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Topic: (resending )The Dreaded Starbucks (14 msgs / 536 lines)
1) From: Ryan M. Ward
I am resending this, I have noticed that my posts have not been going through.
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-generated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I send, I encourage you to do the same.
From: silvercro_magnon
To: homeroast
Subject: The Dreaded Starbucks
Date: Sun, 7 Mar 2010 16:44:42 +0000
This may or may not be considered off topic but, 
I am curious. I see a lot of people on this this that seem to look down upon Stabucks, I am curious as to why. Starbucks seem to get a lot of negative attention in the Speciality Coffee Industry in spite of many of the positive contributions that they have made. I was wondering what people's opinions are on Starbucks and why.
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
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2) From: Joseph Robertson
Ryan,
You opened a big one with this seemingly simple question. Just for starters
it goes way back to when Pete of "Pete's Coffee" trained the original coffee
roasters for *$'s. *$'s went there own way ( which by the way I hear Pete
was not proud of )
which led to mass production and huge computer run roasters with fixed
profiles. Now mind you I'm only on the very fringe of this long and
convoluted story. I have not read The Story of Pete's Coffee or the books
that have some of the details around this.
I need to. I took a seminar from Dr. John at the Seattle coffee fest some
time back on "Blending for Espresso". After the class and down at his booth
he made a passing comment that only a couple of us could hear. I'll never
forget it. " Seattle is not the coffee capital of the world, Seattle is the
milk capital of the world."
Star bucks was very influential in making that happen. We home and small
coffee roasters are all about the taste of the coffee first.
We all have our reasons for bashing the big guys, I, like you Ryan want to
know what is behind it from a historical perspective. After all I did,
aahhh, cut my spro, coffee teeth on Star bucks back when they first started
with lever machines.
I will leave this question in the hands of those on this list with more
knowledge of history here.
I have learned a lot about this question from a lister here who's name I
can't remember. He shared a lot of history of the Pete family  which really
helped me understand the connections.
Happy creama,
Joseph
On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 12:08 PM, Ryan M. Ward
wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
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3) From: Sandy Andina
Here we go again, but I'll bite. I have nothing against the original concep=
t of Starbucks, nor its current and past CEO Howard Schultz.  In fact, it p=
erforms a valuable service:  raising the bar above preground canned coffee =
(and until recently, instant) for the average citizen, introducing Italian =
espresso bar culture first to Seattle and then beyond, and providing a reas=
onably palatable and sometimes even tasty caffeinated quaff while on freewa=
ys, tollways, or pushing a supermarket shopping cart. The two major (and I =
feel, valid) criticisms of Starbucks are its predilection for overly-dark-r=
oasting (using Peet's as its role model, but nobody seems to be slamming Pe=
et's) and more seriously, its predatory expansion practices during the firs=
t half of the past decade.  A third criticism is that it has conflated "dar=
k roast" with "strength" and "sophistication" in the public's mind and pala=
te; but in the past few years consumers have begun to learn otherwise, and =
the Emperor is conceding he needs to throw on some clothes (see below).
