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What Happened to Starbuck’s?

Downfall of the American Coffee Shop

Up until my early 20’s I couldn’t understand why in the world, anyone, would ever, drink coffee.  Now, I must say, my coffee experience was very limited.  I had never bought my own cup only tasted a variety from the local doughnut shops where mom & dad would stop.  Or of course the home brew from beans pre-ground out of a tin can.  I thought coffee smelled worse than skunk and tasted like compost water.  Then about 10 years ago a classmate introduced me to Starbucks.

We walked in and the place didn’t stink.  In fact it smelled like fresh roasted beans!  Good beans!  Nutty, sweet with a hint of cocoa.  I ordered a tea and the barista offered me a sample of cold brew.  Not wanting to be rude I tasted it hoping I wasn’t showing my disgust.  To my surprize it was awesome!  Seriously good.  I had to ask, then I had to explain my coffee past.  So the answer premium beans, freshly roasted, ground on order, no sugar, no dairy, just jet black heaven.


So had I been wrong all these years.  Was my coffee disgust tainted by years of waking up to the smell of rotting skunk?  While I didn’t become a “regular” I started saying yes to a Starbuck’s now and then.

Flash forward 10 years.  Coffee is a 2 times a month kind of thing.  When I order one I enjoy it.  I experience it.  I drink a good cup for the bitter, sweet, nutty nodes of a good bean.

But gone are the days of saying yes to a Starbuck’s.

The trendy green and white cups grace the hands of every mom, child and city worker.  I’m sure the company couldn’t be happier.  BUT.

What Happened to Starbuck’s?

I’ll tell you.  Main stream everything.  Lined up out the door just like the neighbourhood Tim Hortons (cheap coffee shop for those of you reading this outside Ontario).  When demand becomes so high and lines start to form, people start to complain.  Now Starbuck’s and other chains like it are more interested in speed than quality.  And I don’t blame them.  I have been in that line and heard the complaints.  People are just not nice!  They want their premium brew and don’t care if others want it too.  Sound cynical?  Definitely not my normal train of thought!  But there it is.

In order to become a household name, not just a cup for the upper class or the casual consumer with good taste.  They have had to resort to pre-ground, powdered, syrupy, sweetened…CRAP.

What started out as an expensive cup of quality crafted by a barista that cared, that spoke with you as you waited for their master piece is now the same as that $2 cup but in a trendy paper wrapper.  The name became a household standard, you can even brew it at home.  With a menu a mile long and line-ups around the corner how can quality be preserved?  The answer?  I’m not sure it’s possible.  This is the issue every single chain restaurant has faced.  Every business owner hopes for the days that their demand increases past the point of supply.  And every one of these establishments has to lose quality to then supply that demand.  Can there be a middle ground?  Is it possible for a company to say quality is more important than money?  Because that is the real question and answer.  Quality means time and expensive ingredients.  It means that $4 cup costs the company $3 to produce.  While the coffee shop down the street is selling for $3 and profiting $2.  Are there enough people willing to pay and wait?  There must be because Starbuck’s rose to fame but now….

Who’s Next?

Is there someone next in line?  Big enough to have one in every large city yet small enough to produce quality?

I’m not sure the millennials want that.  I love this new trend of not going to the largest chain.  Give the little guy, that’s actually trying, a chance to survive.  Personally I now say no to the starbuck’s offer but I will say yes to that off-beat place that invites you in with their fresh roasted, ground on order, unsweetened, non-dairy gem hidden in the corner.  I don’t want a next Starbuck’s.

I want to laugh with loved ones, while sipping on a great, handcrafted cup by a local artisan passionate about thier product 🙂


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