This post was originally written on 17 January 2015.
In an admission that awaits the scorn and ridicule it predictably attracts, I’m taking a punt to say the following: I don’t mind Starbucks. In fact, I rather like it.
Why, why, why?
Because I like coffee. A lot. And I like coffee served in cafes that have dark wooden furniture. And I like coffee served in cafes that have dark wooden furniture and a reliable method for making the coffee. You know, a formula which is backed up by training and guarantees that your coffee will be made within a few minutes and taste basically the same every time.
It doesn’t really matter to me that it isn’t the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, every time. When it comes to coffee, sometimes I value institutionalised consistency over the whims of the deeply creative yet commonly misunderstood barrister. Too often, the quality of coffee is compromised by the mood of its maker and, depending on their nocturnal activities from the night before, you can either wind up with a cup of pure heaven or a grande serving of skinny, half-strength sick.
I also like what Starbucks represents to travellers.
When overseas and homesick, Starbucks embraced me in its warm, aromatic fold of Western familiarity and rocked me like a baby. I was lonely and it gave me an instant community. It was a haven from the mean streets of New Delhi, and gave me all the internet access I required to blog and spend hours on Facebook – for free.
Yet whenever I suggest meeting up there with someone, I am sure to get judgement heaped on me quicker than flies racing to a dying Delhi street dog. What? Why would you go to Starbucks? I didn’t think you were that sort of person. What about the Organic Osho Eco Vegan Green Recycled Conscious Paleo Hole-in-the-wall coffee wheelbarrow down the street that grows their own fair-trade hand-crafted coffee in the local, donation-only community pre-loved compost heap..?
Firstly, that place doesn’t have dark wooden furniture.
Secondly, Starbucks has everything I like and value in a coffee shop. Free Wi Fi. A consistent menu and service. Comfy couches. It looks good. It’s clean. The coffee doesn’t taste like Satan’s urine because someone is in a bad mood or distracted and has let the grinds burn in the machine. I can give them a name – any name! – and they will call it out for everyone to hear. Twice, if I’m tardy.
Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), I simply enjoy it. There won’t be wailing or gnashing of teeth from me once Starbucks packs its bags and takes leave of our fifteen-year hospitality towards it (whew, time for a cuppa!). But I can’t deny that I’ve enjoyed their coffee, their cheesecake, their WiFi and their lowest-common-denominator marketing appeal. It gets me every time.
So hands up for the unashamedly base coffee drinkers amongst us, with low ideals and little social conscience. And Starbucks, thank you kindly for catering to us.