HOME > Chowhound > Chains >

Discussion

what IS the deal with starbucks?[moved from UK/Ireland]

  • howler May 15, 2007 07:48 AM

the coffee is actively vile. and the chain is sprouting up like mushrooms all over the uk. what on earth are people doing buying this crud?

the next time someone talks to me about the 'revolution in british tastes' etc, i'm going to point them to a curry house and starbucks. italy is a skip away and we have to go to seattle to get this rubbish?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. i know exactly what you mean. i live in the states, and they are just popping up everywhere. the coffee is ok at best, but i do understand why some people would frequent them religiously. nutrition information is posted online, so for those who are really trying to watch what they consume it is helpful. and starbucks is very good to its employees, so a lot of people feel good going there. i prefer to go to local businesses or places that serve la columbe, but that's just my take on why its so popular.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jayleah

      I'm in Oregon, probably the second most saturated Starbucks market (Seattle up North is where the first opened in 1971); They are becoming a monopoly by catering to the Lowest Common Denominator (the sheep!) that don't know good coffee (frappuccino? what??) and buying up others like Torrefazione (YUM) and Coffee People (eh...).

      I prefer to give my business to local (STUMPTOWN!!) and those who know good coffee.

      1. re: spabettie

        It looks like someone needs to stick up for Seattle in here! ;) I have to agree with spabettie about Starbucks, even here in Seattle, catering to the LCD's of the city. Stumptown is good (although, I can't leave Boyd's out of the mix either... I know, I know... every time I say that I get "You like Boyd's?! Why?" from anyone living in OR!) and Seattle has many of our own roasters that I frequent. Lightouse Roasters is one in particular. Yummy! :) You know, I cannot put down Starbuck's attempts at community involvement and other awarenesses, whatever the motivation may be. I just don't care for the taste of their coffee.

        1. re: spabettie

          Stumptown is espresso nirvana!! I'm staying at the Ace Hotel in June specifically because there's a Stumptown in the building. You guys in Portland are so lucky not to have a labour shortage :-)

          The saddest thing about Starbucks is that its customers will never, ever experience a proper cappuccino with proper microfoam in a proper 5-oz size. With latte art or a simple proper monk's hood. There is nothing more sumptuous, and they can get it at Stumptown (or Albina Press, Vivace, Artigiano, Novo, Phil+Sebastian, Caffe Art Java, Bulldog, Intelligentsia- every major city and many not-so-major ones have at least one decent third-wave coffeehouse) FOR THE SAME PRICE as Starbucks. Starbucks cappos have RUINED horrible meringue-style overstretched disgusting foam- they are abominations.

          1. re: John Manzo

            BRAVO !!

            ...and have fun at the Ace Hotel (I've heard great things about it),
            and enjoy your Stumptown!!

      2. they are a very powerful brand marketer and that is enough to convince people that they must be good. the fact that there stores are everywhere makes people think 'if they're this common, then tons of people must love them, so i will too'. people tend to feel pressured to join the herd and starbucks has more than taken advantage of that. in england they are also filling an unsaturated market. i loved in london for a while and spent days trying to find good coffee. the upside of never having found it (even at bar italia, and don't even get me started on the lack of iced coffee, amerianisme, yes i know) is that i became a huge fan of tea and now rarely drink coffee. personally, i positively detest starbucks and the coffee and thankfully in philadelphia, i have three delicious independent coffee shops within a 15 minute walk of my house (more like 8 total, but these three are stellar). current starbucks count has got to be at 8 as well.

        i will say one thing in starbucks' defense though, they certainly take care of their employees. a friend of mine was in a horrible car accident when she was an employee. they paid for her first year of medical bills under and most of the next few (she is now paralyzed for life). because of how well they treated her, i buy one cup of coffee there a year in 'thanks'. maybe two if i go on a road trip.

        1. Starbucks is basically a low over-head, high profit-margin business. They can also adapt to almost any size space, including small spaces which few other retail enterprises are interested in. Their strategy is scatter outlets so that whatever market they may have won't have to go very far to find them. You can see the reductio ad absurdum of this strategy in places like Shanghai, where their market is a handful of expats, and the 20 million locals have no interest in them, yet they seem to be popping up on every corner (65 outlets the last time I counted) because it costs so little to implement them.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Gary Soup

            As a business owner in the same industry as Starbucks, I am no Starbucks defender by any stretch, but some of what I'm seeing here is simply the worst kind of spin:

            "high margin business" - hardly. Starbucks PRE-tax margins are in the 11% range - and that's bumped up because of non-coffee-related revenues, while McDonald's (to pick another ubiquitous chain) pre-tax margins averaged over 19% last year.

