-all found??

Joe said...

Coke vs. Pepsi

The actual problem was that Pepsi consistently tastes better in taste tests, but Coke consistently wins when actually drinking a glass, can or bottle.

Turns out this is a common problem when testing food. Just because it pleases the palette right away doesn't mean it will do so over time.

(It's quite annoying to sample a dish, think it's good, order it and find out that the more you eat, the worse it tastes.)

portia said...

I like the glass-can-or-bottle theory about Coke preferences relative to Pepsi. But if not a glass, can, or bottle, what the hell were the Pepsi Challenge drinkers using? Plastic? Paper cups?

Blake said...

IIRC the commercials, the Pepsi challenge was done in those transparent plastic disposables.