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Nov 20, 2006 03:54 PM

Starbucks downward slide?

So went to my local Starbucks yesterday for my afternoon latte treat and to my shock and absolute dismay, the espresso machine is now fully automated!!! What gives? Plus I did not like my latte.

Now I can always get a latte at a local provider, but they are not as accessible as SB (that is another discussion). Am I stuck with ordering just bold coffe at SBs from now on?

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  1. Starbucks was always the worst coffeehouse around with barristas who have no clue so I don't see how it can get worse with automated espresso machines.

    8 Replies
    1. re: honkman

      You're entitled to your opinion, but the vast majority of indie AND chain shops in North America would not exist if Starbucks had not created the market for espresso-based drinks. I speak for many coffee geeks who were introduced to the world of "specialty coffee" at Starbucks and who now eschew it, but respect it.

      1. re: John Manzo


        Coffee culture existed for a very long time in San Francisco well before uber-Starbucks started out in Seattle. Think back to the fifties with the "beat generation." Peets coffee was an East Bay landmark years before Starbucks was even a gleam in their founder's eye. When I landed in SF in 1986, there were MANY thriving coffehouses. I think due to the high rent and multiple roommates, San Franciscans used their coffee places much like living rooms.

        Respect for Starbucks, much like respect for McDonalds for popularizing the hamburger and fries:).

        1. re: drmimi

          Right, and everybody went to this "landmark." And the entire world is San Francisco. I'll wager that most SFers never set foot in a "beat" coffeehouse; regardless, this is an irrelevant point since the coffee culture that exists now has nothing to do with the "beats" and everything to do with innovations from Seattle. How many SF indie coffeehouses serve "lattes"? All of them? Thought so. Proof of the influence of Starbucks, like it or not.

          Here in the real world, the vast majority of coffeehouses would not exist had Starbucks not lubricated the market.

          1. re: John Manzo

            well actually lattes DID exist in SF long before Starbucks and gthey were served in coffeehouses in SF long before Starbucks. Having said that, I completely agree with your major point. I have said the same thing for quite some time to those that tsk tsk Starbucks.....and having lived in SF for 20 years me..San Franciscans truly believe it IS the entire world. It can be pretty insufferable.....

            1. re: John Manzo


              I'm a native Chicagoan- only lived for three years in SF proper- additional 2 in Oakland (back in 1986-1992). I've spent more of my life in Chicago, NYC, Philadelphia, Bakersfield, Las Vegas and Modesto. Now living in Petaluma California.

              Coffee culture is not unique to San Francisco. I think SF owes much of its coffee culture to its Italian and Greek Immigrants. I even remember having cappuchino in my childhood (grew up in the 60's and 70's) in Chicago. Guess that happened 'cause my parents loved Folk music and were very Bohemian compared to most African Americans.
              Europeans drank coffee in volumes in coffee houses long before Starbucks was a phenom.

              But the original coffee culture-- Gotta hand it to the Ethiopians/Eritreans for that. I didn't have the real deal until I was introduced to coffee made in Ethiopia (the birthplace of the coffee). Once I had that-- all other coffee is just a pale imitation.

              1. re: honkman

                Starbucks did nothing special-- then who did, Gloria Jean's? Barney's? Coffee Beanery? Chains popularised the concept, indies perfected it. When I was in college in Portland 1982-86, there were "specialty coffee" stores like Kobos that sold beans and supplies, but it wasn't until years AFTER Starbucks and Nordstrom Cafe opened that Stumptown evolved as a third wave coffeehouse. I would never choose Starbucks when an option like Stumptown exists, but if it weren't for Starbucks, Stumptown wouldn't exist in the first place. Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver came after the advent of Starbucks there... I could go on and on. And on.

                1. re: John Manzo

                  In general, I agree with you -- the market for $3 or $4 coffee as a commodity available in any city with more than 10,000 residents (and a whole lot of smaller towns) was brought to its current saturated state by Starbucks.

                  They weren't the first everywhere -- Gloria Jean's had the Midwest for a long time, Coffee Beanery was in the Mid-Atlantic, and Peet's held the Bay Area before Starbucks was ubiquitous.

                  That was years ago, though, and Starbucks are everywhere, so it's hard to imagine a time when there were espresso-oriented coffeeshops and no Starbucks.

