Monday, November 20, 2006

Why coffee houses matter- and why Starbucks sucks

Here's a terrific article in today's Guardian by Charlotte Ashby on the depressing prevalence of chain coffee stores in Britain. Standardised, bland and expensive, these chains are everything coffee houses shouldn't be. How it raises one spirits to leave Blighty and arrive in a city, like Paris, or Brussels, where individually owned establishments, each with their own distinctive character still predominate. As I've said before the biggest charge against modern monopoly, Anglo-Saxon capitalism is that it's BORING. Identik High Streets, Tescos on every out of town roundabout, Big M signs wherever you look. And the neo-liberal fanatics of the Adam Smith Insititute, The Centre for New Europe and other 'free-market' think tanks would like the rest of Europe to go that way too. High Street diversity, where the small shopkeeper and small coffee house/cafe owner has a chance to flourish, means restrictions on the operations of multinational chains. And that is the last thing these paid-up propagandists for monopoly capitalism really want.

16 comments:

TheRedLeopard said...

Starbucks sucks in other ways too Neil. Have you seen this Oxfam report on how the company is screwing Africa's poor?
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/press/releases/starbucks031106.htm

TheRedLeopard said...

And here's antoher good piece about Starbuck's aggressive tactics and their plans to wipe out competitors.
http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1535254

Anonymous said...

Ironic that it is mainly the Guardian-reading pseuds that patronise Starbucks and the like.

Neil Clark said...

Have you carried out some scientific research Steve to back up your assertion?

Neil Clark said...

Thanks for the very good links, Red Leopard. I had seen the Oxfam report, but not the other article. Much appreciated.

RobBBB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem to occur to you that maybe the problem is that the UK has mostly lousy coffee shops, and that Starbucks is good compared to them? All my experiences of getting a coffee in the UK have been bad - unpleasant coffee presented with surly service - when I lived there and when I visit. Compared to that, Starbucks is the better alternative. Coffee houses that serve good coffee will survive alongside Starbucks, as is the case here in Australia, and in Japan (except that there Starbucks and the zillions of competitors universally serve not terribly good coffee by Western tastes).
Regulating big nasty Starbucks will just ensure that low quality and poor service get a free pass.

cursed in hell said...

As the owner of a cafe in a small wisconsin town,
I can say from experience, that the presence of
star****s, made me improve my presentation.
But my business has suffered alot.
Most of the American population, is not only
programmed by visual logos in the media,
but are also ignorant of anything not mainstream.
I have invested in the best roaster and learned
to roast great coffee, but if the people don't
understand it doesn't really matter what I do.

Anonymous said...

hello i know starbucks coffe sucks''it is made from incompetent help they must of enslaved somehow???there is never a cup the sam e ....no matter how you order you will get a cup of bitter tastleless cheapest bean you can find on earth'''then they have the nerve to charge you insane price for that cup of shit......unfortunately most people are unaware of what a good cup of coffe can taste like '''made by a competent barista... there ought to be a law not allowing starbucks to even insult the use of that word in the coffe trade .....however big money almost always wins go figure......... the worst place they have to date is there anacortes wa. commercial ave store...there ignorant overpriced shit that they serve up sucks .....be aware unless you like throwing your money away dont go.........

Anonymous said...

Starbucks has got to be the worst "coffee" I have ever had!!! I spoke to guy who works in the coffee industry and apparently Starsucks burns their beans on purpose so that it gives people the illusion that the coffee is stronger than it actually is, thereby using less coffee and making more money. I LOVE my coffee VERY strong, but unfortunately for Charbucks, my tastebuds know the difference between strong and burnt! I think the only reason people convince themselves that they like it is because it is trendy and "in" to have a Starbucks cup in your hand. I feel sorry for them! I myself have never been a sheep and don't plan to become one anytime soon. If anyone out there is looking for really good coffee, may I recomend Pete's Coffee? It's fantastic!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am pretty disappointed that Apple made this co-operation with Starbucks.

But, hey, Apple seems to be different, but it ain't.

Anonymous said...

Starbuck has lost it. There awful generic -smelling “coffee houses” are an embarrassment to the coffee house industry and now America.