            "it costs so little to implement them" - Starbucks generally pays between $500K-$650K per store for pre-opening buildout. Not exactly chump change for any food-related business and probably about 3x or more of what the typical indie would pay for buildout.

            If you want to say SBUX drink quality sucks, then let's leave it at that, but please don't bring finances into it unless the facts are researched, as that broad brush ends up painting everyone else in the industry undeservedly or not.

            1. re: Panini Guy

              ...as someone who used to manage a high-end delicatessen
              here in PDX, all I can say is NICELY SAID. I absolutely agree.

              1. re: Panini Guy

                Panini Guy, whenever I read your posts I'm delighted! Thank you.

            2. I have only tried the coffee one time, and I agree that it was awful. I live in the Boston area, and they are everywhere here, too. The one cup I did have ( and I ordered simply a cup of black coffee) tasted burnt. Never did go back. I have a local neighborhood store that serves better coffee- and that is where I stop on my way to work.
              I will agree with the other posters about how they treat their employees- my friends son works for them, and was able to take a years sabattical and travel around the world. Job was there when he got back, and they actually encouraged the adventure. Gotta love that, at least.

              1 Reply
              1. re: macca

                the way they treat employees must have changed a great deal, then. When I worked for them 8 years ago, I signed up for the 20 hours per week required to qualify for health insurance, only to consistently be scheduled at 19.5 or 19.75 hours a week.

                All to bring the store in under budget. All to get the manager an annual bonus.

                When I became ill and needed a doctor's mandated three weeks off to recuperate, I was asked to quit and when I wanted to come back to work, I had to ask to be rehired. Losing any benefits that I had accrued since I left.

                I consider them in the same league as any other sales/market driven corporation. they're in the same league as WalMart and McDonalds, as far as I'm concerned, and I know that every time I end up stopping at one because all the places I used to go are gone now, replaced with a Starbucks.

              2. i would much prefer coffee at a starbucks than any homegrown in the uk . i sometimes wonder if the brits might have the wimpiest palates in the world. i enjoy my coffee roasty; it's called flavor.

                what's obnoxious is the eurolefties' endless and fashionable droning about how chains are threatening their way of life. columbus coffee, a homegrown chain in paris, is quickly dying away. how can that be?!? why have not the same fates occured with starbux and mickey d's in england? shoot, even starbux are thriving in paris and that ain't all tourist traffic.

                4 Replies
                1. re: manon gropius

                  I'm often tempted to hit a Starbucks in Shanghai for a coffee fix once and I do occasionally succumb, because the local stuff is awful (it's often three-in-one instant). However, McDonalds serves the same purpose; their coffee is as good as Starbucks house coffee, IMHO, and they are far more welcome in China, judging from the clientele..

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    3-in-1? Like the coffee, sugar and dairy substitute all in one powder?

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Yeah, that's pretty standard throughout a lot of SE Asia. (Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan).

                      1. re: julesrules

                        3-in-1 (Nescafe, sugar, and dairy sub) is common in Taiwan.

                  2. I've never found starbucks coffee to be horrible, and a just pulled shot of espresso from one of their machines at correct calibration and maintenance is alright. Other than raw product it isn't very hard to produce a passable cup of coffee, and their raw product isn't horrible, depending on what's brewing. Though I am by no means a coffee connouisseur, so perhaps my comments should be taken lightly. Barista error is probably the factor of the generally low quality level at starbucks, I've watched a shot sit for ages before being used/handed off, etcetera.

                    Now from my own personal standpoint, i've seen so many other places win taste tests against starbucks if only because the roast is INCREDIBLY light. I hate lightly roasted coffee with too much acid , but I seem to be the minority.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Souper

                      Count me in with you, Souper.

