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wordwiseguy

Starbucks: Good or Evil?

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As for Starbucks raising the bar, unfortunately, I think mostly what they've raised is the prices. I don't know that many coffeehouses have improved on their product but you can't find a coffee for under $2.50 anymore.

By "raising the bar" I refer to the impact Starbucks has had in many areas where espresso and "better quality" coffee were previously unknown. There are so many places in the US outside the major metro areas where gas station and diner coffee was (an in some cases still is) the standard reference point. Anything slightly better was considered to be "gourmet" and espresso thought of as a terribly bitter beverage served mostly at a few Italian restaurants and cafes.

I don't happen to care for Starbucks roasting style or method of coffee preparation - I typically have to add about 20% hot water and a fair amount of milk or cream to make their coffee drinkable enough for me. But I'm a sucker for a Coffee Frappuccino on a hot day :biggrin:

The positive impact I'm referring to is the process by which espresso has, to some extent, been "demystified" or perhaps I should say... made more "accessible". Regrettably, people who try Starbucks espresso as a straight shot may still be disappointed if they dare to try a straight shot or they'll have a 1 oz super-auto shot drowned in 16 - 20 oz of whole milk. Despite this sad scenario, I still believe that the whole 'bucks phenomenon has opened the door for more independent coffeehouses. The better ones, perhaps small in number in most areas but growing yearly, actually benefit greatly by comparison when peopel try them.

If you've been dissatisfied with the coffee you make at home I can suggest three things:

1) fresh roasted beans from a good local roaster or by mail order froma reputable source who ships on or just after roast date

2) high quality grinder - Solis Maestro or better

3) Melitta manual pour-over drip system, French Press or better yet a vacuum pot

With a minimal amount of effort I consistently make coffee at home that is better than the coffee I can buy out in a shop almost anywhere.

I'm not particularly a coffee drinker, more an espresso after-dinner man.

Not only are you in an unusual minority as a straight espresso drinker but you're stuck in an even more perplexing situation - how to get a good espresso in a decent restaurant. Let me know when you've found one. I'm not sure there's even a single restaurant out there at any level of the dining strata in the US that serves stellar espresso.

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Not only are you in an unusual minority as a straight espresso drinker but you're stuck in an even more perplexing situation - how to get a good espresso in a decent restaurant. Let me know when you've found one. I'm not sure there's even a single restaurant out there at any level of the dining strata in the US that  serves stellar espresso.

I've had good espresso (at least in my opinion) at a couple of places. But you're right. Most restaurants do not do a good job. However, I enjoy a shot of average espresso over coffee after dinner regardless.

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Perhaps I'm too idealistic but the situation is in general better than it was as recently as 4 - 5 years ago in many parts of the country. To an extent we have Starbucks to thank for that. I think the point has been well made that despite the negatives many people perceive about them (which are true of nearly any corporate monolith in some sense or other), there are many favorable points as well.

Hmm, I wonder how I feel about this statement.

In terms of coffee quality and culture I completely agree, they have raised the bar and in some senses elevated coffee beyond morning drink to a walking, talking persona with an outlandish personality of its own. Vanilla bean, soy, half-caf, cinnamon sprinkled...all of this in stark contrast to a 10 cent cup of Mother Parker's.

Creating this "brand" out of a simple bean is what gave Starbucks such a lead over every other coffee establishment...harnessing our psyche and showing us how uplifting, relaxing and enjoyable the PROCESS of drinking coffee is, versus the PRODUCT which is really no different in preparation than any other coffee shop. Cannibalizing their own store's sales in trendy neighborhoods was mostly unheard of but look at where it got them.

My criticism of Starbucks is not based on the quality of the drink, and while I presonally don't enjoy that either that's a much more subjective thing than labour practices and environmental standards. I'm also not doing the "hippie fright" thing that says you must hate all large companies because they are large. Here in Canada and presumably the U.S. Starbucks does pay staff a higher than average wage, and provide flexible benefits and other little perks that alot of retailers would scoff at. Good on them.

