Monday, September 10, 2007

A Little Stoli with Your Starbucks, Ma'am?

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." V. Lenin. 1920.

I thought of this statement of Vladimir Lenin's as I read the Wall Street Journal headline, "Starbucks to Open First Store in Russia". (Saturday, September 8, 2007)
Mr. Lenin might have to reword that statement if it were made today. Because the company becoming as well known as Coca-Cola is invading the motherland. After a long legal battle over Starbucks' "hi-jacked" trademark rights the company prevailed and has opened its first store in a Moscow mall. There are already many Starbucks stores in Beijing. Starbucks' goal is 20,000 outside the USA.
Some of my friends see Starbucks as a kind of "Hallmark" card of coffee stores. I don't. They have a consistently good product, a knowledgeable and friendly staff, and an atmosphere that is welcoming. Yea, they are annoyingly successful. But as I keep saying, few coffee shops can offer what they offer. There are probably a dozen coffee bars near me as I write in Philadelphia, and there is only one that has coffee as good. One. Starbucks does this 20,000 times in the U.S. with remarkable consistency. But I'll talk about the one here that I like in a day or two because it is impressive.


jeromey said...

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. Believe me, I am no coffee connoisseur, but I love coffee - and home-roasted is the way to go. 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 (and a coffee grinder if you don't have one).

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 inside instead of the neighborhood teenager who drives a new car and is too busy texting to take/make your coffee order.

Sorry - haven't had my coffee yet. :) I like your blog. Really. I guess I just don't like Starbucks. Have a good trip!

Francis Shivone said...

Thank you and great comments. Even if I disagree silghtly.

Point 1. I agree and will try your method. Thanks for the Sweet Maria's suggestion. Like you I'm not a connoisseur but I like good coffee. I have a coffee grinder and usually buy the Costco roasted on-site. It's okay but Starbucks brand is better.

Point 2. Again, I agree with you. As anyone who knows me knows that I'm all about the locally owned and operated place and have said many times that trying new places is a roll of the dice but that's half the fun; but -- I am usually disappointed in the local coffee shops because it seems many owners have turned the stores over to disaffected employees who are going through the motions.
You are right about variety, and Walmart and Starbucks for that matter, we all bemoan the suburbanization of our lives, I guess my point is that, and in this maybe I'm a bit hypocrital, they have a consistently good product and I frequent them often because of that.

With your permission I would like to post your comments in the next few days. Is that okay. Many people don't read the comments.

jeromey said...

fine with me! :)

by the way, i'm going to email you very soon about the dallas farmers market. (your blog post about it is how i found you)

i like fresh food almost as much as i like fresh coffee - and have recently decided to try to buy as much as i can from local suppliers. i visited 2 fort worth markets over the weekend and was not impressed at all. :( my next visit will certainly be to the Dallas market (even though i hate going to dallas - ick).

Francis Shivone said...

I'm in Philadelphia for a while but I'll get you the name of the farm we bought Parker County peaches from. Wow, were they good. We drove out there with another couple and bought 2 baskets last year. Let me know what you think of the Dallas Farmer's market. It's a little late in the season for tomatoes and summer produce but the fall produce should be hitting soon. My wife and I used to go about twice a year.