                      And I tire of the endless "what's with Starbucks...." rants/complaints. Whats with them is they're more successful than anyone else. They both grew the "specialty" coffee market and took it over at the same time. They're a better corporate citizen than most large chains and they don't force anyone to drink their product. If you don't like it, don't go.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        I also agree on this. Personally I like Starbucks for most things, finding only their lunch sandwiches dodgy; I enjoy their coffee, iced tea, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries, among other things. And I agree with the political/social stances they take -- and hear, unlike MaspethMaven's report above, that they treat their employees well for a business of this kind. Given that I've counted at least four posts on this thread addressing such issues, I'm assuming Chowhound's moderators are OK with mine.

                        1. re: bachslunch

                          You know those breakfast sandwiches are served all day as long as the aren't cooling down those ovens (usually after 7 p.m.). I'll get the ham one in the afternoon. $3 versus $5+ for the premade sandwichs in the cooler...with a small coffee, all "for here"...they bring out the sandwich on a plate and it is nice... and it's a cheap meal.

                    2. Every time I see the "I Hate Starbucks" thread pop up, it reminds me of South Park Episode 217: Gnomes. The poor independent coffee shop being run out of business because of the mean, nasty Harbucks. It ends that the town actually likes the Starbucks, I mean "Harbucks", because it tastes better. Consumers are not stupid, most prefer Starbucks to the local guys and vote with their dollar, pound, euro, yen, or yuan. If the local guy is making an awesome cup of coffee, he or she will survive and likely prosper from Starbucks introducing new people to gourmet coffee. All the marginal players who survive simply because of a monopoly on the local market will be crushed when people actually have an option.

                      33 Replies
                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                        I couldn't have said it better myself... so I'm seconding Sacto Damkier's post.

                        1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                          Ah, yes: the old "McDonald's sells more hamburgers that anybody else, so of course they are the best hamburgers in the world" fallacy.

                          That horse don't run.

                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                            mc d's clearly isn't the place for the finest hamburgers in the world, but people seem to like them. maybe it's a comfort food thing. joe queenan--the biggest snob west of the atlantic--once said he loves mcdonalds because there are no pretenses there. why is that idea hard to grasp?

                            1. re: uptown jimmy

                              I never said that McDonalds or Starbucks is the BEST in the world, just the most popular. There are many places that serve burgers and coffee orders of magnitude better than both places. Most people do not care much about finding the best food, just the cheapest and most convienent. I did not start exploring coffee until Starbucks broke me in.

                              People love to criticize these places, but those people are really saying, "why are the people who go to (Starbucks, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, etc.) so stupid that they are (eating, drinking, buying) stuff that in my opinion is not the best of the best in the world?" It's much easier to believe that the evil corporations are forcing people to buy their stuff, when really people are choosing to buy them of free will. Obviously most people like Starbucks, or else they would not be so large and popular. And no, I am not an investor in Starbucks, nor is it my favorite coffee shop.

                              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                There seems to be a very widely-held set of misunderstandings about human nature, free will, and the very effective methods used by advertisers. Nothing in behavioral science indicates that anybody in this country is a free actor, making decisions rationally and without being profoundly influenced by corporate advertising. There is a boat-load of information about thos sort of thing readily available on the web, for those who would like to expand their knowledge on the subject.

                                Suffice it to say, the folks who work in the marketing industries generally know a great deal more about how our minds work than we do. That's just the nature of the beast. And if you think that corporations are spending billions of dollars a year on advertising simply in an effort to inform us of the facts, you are mistaken. They have a profound impact on the purchasing decisions of most Americans, and the techniques they use are extemely sophisticated, extremely manipulative, and mostly invisible to most of us.

                                That's not to say that they are selling us truly awful product solely on the back of advertising. But to say that " we are all free to chose, and if we chose it, it must be a good thing, and that's that" is just waaaay to simplistic and naive. There's a lot more going on in this post-modern dance between Americans and corporations than many of us realize.

                                And for the record, I generally have myself a Quarter Pounder and medium fries once a year or so. Takes me back to childhood, which just so happens to be the time in our lives when Micky D's starts the brainwashing. ; )

                                1. re: uptown jimmy

                                  UJ,
                                  Solid post. And such a sad commentary.

                                  Most of us enjoy the comfort of something from a chain now and then. For me it's a Subway tuna with everything (I can't begin to explain why because the concept actually offends me - but I like that specific taste).

                                  The difference is that most of us recognize these as perhaps guilty pleasures (or just occasional guiltless pleasures), but we don't defend them as bastions of quality or try to rationalize our good sense in choosing to eat that food at that place. We just admit that we're not active CH's all the time.