Lately, Starbucks has relented somewhat on both aspects.  When Schultz came=
 back in as CEO (it was under his first tenure, after dark roast had alread=
y become its signature, that it began its café operations; it used to sel=
l only coffee, tea, chocolate, spices/herbs and equipment), he was shocked =
at how over-roasting and selling sealed bags of older coffee beans had homo=
genized the character of the coffee served and sold, and how the use of sup=
erautomatic machines had resulted in decline of barista skills and quality =
of the drinks.  He had his roasters and blenders devise a much lighter (if =
you can call FC "light") Pike Place Blend, instructed it not be brewed any =
stronger than the darker roasts (in the past, the few lighter beans Starbuc=
ks offered had been brewed double strength in-store to keep the consistent =
"Starbuck's signature" dark taste), and that it be offered in bulk, with bo=
xes labeled with roast date and location. (Sealed bags' freshness is still =
suspect, but at kiosks that's often the only way to buy their beans at reta=
il).  He also closed down his stores for several days to retrain his barist=
i in proper espresso and foaming skills and began replacing the superautos =
with others that, while incorporating grinders, had manual override for bot=
h shots and foam.  =
The predatory location practices have also been pared way back--first, beca=
use of oversaturation of the market; second, recession; and third, social p=
ressure from the press, consumers, and those independent shop-owners and ro=
asters who owned their buildings or had leverage with their landlords and w=
ere able to hang on (loyal local fans were also a crucial factor).  At the =
height (moral depths?) of its expansion, Starbucks would seek out popular i=
ndie shops and offer their landlords higher rents, or even take over non-co=
ffee storefronts in irrationally nearby locations in order to make its bran=
d synonymous in consumers' minds with coffee and coffee drinks.  (Hence, St=
arbucks stores kitty-corner from each other in parts of Manhattan, and Jay =
Leno's crack about a new Starbucks opening up inside a larger Starbucks). =
The new Via is a step up from Taster's Choice, I suppose, but no competitio=
n for the real thing. It was originally designed for people to keep in pock=
et or purse to be reconstituted wherever they could find hot water, but I d=
on't see many places offering hot water for free.  IMHO, it's peaking and w=
ill pass within a year, much like the pods Starbucks used to sell for its o=
wn Saeco-made machines (customers who want to use ESE pods know they have a=
 greater variety of sources for them, as well as competition for the conven=
ience-espresso market in the form of Nespresso capsules, Tassimo pods and h=
ome superautos).  You don't see too many pods in Starbucks stores these day=
s. =
Many of us forget that in the early 1970s, those of us who did not have acc=
ess to quality roasters like McNulty's or Peets (or whose A&P stores didn't=
 have fresh enough Eight O' Clock or Bokar beans) and had not yet been expo=
sed to the quantum leap in quality afforded by grinding beans just before b=
rewing, the first Starbucks stores were a welcome revelation.  And when the=
y finally expanded beyond Seattle, they performed a similar service to the =
coffee-consuming public before losing their compass.  They're not the messi=
ahs they were way back when, but neither are they as "evil" an "empire" as =
they were as recently as three or four years ago.  As to coffee snobbery, i=
f it's a long wait for the bus, I have a long shopping list at my local sup=
ermarket or my energy's flagging and the Tollway Oasis is coming up, sure I=
'll have myself a triple espresso macchiato or a double tall dry-capp at a =
handy Starbucks.  Just as most of us who love a fine wine or prime steak wi=
ll on occasion drink a "fighting varietal" or chow down on a non-gourmet bu=
rger when circumstances (or impulse) dictate. =
On Mar 7, 2010, at 2:08 PM, Ryan M. Ward wrote:
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<Snip>
pon Stabucks, I am curious as to why. Starbucks seem to get a lot of negati=
ve attention in the Speciality Coffee Industry in spite of many of the posi=
tive contributions that they have made. I was wondering what people's opini=
ons are on Starbucks and why.
<Snip>
<Snip>
Peace & song, =
Sandy =
www.sandyandina.com
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4) From: John A C Despres
My opinion - Despite where they started or what the original intentions
were, the current products don't taste good. The folk who are Starbucks
devotees have been lead there by marketing, not necessarily their taste
buds. 7-11 coffee is better. Dunkin' Donuts is better yet. Mine is even
better yet.
It's true we may have Starbucks to thank for the current trend in
popularizing coffee, but if only the product were a tad better... Their
scones are pretty good, though. As to any other positive contributions, I'm
not aware of them.
John
On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 3:08 PM, Ryan M. Ward
wrote:
<Snip>
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5) From: Doug Hoople
For me, Ryan, it's pretty simple. *$ established dark French roast as the
national standard, and that's a sin for which I won't forgive them. They
also chased a lot of independents out of business.
My start in drinking specialty coffee came in 1976 at the single Harvard
Square location of Coffee Connection. What a revelation. Coffee Connection
later expanded and was eventually bought by *$, but they were a small,
independent coffee outlet at the time.  They were the first place where I
discovered fresh-roasted, fresh-ground, single-origin coffees.
For a decade after that, I'd seek out coffee purveyors in Boston and New
York, gravitating mostly toward African coffees, especially Kenyan, roasted
somewhere around C+, and the Celebes-Kalossi (later Sulawesi). McNulty's in
Greenwich Village comes to mind, as does Gilley's in Yorkville, although I
can't recall ever being really bowled away by either of their offerings.
