The Coffee Empire: Starbucks

May 12, 2010
By anwinynahte BRONZE, Stony Brook, New York
anwinynahte BRONZE, Stony Brook, New York
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

One Friday afternoon in Manhattan, three friends planned to get together for coffee after work. They agreed to meet at a certain time in the Starbucks across the street from the building in which one of them worked. Running a little late, the last one came breathlessly to the appointed meeting spot- and found nobody there.

Meanwhile, each of the other two people was in the exact same situation. This particular building took up a whole short block, and therefore had three cross-streets. There were three Starbucks locations “across the street” from the building, and each friend had somehow ended up in a different one.

The sheer ubiquity of the Starbucks franchise has been widely commented on and joked about- for example, the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a headline at one point saying, “New Starbucks Opens in Rest Room of Existing Starbucks”. Still, most of the attention is positive- people like Starbucks, and they like always being able to find one, no matter where they are. Starbucks is a good employer, and sufficiently upscale to be found in the fanciest of shopping centers, while still not so snooty that it seems out of place in somewhat less affluent areas. Its viral spread wasn’t a coincidence- Starbucks is one of the few chains with the popularity, accessibility, and quality to create and maintain that kind of pervasiveness.

Is Starbucks all good, though? They’re eco-friendly, have decent coffee, and offer relatively healthy food choices. Their employees are typically smart and courteous.. There’s just one thing they’re lacking: uniqueness. A Frappuccino from a Starbucks in New York tastes exactly the same as one in Rome, in Munich, or in Tokyo. And if that’s what you’re looking for, Starbucks is wonderful. Consistency, they have in spades, but local flavor? Not so much. And with the rise of Starbucks, local coffee shops are being pushed out of business.

Sure, Starbucks has probably made it easier to get decent coffee in thousands of middle-America towns, but at the expense of that quirky little corner coffee place where they used to make that great rosewater espresso drink. At Starbucks, you can get twenty flavors of syrup in your drink- including sugar-free varieties- but rosewater certainly isn’t one of them, and it never will be. Unless there’s expected to be a substantial audience for a certain flavor, it doesn’t matter how good it tastes- it needs to appeal widely to people, or else it’s not worth carrying.
Whenever I’m in a large city that, like Manhattan, has a Starbucks on every corner, I try to go out of my way to instead get my coffee from the little cafés I pass- places with names like Café Latakia, or Our Coffee Smells Happy, or Victrola Coffee & Art. Sometimes the coffee is better than Starbucks; other times it’s worse. Eating some of the more unique pastries has been an adventure, to say the least. But then there are always the winners- the aforementioned rosewater drink, the excellent baklava, the quadruple-chocolate mocha with extra chocolate sauce on top. There’s the excitement of choosing something different from what you’ve tried before, the anticipation as you take that first sip of mulberry-banana espresso smoothie. There’s the inherent joy of variety- and that’s why Starbucks will never be quite as good as all the tiny corner cafés it’s putting out of business.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!