The Null Device

Starbucks schadenfreude

Corporate coffee chain Starbucks isn't doing too well; they've had to close 600 stores in the US, in less than favourable circumstances. (Favourable circumstances for Starbucks being closing the 2nd and 3rd stores they opened on a block and ran at a loss after the last independent café nearby went out of business.) Unsurprisingly, some coffee fans are over the moon:
New York Web designer Zachary Thacher, who favors Greenwich Village's cafes, said he avoids Starbucks. "They've commoditized cafe culture, which is why I don't go," he said.
The company that began as innovative is now known for consistency and convenience, [another commentator] said. "To me, that's a huge step down," she said. "You've built your franchise on people who are coming in because they know exactly what they want."
Starbucks still has their defenders, mostly on the grounds that they're convenient and consistent.

There are 4 comments on "Starbucks schadenfreude":

Posted by: Greg Wed Jul 9 12:32:00 2008

I avoid Starbucks wherever possible, but let me add that when there are no alternatives, Starbucks can look like an oasis in the desert. The problem is that there are a lot of different products sold under the name "coffee". The classic medium-sized espresso with good crema, favoured by hipsters, is only available in a relatively small number of places. If you happen to be in one of them, you'll snub the Starbucks every time. (Why the hell did SB open a branch in Lygon st?) But in the US, good coffee houses are rare as hen's teeth. Most places serve either an awful drip-filter brew, like what is given away free at work functions, or if they have "espresso", you get a thimble-full, even if you pay for a double. Take NYC: if you're in Soho or Williamsburg, no worries, anywhere else and the (inevitable) Starbucks starts to look good. Does the opening of a Starbucks really shut down good coffee shops? I'd be amazed if a good cafe lost customers to SB (think Lygon st again) - though I suspect reliable wireless wou

Posted by: acb Wed Jul 9 12:41:52 2008

I've had good (independent) coffee in San Francisco and Seattle. In SF, try Coffee To The People near Haight and Masonic. Espresso coffee seems to be abundant in these cities, and the quality is generally better than in the UK.

Posted by: Greg Sat Jul 12 18:19:36 2008

And there's another great one tucked behind the corner of Market and 5th. It is well-hidden but I was tipped off by my hotel receptionist. While I was there they were playing an Architecture in Helsinki album. Now I'm in Palo Alto I haven't found good coffee. I even tried the Starbucks - yuck. Eventually I bought some ground organic coffee (easy to get here) and a plunger (harder - they're not called plungers here, and the shop assistant looked slightly appalled by my question). There's no such thing as a "long black" - the closest thing is an "Americano" - I am afraid to find out what a request for the former would be interpreted as. Why wasn't I warned about this kind of thing in the Lonely Planet?

Posted by: acb Sat Jul 12 18:32:46 2008

Another one for your SF cafe files: Caffe Sapore, at Lombard/Taylor, North Beach. Hip and laid-back, and they have free WiFi (does any place in SF not?) Not sure about Palo Alto, though. I could ask my friends.