There was a little shop in Westport, CT, along my long commute in the
mid-90s, that turned out the most amazing African roasts, and I'd stop there
religiously for a year or so. I wish I could remember the name of the place,
but it's not there anymore.
When I moved out to the west coast in '98, it was mostly Peet's and *$, with
an occasional espresso shop like Cafe Trieste constituting the alternative
(Trieste, btw, made lovely coffee at the time). It took me a while to
realize it, but I couldn't buy my beloved African coffees any more. They
tasted like nothing, roast to a deep, oily French roast. The Africans, in
particular, lose their identity at darker roast levels.
It took 10 years and the discovery of SM to finally started drinking coffee
the way I liked it again, and the way it used to be served commonly before
the ascendancy of the big guys.
On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 12:08 PM, Ryan M. Ward
wrote:
<Snip>
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6) From: g paris
Ryan:
There coffee sucks. It tastes like old dirt. Most is burnt beyond belief.
People will drink anything to get their morning/afternoon or evening hit
of caffeine.
Clearly that does not make them coffee connoisseurs.
Not that I am but I do homeroast so for sure mine is better then any
commercial coffee, period.
ginny
Hell I can get a pound of green beans from SM for 4 and change bucks; why on
earth would I
pay 3.75 plus for a cup of horrid h2o with color!!
On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 3:33 PM, Doug Hoople  wrote:
<Snip>
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7) From: Yakster
Their coffee is only fit to be drown in milk, and I'm allergic to milk.  I
drink my coffee and espresso black.
Just another commercial, supersize me fast food joint.
-Chris
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8) From: Greg Hollrigel
That's what I was going to say, too.  Burnt coffee and scalded milk.
Greg

9) From: Kris McN
Hey Ryan,
As well as what everyone's already said about the quality of their product,
I have a personal chip on my shoulder about Starbucks.  I grew up in Seattle
in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Seattle was a coffee town before Starbucks
hegemony, a small independent coffee house on most busy blocks.  When
Starbucks decided to take over the world, I watched as they would open up
one of their shops across the street or kitty corner to an established
independent.  Over and over.  Sometimes the independent could hold on, but
more often than not they  would end up closing.  Sure, some Seattle coffee
institutions, particularly around the university, outlived the onslaught.
This isn't based on any data or anything, but to this pissed off teenager,
it seemed like Starbucks nearly killed the independent Seattle coffee scene
for awhile.  I know what they did is probably good business, and maybe in
the long run it ended up just weeding out the crappy small purveyors,
eventually resulting in a stronger coffee scene, I don't know since I don't
live in Seattle any longer.  But it was gross and depressing then, and
whenever I pass a Starbucks today that would look, feel, and smell exactly
the same whether in Detroit, Seattle, or London, I mumble a curse.
Best,
Kris McN
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10) From: Sandy Andina
I lived in Seattle from 1971-8, when I was in my twenties, and Starbucks had yet to become predatory in its practices by the time I moved to Chicago. In fact, they didn't even SELL coffee as a beverage--just the ingredients to make it. 
Far from Seattle being a "coffee town," when I arrived the only coffee on the Ave. (University Way) itself was in the donut shop Spudnuts (made in an industrial drip urn) and the student-run concession in the Architecture building (a "mocha" made from brewed coffee mixed with instant cocoa. Blech). For the longest time, the only coffeehouse in the U. District was Last Exit on Brooklyn: the home of the funky vibe, open mic, vegetarian fare, turbo-chess, and DREADFUL espresso.  (They used to grind a week's worth at a time and keep it on the counter in a Saran-Wrap-covered bowl. No wonder they did a land-office business in mochas and other flavored coffee-milk drinks, most capped with whipped cream).  And they weren't open past 9 pm most nights. It wasn't until at least 1975 or 1976 that Cafe Allegro opened on the Ave. (and it wasn't easy to find in a little rabbit-warren of interior storefronts without a street entrance).  For really good beans, and the chance to drink them on-site, you had to go to Olive's East in Southcenter Mall or east Bellevue (in a factory and auto-shop district). In fact, I think that at the time they may have been a larger chain than Starbucks. And I forget the name of the place, but on NE Campus Rd., a block n. of my apt. on Pacific & 15th NE, in early 1978 a stand-up espresso bar opened between the coin laundry and Ice-Nine Xerography.  I remember coming home from a week in the Bay Area in '74, seriously jonesing at 9pm on a Saturday night for an espresso or cappuccino.  Not even a Pioneer Sq. cafe was open. I had to settle for a flip-drip Neapolitan demitasse at the Italian Spaghetti House on Lake City Way.  Seattle had yet to become a coffee town until at least 1979 or later.
