Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Are You In or Out on Starbucks?

I'm taking coffee and coffee shop suggestions. (First, take the poll to the right, please)
If you have a favorite place, in Fort Worth or elsewhere, or a favorite method of making mornin
g brew, I'd like to know about it.
Jeromey left a comment on my last Starbucks post, in which I complimented Starbucks for their consistent quality. Jeromey kindly disagrees and posted the following (slightly edited):

Sure, there is something to be said for product consistency, but I have 2 counterpoints:
  • 1. If you think Starbucks coffee is "good", you should try roasting your own coffee. I have only recently started doing this, but already can notice the true flavors and lack of bitterness that I have been missing for years. . . If you need a source for green beans, try SweetMaria's. All you need is their coffee and a $15 hot air popcorn popper from Target. . .
  • 2. Variety is the spice of life. Half (or more) of the fun my family and I have on vacation is trying foods/drinks that we can't get at home. Sure, you get some gems and some duds, but constantly trying new things *is the great life*. Besides this, I lament the success of the Wal-Marts and Starbucks of the world. Yuck! We should long for the days of small, independent, family-owned businesses with some character and pride . . .
I can't really say I disagree with Jeromey, although I am not sure why we bash successful companies like Starbucks, Walmart and McDonald's. I take that back, I think I know why we bash them, I'm just not sure it's justified. Americans are, almost by definition, anti "big brother"and pro the underdog. Why do you think we're up to "Rocky 8"? But no one buys a car from a "mom and pop" car manufacturer, because the assembly line, economy of scale, and automation make it cheap enough for almost everyone to afford a quality vehicle; in effect driving out the small manufacturer who would have to charge 10 times what Ford charges.
I do try to support the small, independent businessman, for lots of reasons, not always economic. There are a dozen independent coffee shops in the Rittenhouse Square area of Philadelphia. In some the coffee is not as good as Starbucks, in some it is equal, in a few it is better.
La Colombe, on 19th and Walnut, is one of the betters.
Why do I like it and what makes it different?
  • It is frequented by a local crowd.
  • The coffee and espresso are near perfect.
  • The croissants are fresh. There are two kinds, plain and almond. They are excellent. $2.00.
  • There is no menu board. The selection and prices are not posted (that I could find).
  • There is one size of regular coffee. $1.50.
  • The line is long but moves quickly and you better be ready to order when it is your turn.
  • Cream and cane sugar are at the order bar and kept fresh.
  • The people are friendly but not phony. I love this place because it does one thing very well. It's not trying to act like Starbucks or 7/11. It sells really good coffee at low prices.
This is what Jeromey is referring to when he says he prefers the independent places. So do I. But not everyplace has a La Colombe or other shops almost as good.
Comments? Criticisms? Got a favorite, in any city? Please let me know.

Great New York Times article on coffee and the industry:
"To Burundi and Beyond for Coffee’s Holy Grail," http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/12/dining/12coff.html?_r=1&8dpc&oref=slogin

4 comments:

matt said...

eurotaza

the best around since the noble bean on camp bowie closed

Andrew said...

Eurotaza is good. It's clean, has good coffee, and the people are friendly.

Most local coffee houses pride themselves on being independent and corporate which, for most, means that they are sloppy and careless with their products.

The best example of this is Panther City Coffee which has bad coffee and smells like rancid B.O.

Andrew said...

Excuse me, I meant to say non-corporate.

Francis Shivone said...

I forgot to put Panther City on my poll but I agree. And I agree with you on the non-corporate part. Eurotaza has done a great job with the independent, quality place. I still say if you had a bunch of money to risk, you could take the Eurotaza concept and compete with the big gorilla.