                                  It's the minority that actually recommend places like SBUX, Cheesecake Factory, McCormick & Schmick, et. al. as being suitable for other CHs. There's simply nothing new or interesting going on at these places. You're just as likely to find culinary discoveries on the floor at Taco Bell or Perkins as you are at the more expensive places.

                                  To your points on marketing, the sad statement is that many people don't even recognize that they're just tools (in every sense) for brand marketers. Carrying an SBUX cup does not make you a hipper person. Giving money to CoffeeKids does.

                                  It's sort of like buying and wearing a t-shirt bearing the logo of the store that sold it to you. If it's got their advertising on it and it's on YOUR chest, shouldn't they be paying you for the ad space?

                                  Just saying, y'know?

                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                    The best thing about conspiracy theory is the disregarding of logic. Economics always wins. People can drink crap for a while simply because others like that crap too (Butterfly Effect), but longevity is based on providing something people will come back for. Is Starbucks the best coffee? No, but they are very popular for discreet reasons, not brainwashing. Convienence, Consistancy, and Variety. I have learned to never underestimate human intellegence.

                                    1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                      I have learned never to underestimate the power of a lot of money to leverage the desired results (which is usually the making of a whole lot more money).

                              2. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                Starbucks actively targets local coffee shops in its store locating strategy. Then they use the leverage of their brand name, their much greater capitalization, and the ability to bargain down overhead costs (rent, equipment, raw materials) that is inherent to large chains to crush or eliminate their competition. If all that doesn't work then they simply buy them out, as they have done in many locales.

                                That's capitalism for you, and Starbucks has played that game quite well while at the same time treating their employees decently, so I don't find them inherently evil or dismiss their success entirely. But let's be clear-eyed that their success in new markets is not simply a matter of winning a fair and square competition with local coffee purveyors based on the superior quality of their product. Many objectively better, and popular, cafes have been run out of business by the sheer size and power of the resources that Starbucks can bring to bear.

                                As for their product, they have figured out that burning their beans and serving burnt overheated coffee gives their customers the illusion of getting the good strong cup of coffee they want, while keeping their material costs low. But their real profit margin comes in selling froth-filled espresso drinks in big cups at a very steep markup, as well as the ice-filled frappucino styled drinks that are basically sweetened stand-ins for milkshakes. And their primary benefit to customers is often to provide a reasonably comfortable and inexpensive place to sit unbothered for awhile - a benefit not easily dismissed, at least not here in NYC.

                                1. re: Woodside Al

                                  From what I have seen with Starbucks here in California and Arizona is a growth strategy based on building stores in new areas. Here in Sacramento, the lowest concentration of Starbucks is in the urban core areas where there are established independent coffee houses. Developers of new or remodeled commercial centers actively pursue Starbucks as a draw for business. I am sure there is an element of competition with Starbucks entering into an established neighborhood and "stealing" customers, but it is a free market with consumer choice.

                                  There is a critical mass of customers needed to keep a business running, but it is hard to tell whether independents closed because they could not compete with Starbucks. They may have used it as an opportunity to close down and move capital elsewhere. Those shops may have already been on the edge financially (many small businesses are barely surviving) and their closure was just a matter of time.

                                  I do agree that Starbucks needs to improve their coffee; even Howard Schultz is worried about the quality of the coffee. They should have at least two roasts in the store - one optimized for espresso and one for brewed coffee. I know the accountants probably want one roast optimitzed for the profitable espresso drinks, but even those are suffering. If they would just soften the roast a bit, it would probably make everyone happy.

                                2. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                  Agreed, Sacto Damkier!
                                  People drink their coffee therefore they grow & expand. What's with all the hate? Don't like it, don't drink it. At one point SBUX was a "mom & pop" shop also, or do we forget?
                                  Dunkin Donuts still exists even with the SBUX infiltration. It's about options.

                                  1. re: moymoy

                                    I refer you to Uptown Jimmy and Woodside Al's posts above. They said it very very eloquently. Also, a Slate article, though a few years old, explained a lot of the Starbucks mystery to me. It's not about the (bad burnt) taste; it's about the caffeine delivery system.