But if they've got it in their mind that they can invent new ways of ordering, while still overlooking their lack of environmental responsibility and ethical wages for the workers they DON'T see every day then I'll continue to boycott them and recommend others in doing so. I can buy a properly made organic fair-trade regular or specialty coffee for the exact same price from these people: www.bridgehead.ca

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Ok. Ok. This has almost nothing to do with anything except that it happened in Starbucks this morning, as I was ordering my grande latte (no whip, no soy, no flavors, GRANDE LATTE. CAFFEINE AND STEAMED MILK. PERIOD).

The woman ahead of me ordered - get this - a SKIM white chocolate mocha...with whipped cream.

Say that again. A SKIM WHITE CHOCOLATE MOCHA...WITH WHIPPED CREAM.

What the hell was the point of the skim milk? No one actually LIKES that shit, do they? :blink:

K


Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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Ok. Ok. This has almost nothing to do with anything except that it happened in Starbucks this morning, as I was ordering my grande latte (no whip, no soy, no flavors, GRANDE LATTE.  CAFFEINE AND STEAMED MILK. PERIOD). 

The woman ahead of me ordered - get this - a SKIM white chocolate mocha...with whipped cream.

Say that again.  A SKIM WHITE CHOCOLATE MOCHA...WITH WHIPPED CREAM.

What the hell was the point of the skim milk?  No one actually LIKES that shit, do they?  :blink:

K

Give her a break. She's on a diet! :laugh::laugh:

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No, Starbucks is not evil. (BTW, why aren’t there “I hate Tully’s, Pete’s, Folgers, etc.” websites?)

I guess it’s like when a band starts out playing bars to their friends and a few initial fans, then seemingly overnight (ie. years go by) “suddenly” they start getting radio play and play arenas and then people label them “sell outs.” Starbucks, in my opinion, gets the same bum rap.

Starbucks started out as a single coffee shop at the Pike Place Market in 1971, and through Howard Schultz’s smart business sense, many they’ve become a huge international business (and, by the way, a pretty big benefactor to charity). They didn’t strong arm Seattle’s Best, Torrefazione Italia, or Tazo into selling.

I’ve lived in Seattle for 14 years and Washington State for 37, and if there is an independent coffee shop with a good atmosphere near a Starbucks, sure, I’ll go there instead to support “the little guy,” but I’m not going to go out of my way to do so, ( and until someone else makes a good bottled vanilla coffee drink, I will unashamedly buy bottles of Starbuck Vanilla Frappucino, and buy their ice cream too).


"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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Say that again.  A SKIM WHITE CHOCOLATE MOCHA...WITH WHIPPED CREAM.

Yes, bizarre, but, the way I diet (it involves a spreadsheet and knowing the carb/protein/fat grams of every ingredient of every food I ingest), there might be times that I could justify the whipped cream by deleting the fat in the milk.

And once you're used to the nonfat milk formerly known as "skim", you start to like it and find full-fat or even 2% to be too thick, not "fresh" enough.

Still. White chocolate? No such thing. It's cocoa butter. Puh-leez.

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my day is too short mount a one woman crusade against the evils of corporate coffee

Simple. You just need more hours in the day :laugh::wink:

And once you're used to the nonfat milk formerly known as "skim", you start to like it and find full-fat or even 2% to be too thick, not "fresh" enough.

I agree except in the case of foamed milk for espresso drinks. I use exclusively skim milk for cereal or on the rare occasion that I drink a glass of milk. But lattes and cappuccinos are different. The lack of milk fat makes it impossible to get ttrue microfoam with a velvety finish if skim is used. 2% is the best compromise - even 1% tends to develop that separate layer of foam and milk with rapidly dissipating foam just the way skim does.

Fat gram content is an issue for me as well but my solution is to seek out the better quality espresso which allows me to have shorter drinks and a higher ratio of espresso t milk. My typical "latte" at hoem is made with 1.5 oz of espresso and 3.5 oz of 2% milk. That allows me to have two full drinks and only 7 ounces of milk. If I watch what I eat for the rest of the day the fat content is easily allowable.