In my opinion Starbucks is now synonymous with warm milk-tasting lattes and cappuccinos from some short of new fangled automated espresso machine. The training must have stopped too. I wanted a 50 cent refill of coffee one day, after buying a $4 latte, and the numbskull behind the counter shared, “It is only if you bought a coffee.” I hate when idiot servers empower themselves to talk for a company.

Rich, bold, and smooth coffee that is addictive: Peet’s or the Art of Espresso on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla, CA. They both put the elitist, Britney-drinking, burnt, milky, Starbucks to shame.

Anonymous said...

Just goes to show you, if you advertise enough and make it seem cool people will buy it.

It's just a coffee shop, a roadside diner has the ability to do more complicated things and serve more yet they try to make starbucks seem like it's a royal palace......

Instead of calling the employees a coffer server they use a complicated name to make it seem like you need many years studying in the fields of another country to brew this special elixir. I heard they have 2 interviews for jobs..... wow the arrogance of them, it's just a lil coffee shop, just give them an application and hope they don't quit.....

Everyone in the place also seems arrogant, like they are better then everyone else because they have paid more for their coffee. Like buying this coffee makes you smarter and distinguished.

Anonymous said...

I had the misfortune of working at the brand new roasting plant SBUX just opened in South Carolina. I have had some bad jobs in my 54 years on this Earth,but this place and these people are the worst of the worst. I have worked in underground coalmines in West Virginia and even worked in a sewerage treatment plant for two years as a mechanic. This company and it's managers stink worse than the sewerage treatment plant.They wanted us to work 12 hour shifts standing on concrete by the 4oo plus degree roasting machines. The pay was about $5/hour less than any other plant they owned. The other plants work 8 hour shifts and have operator rooms away from the roasting machines,but they thought that people in South Carolina were subhuman and it did not matter. They wanted us to sign a statement saying they could strip search us and search our cars any time they wwanted. This really bothered me because the majority of the managers at the plant appeared to be homosexuals. Our community has the state university campus within 20 miles of the plant,but these people thought it was necessary to go outside of the USA to find a plant manager. The bulk of the management staff was brought in from outside of the areaOn top of subpar pay and lies for benefits these people had the audacity to volunteer us to work for free during our off hours and start a pecking order of harassment if we refused to show up and work for their causes. I believe this is the most evil company and the most immoral group of people I have ever known. How they survive especially handleing food products is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

BTW I was a coffee roaster for SBUX. I have been through every roasting course they have and still have their manuals. I reccomend Eight Oclock brand whole bean coffee in the French Roast genre. It has been around for over 150 years. These people have simply let their coffee be their statement.I don't know that they spend a dime in marketing their product. Roasting great coffee for over 150 years is enough for me. I wish they needed a few more roasters.

Anonymous said...

Only in America, the land of the "brave and the Free". What a joke.
I was in a Starbucks tonight in Vegas and a guy was smoking, so the barista told him to stop, but he said let me just order my coffee first, the guy said no it's company policy, you have to leave the store, so the guy started leaving and then the big tough macho barista comes up behind the guy ordering him out aloud to leave the store, he turns around and says "you can see I'm leaving" the tough guy still says, "Get out then".

So I said to the bully barista, why did you pull the big tough guy act with that man when he was leaving anyway, why don't you just chill out, and he says, why don't you make me, so I replied, I will make you, because I'm going to write a complaint about you to the head office. He said, yeah, well how would you like it if I make you leave as well. I said, you have no reason to ask me to leave, and when I write my letter, you will be the one leaving for your big tough guy bully spectacle when there was no need for it.

So what did this big sissy do, he went and called the cops. Twenty minutes later this huge cop turns up and takes me outside, told me to shut up when I asked why he wanted me outside, and then got me to put my hands behind my back and spread my legs while he patted me down. A total humiliation. Over what, trying to put a ****ed up, sissy, bully in his place. Then the female manager comes out and the cop gives her a thing to read to say that I can't come anywhere near that Starbucks again or I'll be arrested for trespassing, and I'm just pissing myself laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Star Schmucks more like it.