                                    http://www.slate.com/id/2107807/

                                    1. re: Ike

                                      I don't understand why you would point me to Uptown Jimmy's and Woodside Al's posts. I'm pretty clear on my belief that it's adolescent to think that masses of people spend money at SBUX (or any big market, "capitalist" brand) because of market saturation and their coffee delivery system.

                                      I work in Midtown NYC on any given 2-block radius there are delis, Au Bon Pain, Bread & Co, Devon & Blakely, Dunkin's, SBUX...All serving a decent cup of brew. And guess what, more often than not SBUX is the most busy...why? Are there messages in the air pulling people in? It's about choice & preference and if SBUX chooses to utililize it's capital to saturate the field that's their perogative but please don't imply that SBUX drinkers are some non-thinking, don't-know-what good-coffee-tastes-like, blind mass following the trail of green block letters.

                                      This argument comes up everytime something grows bigger than what people think they should be. The perpetual David vs. Goliath debate. If SBUX folds, I won't be upset, I'll just find another cup of joe. In the end, it's just about a cup of joe for me.

                                      1. re: moymoy

                                        With all that milk and sugar in their coffees, how can New Yorkers tell a good coffee from a bad one?

                                        1. re: Gary Soup

                                          Gary & moymoy,
                                          The thing is that most of the folks in line at SBUX aren't ordering "coffee", whether in NY or Saskatoon. They're ordering flavored lattes or blender drinks with their choice of milk/soy options. That's not to say that SBUX is/isn't good/bad, evil capitalist/world do-gooder.

                                          Point is, the other shops moymoy mentioned don't offer the same "personalize your drink" options (I think I read recently there are 55,000 SBUX drink options that can be assembled without deviating from the store's recipe formulas).

                                          So yes, it IS consumer choice. But it's not all COFFEE. In fact very little of it is. More like apples and oranges when compared to the other chains. I think if you wanted to waste a morning actually counting the numbers/percentages of those leaving each store with a cup of drip, this would bear out.

                                  2. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                    The proper complaint about Starbucks is not that they put indies out of business. This was, as usual, Matt and Trey not understanding the issue and lampooning straw men, and the South Park Republicans cheering them on. The specialty coffee industry exists, largely, because of Starbucks (in the US at least). Stumptown opened in 1999. Vivace opened in 1988. Neither would exist if Starbucks had not paved the way and created awareness of espresso and espresso-based drinks. Caffe Mediterraneum did not do this, the ma and pa espresso bars in NYC and Toronto and SF did not do this. Starbucks did. Only idiots say that Starbucks destroyed the indies. The indies would not exist without Starbucks.

                                    What we hate about Starbucks is that they have bastardised their brand and every standard that defines the specialty coffee industry and in particular they are, almost with respect to all of their products (there are exceptions of course), horrible. They got rid of their beautiful, industry leading La Marzocco Linea machines and replaced them with superautomatics, and in one fell swoop got rid (effectively) of well-trained baristas. The CANNOT make ANYTHING resembling a proper cappuccino. Their "lattes" (a beverage that Starbucks did, to their "credit," invent, in it North American form) are, at a minimum, 16 ounces of mik- 16 ounces! They pull terrible, underextracted espressos - remember when a Starbucks barista would make sure that a shot took 23 seconds? No more. Quality has gone out the window.

                                    If you want to adulate Matt and Trey, have at it. But their satire was misplaced. Coffee aficionados hate Starbucks only because their product is terrible.

                                    1. re: John Manzo

                                      Complaints about the coffee quality aside, they sell "short" and "tall" drinks...the "tall" is 12 ounces, the "short" is, I believe, 8 ounces. So you can get a latte far smaller than 16 ounces.

                                      1. re: John Manzo

                                        It's totally ridiculous to say that Starbucks created the specialty coffee industry. Starbucks itself began by imitating Peet's. Starbucks' founder was a friend of Alfred Peet, had been a roaster for Peet's, and his initial Starbucks was stocked with Peet's coffee with Alfred Peet's blessing.

                                        Peet's dates to 1966, and espresso culture thrived for at least a couple of decades before that on both coasts (New York and San Francisco, that I personally know of). Espresso was intimately associated with the Beat Generation, so I guess you could credit Jack Kerouac as much as Starbucks for the specialty coffee industry.

                                        1. re: Gary Soup

                                          But the proliferation of espresso shops across the country was a byproduct of Starbucks expanding and doing so successfully. They didn't invent it, but they created the market.