I wonder when or if Starbucks will ever publicly post the fat , calorie and carb counts for their drinks? It's surprising that it hasn't already happened.

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Not only are you in an unusual minority as a straight espresso drinker but you're stuck in an even more perplexing situation - how to get a good espresso in a decent restaurant. Let me know when you've found one. I'm not sure there's even a single restaurant out there at any level of the dining strata in the US that  serves stellar espresso.

amen. it's truly pathetic how bad espresso service is in even good restaurants, which is precisely why i've made it one of my little details that helps show me a chef's commitment to excellence across the board.

i find it a sad but inevitable reality in the average restaurant, but an Italian joint really has no excuse for bad espresso (though i had a couple lousy restaurant espressos in Italy) and even less so here in Seattle. if you're an Italian restaurant in Seattle with bad espresso ... shame.

as to the Starbucks issue, i'm standing mute.

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Not only are you in an unusual minority as a straight espresso drinker...

amen. it's truly pathetic how bad espresso service is in even good restaurants

What's really sad is that you can go into a place like Torrefazione Italia (or maybe not; their website, www.titalia.com, is gone and maybe their stores are too) and get acrid, poorly made espresso.

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Unce upon a time Torrefazione had decent espresso in some of their shops and sold some good roasted beans by the bag (I used to mail order their Perugia blend before I got into home roasting). There was a bit of downhill slide when they were purchased by Seattle's Best - I suspect the acquisition of SB by Starbucks was the final nail in the coffin.

The son of the original Torrefazione Italia owners is back in the business in the Seattle area with a commercial roastery called caffe Umbria. Their Gusto blend espresso is very good.

it's truly pathetic how bad espresso service is in even good restaurants, which is precisely why i've made it one of my little details that helps show me a chef's commitment to excellence across the board.

Just curious - have you actually found a restaurant where really good espresso is served? The only one I've yet to come across was a mom 'n pop Italain restaurant on Caye Caulker (Belize - Central America). The owner was a Milan native who used generic Guatemalan beans and an old La Pavoni lever machine - really good espresso and perfectly made cappuccino's.

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The son of the original Torrefazione Italia owners is back in the business in the Seattle area with a commercial roastery called caffe Umbria. Their Gusto blend espresso is very good.

...

Just curious - have you actually found a restaurant where really good espresso is served?

i've tried Umbria a couple times and generally liked it.

restaurants: the first place that comes to mind for espresso is Le Pichet in Seattle. they use beans from Caffe Vita, i believe, and the staff really knows how to extract a more-or-less ristretto shot with good crema and some pretty caramel notes.

none other come to mind right now, but i'll keep thinking. my dream would be a place that got both beans and training from Vivace. many places order the beans, but training costs a pretty penny.

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I recently read a study that showed locally owned coffee joints actually did better when a Starbucks came to town.

I have an antipathy towards national chain anything so I had mixed emotions when a Starbucks came to my home town. As it has turned out it is a reliable source for fresh roasted beans and somewhat more elegantly made beverages than our local alternatives - including Dunkin Donuts now serving espresso and lattes.

I also have recieved great instructions from various Starbuck's baristas about using our new Saeco Italia super auto machine (purchased from'Bucks) I believe it is the same as a Saeco Incanto.

So - I guess nothing is all bad and there is something to be said for the spread of information and education through corporate channels.

Jim :rolleyes:

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As it has turned out it is a reliable source for fresh roasted beans

If you have them sell you beans directly from the big five pound bags they use in the store to fill their own espresso machines and brewers you might get reasonably fresh beans but it can be hit or miss on the pre-bagged 12 oz or 1 lb packages. Some of those may have been sitting around for awhile and their date code system can't be deciphered by us ordinary mortals (I do know a guy who can decipher those codes and says he's been shocked on occasion by how old some beans were, especially those in overseas locations that had been roasted here in the US and shipped out).

and somewhat more elegantly made beverages than our local alternatives - including Dunkin Donuts now serving espresso and lattes.