                  That said, Starbucks definitely popularised the latte but it certainly isn't a Starbucks innovation -- lattes have been drunk in Little Italies around the country since the waves of Italian immigrants came in, and in Italy since long before that... and a latte is the same as a café au lait, or a cafè amb llet, or a café con leche, or your choice of "coffee with milk" in almost any European language.

                  That they're called latte after the Starbucks method argues for you, but a rose by any other name, etc.

                  I would say that the vast majority of new INDEPENDENT coffeehouses have sprung up as a feel-good-about-supporting-the-little-guy alternative to Starbucks, but there are a number of indies in most larger cities that predate Starbucks and its massive overtaking of the speciality-coffee market. I worked in one in New Jersey, and we had a bunch of competitors, a ways before the first B&N-with-attached-Starbucks moved in.

              2. re: John Manzo

                I my little corner of the world there was not one single coffee place in my mid-sized city (100,000+). Then 13 years ago Barnes and Noble opened a store with a cafe inside that served Starbucks. Thirteen years later there are three Starbucks and at least six indy operations (several of which have multiple locations) in the city, not to mention the innumerable espresso machine that are in nearly every restaurant (a situation that did not exist a decade ago).

                In my little city at least, Starbucks (through B&N) did create a market for upscale coffee. I'd agree that the Starbucks' product itself is not as good as what can be found at most indy's, but it is a far sight better than Micky D's which was the primary option before the evil empire came to town.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. Totally! I've never been a fan of Starbuck's.
                Do you have Dutch Brother's Coffee stands
                where you are? They are the best , I think
                they are regional though.

                10 Replies
                1. re: ergozum

                  No Dutch Brother's here. I'm in Boston.

                  Starbucks just feeds my addiction and it is truly a love/hate relationship. If I can get decent coffee at a local java shop, I go there first, but I like bold coffee and Dunkin' Donuts which is very popular up here, just doesn't do it for me :)

                  1. re: kate used to be 50

                    Although they're shuttering stores from coast to coast, Krispy Kreme makes some of the BEST coffee available from a chain. Really, they spent a LOT of money getting just the right blends. Not a fan of their donuts, but the coffee is worth the side trip.

                    Starbucks is just too bold-bordering-on-skunky for me.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      Either they made different coffee when they ventured into Canada or your coffee tastes are way different that most of us here in TO.
                      We found there coffee terrible.


                      1. re: Davwud

                        Can't vouch for Canada, but in Northern Virginia, the KK coffee is still good. Maybe they're cutting corners since the collapse of the donut market and the subsequent "downsizing?"

                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          They were a disaster here. They lasted about two years or so. You couldn't get near one when they opened up. They the No-carb craze hit and they were virtually vacant.
                          We have Tim Horton's Donughts up here and they are a license to print money. So I've always wondered if KK were to expand it's horizons a bit, would it have done better.


                        2. re: Davwud

                          Agreed, the KK in Calgary had very subpar coffee, IMHO.

                          1. re: Shazam

                            They serve modestly competent espresso. But if you want real garbage dump coffee in Canada, two words: Tim Hortons. Horrible even by donut shop standards.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              But see, you're a coffee house coffee lover. I'm not. I like a regular ole cup o' joe. Coffee flavoured coffee as it were. I'm Martin and you're Niles or Fraser.

                              Uncle Timmy has the best doughnut shop coffee.


                              1. re: John Manzo

                                I must disagree. I'm nutty enough to sometimes blend and roast my own beans (from Sweet Marias). But, for donut shop coffee, Tims is VERY good. If you disagree, you haven't had the pleasure of being exhausted on a long drive through the boonies and not finding a Tims around. Can you spell heartburn?

                                I should add, though, that Tim's blend presumes drinking your coffee with 18% cream and sugar. I suspect they assume that few customers want their coffee black.

                                Country Style in Canada also has decent donut shop coffee, but most donut shop coffee in North America is just swill.

                                1. re: embee


                                  Just past the customs kiosks in Windsor there is an Uncle Timmy's. I stop there every trip back from the in-laws.
                                  Just a little reminder that I'm back on the good side.


                    2. Yes, I am a fan of KK coffee, but they have pulled out of New England. SIGH.

                      1. They have had the automated machines here in California and when I drive to Detroit, in all the *$ for more than 3 years. I assume its to save on waste/ freebies...used to be they would have to make two shots at a time, and throw one out...or ppl figured it out and said, hey just give me that one instead of throwing it out...i know i did;I'd pay for one add shot ad get two...or pay for three and get it spits out one at a time...and flavors are consistent between *$ stores