Peter M Howard ::

wintermute.com.au

Starbucks

15September2005 [myth]
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After five weeks of travel through places with varying coffee standards, I’ve come to some new realisations about Starbucks. Previously, I would avoid Starbucks as a matter of principle. I’ve by no means become a Starbucks fan, but I’ve certainly modified my objections. It started way back in June, while travelling with family, when Dad stopped for coffee at Starbucks in London — I didn’t approve, but the coffee was drinkable, and as Dad pointed out: they use Fair Trade beans, if that makes things any better. I’m not sure they use FairTrade everywhere, but it’s a big thing in England so that was to be expected. Fast forward and I’m in Paris, haven’t had breakfast, am desperate for a coffee, and stumble across a Starbucks — I surrendered and went in.

But it was on this latest trip that things actually changed. On my last day in Cologne I had many hours to kill, a need for coffee, and was lugging my bags around with me; we hit a Starbucks. We stayed there for a couple of hours, drinking a couple cups of coffee while we were there. Sitting there after an hour, I realised the attraction of Starbucks in a foreign land — you know you’re going to get recognisable, drinkable coffee, you can sit in comfy armchairs all day without, in theory, being thrown out, you can use their clean bathrooms, and they have wifi and newspapers. Germany had been a change after France though, as there were cafés everywhere, and the coffee was quite good. But then I went to Spain, where coffee is at least drinkable, but comes as a standard ‘cafe con leche’, which is the same regardless of whether you’re at a bar or a café. While in the tourist traps in Barcelona, I knew I could rely on Starbucks. And then England. In Salisbury, where the café landscape is like that in Sydney, I drank at the smaller indy cafés, avoiding Starbucks wherever possible. But in the tourist traps in London, all the coffee places are the same — big chains everywhere, so I picked Starbucks.

When I return to Sydney, it’ll be back to the independents, but for now, if I’m in France but away from home, outside of one or two out-of-the-way cafés, it’ll be Starbucks for me.

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