                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                            I think the trend would have naturally developed. I remember the days when no one ever heard of pizza outside a few big cities. Eventually, everyone catches up with anything that has merit.

                                          2. re: Gary Soup

                                            Gary Soup, don't deride posts as "totally ridiculous" and then post romantic, revisionist nonsense. What Gary Snyder was drinking in 1961 was irrelevant. Starbucks popularized it, for better or worse.

                                            Read my post again. I acknowledge that espresso "culture" existed in Toronto, NYC, SF, maybe Montreal, prior to Starbucks. That's, again, irrelevant. Starbucks did not attempt to recreate a Berkeley coffehouse that nobody outside of your coastal snobs knew about. Peet's? It only grew AFTER Starbucks created the template. No Starbucks, no Stumptown.

                                            And, again, Starbucks sucks now, but so do most coffee houses.

                                            1. re: John Manzo

                                              You can believe what you want to believe about Starbucks. A couple of facts, though. Peets did not grow while Alfred Peet owned it because he never intended it too. His philosophy was that you couldn't expand very far and maintain quality control. Also, the first Starbucks was in fact designed to look like the original Peets, with the permission of Alfred Peet.

                                              I was an espresso drinker from around 1960, and a Peetnik since 1968, and I'm no visionary. Anybody with tastebuds is going to want good coffee after he's tasted it, and the craving would have been serviced by some entepreneur, Starbucks or no.

                                              To paint Starbucks as the Messiah of good coffee is the real romantic nonsense.

                                              1. re: Gary Soup

                                                I think the thing here is that no one is painting Starbucks that way. Starbucks didn't necessarily popularize good coffee, just espresso drinks generally.

                                                They certainly didn't popularize the coffee house feel and they didn't bring the kind of coffee that Alfred Peet started out roasting and brewing all those years ago to the masses. They just introduced many many people to espresso based drinks and the rest unfolded from there.

                                                1. re: Gary Soup

                                                  The expansion vs. wuality control issue is very important here. I drank a couple of cappuccini at Starbucks in Seattle well before they were anywhere near the East Coast- and they were some of the best cups of Italian coffee you could find outside of Italy. Starbucks is no longer that small business of a local chain including a handful of serious coffee purveyors and baristas. It is a commercial, lowest-common-denominator vendor of brand names and images, not of good coffee. I'll bet the cost of a "venti iced caramel macchiato" (did I get it right?) that 95% of Starbucks employees have never actually experienced a true cappuccino, and would not be able to properly identify one by taste, appearance, or method.

                                            2. re: John Manzo

                                              Starbucks does not try and appeal to coffee gourmets, except for the occasional Black Apron coffee beans. I think what most people are upset about Starbucks boils down to this:

                                              "I love gourmet coffee, especially my favorite drink that I have been enjoying at my special place. Starbucks has created a mass market product that appeals to a wider selection of people, but it is something that I do not like. Because of market forces, my special place has 1) lost its critical mass of customers forcing it to close, 2) made major changes to compete with Starbucks including cutting quality for convienence, or 3) maintained or increased its business due to increased consumer awareness about coffee better than Folgers or Tasters Choice.

                                              In cases 1 & 2, I am upset with Starbucks ruining my valued coffee experience, although it is really the customers making individual choices based on non-quality decisions (which drives me CRAZY!). In case 3, I am puzzled why anyone else would have different consumer values than me since I believe that everyone should inherently pursue only the best of the best of the best in every situation."

                                              The South Park example is valid since many consumers prefer Starbucks. It is not "vile dishwater" as some would believe (have they really tasted vile dishwater). It is not the best of the best, but it is much better than most coffee options - including numerous independent coffee places with spotty quality. I drink Starbucks when I want a latte or mocha, and I am not near any good places, like most consumers. I much prefer Peet's (CA), Seattle Espresso (AZ), and a number of small places in my town, but Starbucks is not terrible - just not the best.

                                              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                                And, one of the key elements in this sort of thing: personal preferences. I, for example, don't like Peet's at all but do like Starbucks at times. There are some independant coffee houses that I prefer to Starbucks and some that I don't think are as good. I wouldn't ever claim that Starbucks in the best coffee available, but I would claim that, within say the 4 blocks in any direction from my office, they happen to be the coffee I prefer most of the approximately 15 options. And that's what it really comes down to. Many people choose it because they like it better than the other options.