Ouch for the local independent places - they really need to get their act together. I'll go to Starbucks in a pinch anytime when I'm traveling but have not been impressed with the Dunkin Donuts around here - their milk based espresso drinks are horrid. But one of my co-workers gets a double shot of espresso there and asks for a cup of hot water on the side. He gave up trying to order an Americano because they just didn't get it. But he says the Americano he mixes himself is not bad for the $1.55 that it costs.

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Not only are you in an unusual minority as a straight espresso drinker but you're stuck in an even more perplexing situation - how to get a good espresso in a decent restaurant. Let me know when you've found one. I'm not sure there's even a single restaurant out there at any level of the dining strata in the US that  serves stellar espresso.

Actually, the best espresso I have ever had was at a small deli in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is called Espana, and it is a hispanic version of an old italian deli.

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I work at a Starbucks and can see why people have differing opinions. There is one in a Giant Eagle store where rude, and at best, personality-less employees serve old coffee with grounds in the bottom or lattes with burnt milk. Then there is the newer Starbucks in town. Don't even get me started on the staff, there is nothing welcoming about the place. But the Starbucks I work at is really a nice coffee shop. And honestly, I don't say this just because it's the one I work at. My manager is great to work for in every way, and insists on what Starbucks calls legandary service. We are all human and so we all make mistakes from time to time when making a drink, but when I started working here I was surprised at how the baristas care about making the drinks right, keeping coffee fresh, keeping everything clean, and being pleasant and welcoming to every customer. And if you've ever worked with the public, you know that can be difficult with some customers. Everyone I work with goes out of there way to make sure every customer walks away satisfied. We have some hard chairs around tables and some cumfy stuffed chairs, and people must find it inviting enough because at any given time you can find people with their laptops, or families relaxing, or individuals reading. As for over-roasted coffee, I personally like the darker roasts. But we always have a lighter roast brewing also. There are some of the Starbucks coffees that I just don't like, and we aren't always brewing one that I really care for. And I make better espresso at home. But then I don't use the espresso roast beans either. Their espresso beans are too bland. Maybe they use that one because it won't interfere with all the syrups people want added to their lattes. I personally don't know how people down some of the sweet concoctions they order, but I do have to say that if a customer wants to have it made their way, Starbucks is the place to go. We take orders for lattes with 1 and a half pumps of this syrup and 2 pumps of that syrup, half decaf, nonfat with whip cream. It doesn't matter how they want it, we aim to please. And in many parts of America, that sort of service is hard to find. And lets face it, when you are paying 3 or 4 bucks for a drink, it had better be made the way you want it. One can find fault with any company. Starbucks is like any other shop; some are great places to hang out and others are not worth going into. And I'm sure the different areas with different availabilities has much to do with one's opinion on the subject.

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This may be off-topic and unnecessary, but here his a page that explains Starbucks lingo(what's a "venti"?).

http://www.quicksilverweb.net/sbucks/sbcharts.htm

I wonder when or if Starbucks will ever publicly post the fat , calorie and carb counts for their drinks? It's surprising that it hasn't already happened.

Here is Starbucks' nutrition info page:

http://www.starbucks.com/retail/nutrition_beverages.asp

I don't drink coffee, and I've never been to a Starbucks,but I saw the first link and I thought it would be helpful.

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Now serving artisan made doughnuts, Seattle only:

Top Pot

And durn good 'uns, too. I had an apple fritter yesterday morning with my Grandé Sumatra. Top Pot rules!


Sacred cows make the best hamburger.

- Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

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mmmm, Top Pot. all i need now is a SBUX pastry option that costs less than $1.50. (try splitting those two-madeleine packages for a start.)

on the independent note, i've found many, many small-town espresso stands that don't have their acts together. i remember visiting one out in way-eastern Washington -- where, incidentally, all the local WSP patrolmen could be found on a weekday morning -- and asking for an espresso.

despite the big "espresso" sign out front, the counterperson had never had ANYONE ask for just an espresso. she didn't even know how to serve it, or what to charge me. i walked out of there with a 50-cent espresso. it was horrid, but cheap.

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