Starbucks hadn't even spread past Seattle yet. When I left, it had the Airport Way roastery, the original store in Pike Place Mkt. (it had a competitor in Pike Place Coffee, Tea & Spice, also not a drink vendor), and the University Village store.  The first branch outside the PNW was here in Chicago, on E. Jackson & S. Wabash in the Loop in 1985, and it was a near-flop. 
In Seattle, you remember Starbucks becoming predatory, as it later became nationwide, and forcing out indie coffeehouses. But it took years before it even morphed into a coffeehouse chain--after Schultz returned from Italy in the 1980s. And he was such a purist at first that he refused to offer decaf or any milk other than whole.
On Mar 8, 2010, at 1:16 AM, Kris McN wrote:
<Snip>
Peace & song, 
Sandy 
www.sandyandina.com
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11) From: Joseph Robertson
Very nice History Sandy,
Thank you, what a wealth of history and experience being shared here.
Ryan, your getting your $'s worth in an answer here. You came to the right
forum.
JoeR
On Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 12:30 AM, Sandy Andina  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
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12) From: Kris McN
Sandy,
Well, I was a teenager/early twenties in the mid 80s - early 90s, so a
generation later in coffee house years, I guess.  Starbucks was a local
chain at that point, but aside from the Last Exit and Allegro there were
independents in Montlake, Capital Hill, Ballard, Crown Hill, West Seattle,
Queen Anne, the ID, Freemont, everywhere really, that I hung out at
regularly.  I can't really speak to the quality - I had an uneducated
teenage palate and mostly drank cappuccinos because it sounded cool. I
suspect that the overall quality of the actual coffee was no better than
Starbucks - the third wave was only just building, right?  But, I'm talking
about coffee house culture.  An independent joint with a motley assortment
of comfy seats, a cappuccino, some awesome home-made scones or coffee cake,
and a pile of self-published zines on the coffee table.  Who cares if it's
raining outside? It was a favorite bragging point back then that Seattlites
drank more coffee, read more books, and owned more sunglasses per capita
than any other city in the country.  More than anything, more than the
actual coffee, Starbucks took that concept, coffee house culture, sanitized
it, homogenized it, packaged it, and sold it to the rest of the country. At
first at least, they were selling an experience as much as a beverage. The
fancy-pant-ness of the coffee was just another aspect of that.  But make no
mistake, there was a lively coffee house culture in Seattle back then.
Seattle may have stolen it from the Europeans, but Starbucks stole it from
us.  And at first, Starbucks was just another option in the mix.  By the
mid/late 90s when I moved away, the Starbucks juggernaut was just taking off
nationally and was still a source of pride for many in Seattle, but by then,
I was dunzo, for the reasons I've already enumerated.
Best,
Kris McN
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13) From: Ryan M. Ward
Yes I see that, I now have a little more perspective on it.
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-generated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I send, I encourage you to do the same.
<Snip>
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14) From: Ryan M. Ward
Well, it looks like my posts are going through again. I wanted to thank eve=
ryone that took the time to respond to my original post on this topic. Star=
bucks is a company which seems to harbor a lot of enemies. I have never rea=
lly understood completely why other than basic business competition and cul=
tural differences. Hearing peoples' personal anecdotes helps me to see more=
 clearly what position Starbucks holds in the industry in this respect.
-- =
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmi=
c Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-gener=
ated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I =
am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the=
 Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I sen=
d, I encourage you to do the same.
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mic Koala)
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erated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. =
I am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and t=
he Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I s=
end, I encourage you to do the same.
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