                                                Others will choose it because its all they know and they don't try the other options...but those weren't likely people who were going to wander into a random independant coffee house, right?

                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                  At least we're talking about COFFEE.

                                                  To Sacto's point, I'm upset at Starbucks because of (4) People defining "specialty coffee" as something with seven ordering steps that contains some flavored syrup.

                                                  That ain't coffee. That's a "Starbucks handcrafted beverage".

                                                  Specialty coffee? All that means is better beans, whether used for espresso or drip or vac pot or press. And it's of a quality that doesn't need milk to help it taste better.

                                                  Drink it black, baby.

                                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                                    "Specialty coffee" applies to the production and bean processing stages: selected batches of beans from idientified farms are taken from harvest through roasting to provide specific desirable beverage quality combinations (in terms of aroma, flavor, body, aftertaste, and so on).

                                                    1. re: Panini Guy

                                                      I understand the demarkation between coffee and espresso drinks and can understand your point. Even so, I do see a lot of people ordering plain coffee at Starbucks (room for cream?). For regular coffee, I usually just make it myself in a Starbucks coffee machine and Starbucks mug - beans are from an independent local roaster. I have done the French Press option at Starbucks which is MUCH better than the standard drip - the FP even made our office swill taste decent! I rarely get plain coffee from any coffee shop, since my own brew always tastes better. I cannot make a good espresso drink myself, so I always rely on the shops.

                                                      I could not drink black coffee; I have drank plain espresso before, but was not too impressed. My preference is always lots of cream and lots of sugar, which explains why I only like the strong roasts that can handle both. In a weird flipside, I only drink plain tea and cannot stand sweet tea or any milk in tea. Go figure!

                                                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                                        I have to say you just stated it. You drink your coffee light and sweet. By those methods you cant taste the coffee. The light and sweet are just easier methods to get the caffeine into your system.

                                                        Personally I drink black coffee. I like the taste of coffee and truly enjoy a good cup of it. Starbucks is lousy in this regard. Their cofee flavoured desserts are somewhat tasty

                                                        1. re: MVNYC

                                                          Yes and no. There is no correct way to drink a cup of coffee. I prefer dark roast Sumatra or Sulawesi beans which are strong enough to stand up to the sugar and cream. I have tried several other regions, but always come back to SE Asia.

                                                          Please do not assume that only pure coffee without cream & sugar is the only way to appreciate the flavor of the coffee; it makes your argument seem petty and shallow. Done right, the additions can accentuate the flavors of the brew, much like vermouth in a martini or lime juice in a margarita.

                                                          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                                            I didnt mean to say there was a correct way to drink coffee, but there is a correct way to taste coffee. There is never a "correct" manner to enjoy anything in this world, but if you are truly trying to appreciate the nuances of anything you can't mask it with additives. Cream and sugar transform it into a different beverage. That really isnt petty or shallow.

                                                            I also wouldnt let lime juice within a yard of a fine tequila, but that is just me. If I want a margarita, i do not need to go absolute top shelf. In my opinion you are just wasting your money when you order mixed drinks with top shelf liquor or in the case of "top shelf" vodka you are just wasting your money period.

                                                2. re: John Manzo

                                                  Have you seen the coffee-related South Park episode? The big-bad-chain puts Tweek's out of business b/c Tweek's coffee is horrible.

                                                  Starbucks isn't the best coffee I've had, but neither is it the worst. What draws me to Starbucks is that no matter which one I go into, I know what to expect. I could take a chance in a new town on an indie coffee shop; maybe I would get a great cup of coffee, but I might get a horrible one.

                                                  There are some Starbucks in Europe, but I have never had a coffee there... because I KNOW that a cappucino at the bakery next door or cafe down the street is going to great (though most places here use the automatic machines you hate) and cheaper. BUT I never would have tried German coffee if it hadn't been for my introduction to coffee at Starbucks years ago (I come from a family of tea drinkers).

                                                  I have to admit that if I'm in the US and Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are on opposite sides of the street, I'm heading to DD for an iced coffee even if I have to dodge traffic to get there!

                                              2. I don't have as big of a problem with Starbucks as many of you do. I get a double espresso and I'm off. Now if you want truly vile coffee you must try Tim Horton's in Canada. I worked in Toronto for a year and was subjected to this stuff for as long. When I got home Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts never looked so good.

                                                1. It's not about the coffee. It's not about the coffee. It's not about the coffee.

                                                  I'm reminded of the McDonald's jingle of 30(?) years ago. "... a happy place, a clean and snappy place....."

                                                  Just like McDonalds, the product is not (just) the foodstuff being served. The places are clean, they provide a place for people to meet, and you know what you are getting before you walk in the door - whether is is down the street, across town, or on the other side of the world.

                                                  They have created an image, and apparently it is an image people are looking for. Not only that, they have done it with a minimum of advertising. Maybe it is just Honolulu, but I have never seen a TV ad for Starbucks, or heard a radio spot either. Kind of mind boggling to me.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    here in Fresno it showed on the news last week where this coffeehouse has been close
                                                    because of the growth of starbucks and other places, and it was a coffehouse
                                                    landmark, there were alot of people mad about this because theyhad been comming
                                                    there for years. seeing old friends, reading the paper and just relaxing. thats too bad
                                                    to see something happened like this, because of groth. I just had a friend quit at
                                                    starbucks, lastweek and she said she could`nt stand thier coffee.

                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      That's a great point. I have never seen a starbucks commercial. Dunkin Donuts rolls out one obnoxious ad after another.

                                                    2. Horrible burnt expensive coffee. We have a joke here in New York that Starbucks should be located inside a Duane Reade. Duane Reade is another inexplicable phenomenom, at least here. It is a large, large drug store located every two blocks or so.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: dawnfawn

                                                        "Horrible burnt expensive coffee"

                                                        I guess that's why professional coffee tasters refer to that chain as "Charbucks"!

                                                      2. Starbucks has convinced a lot of people that good coffee tastes like bitter acid. No, no, no!
                                                        I think of it as an ice cream place. I went once this summer, to buy a raspberry mocha frappuccino with whip cream.

                                                        1. (US - centric answer).

                                                          Simple. It's in Barnes and Noble.

                                                          There's nothing better than sitting in one of the comfortable chairs there, with ten books you don't want to buy but would love to browse through, with a deliciously fattening milkshake and "panini" in hand.

                                                          I've never ordered a "coffee" there, because, quite simply, I don't like coffee and can't tell the difference between different brands / kinds. Actually, I like coffee if you dilute it 1:4 with sugar...

                                                          1. I don't get it either. Just when you think there can't be any more room or enough business for another one, another one pops up. I don't drink coffee, but most people I know who do much prefer Dunkin' Donuts coffee to Starbucks. I'm thinking their success has to do with "the cute Beatle" selling his records there.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                              Funny -- the reverse is true among people I know. Not to mention that except for their cookies, Dunkin' Donuts has awful food and non-coffee beverages.

                                                            2. You'll find little dissent among CHers on the point that Starbucks is rubbish. I died a little the day I learned that one had opened in Rome. Yes, Rome, Italy. For the record, I think that NYC (my home) was one of the last cities on Earth that needed commercial chain coffee shops 10 years ago. Yet, here we are today, with a Star*ucks on every corner.
                                                              PS- Please do visit Seattle. It is a beautiful city with an excellent food scene of its very own. However, I am sorry to say that I believe it is past its prime as the cutting-edge-US-professional-barista-pull-coffee-nirvana-king. Where did it all go wrong?

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                I'll bet anything the one in Rome serves the best coffee among Starbucks' chains. Many American chains modify their products to fit with local "tastes." i.e. quality in Europe and Japan is usually much much better.

                                                                1. re: fara

                                                                  Agreed in that respect. I was much more impressed with the Japanese Starbucks than I've ever been with the American ones. The store designs were a lot better suited to relaxing while you enjoyed your coffee and the menu of both coffee and food items seemed to be bigger. I think part of that has to do with the fact that it's inappropriate to drink on the move in Japan so people tend to get their coffee and sit for a while.

                                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                                    You do know you can get hot drink ceramic mugs and cold drink glasses inside any stand alone Starbucks, right? Just ask for a "For Here" cup or glass. They usually automatically start to grab for the cardboard/plastic cup, because it is so standard for them, but repeat it and they will turn around and get the mug from a shelf behind the counter. All sizes and no extra charge. (also, it just tastes better and looks prettier for some reason)

                                                                    It forces me to sit inside and relax. Easy therapy.