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5 August, 2008

It's just a caffeinated beverage, FFS

According to the BBC, an over-ambitious attempt by the Starbucks coffee empire to colonise Australia has failed: 61 of 85 shops are to close.

Starbucks mystifies me. Its publicity, and even third-party coverage such as the BBC article, speaks of the Starbucks 'experience':

[In the USA] it represents this "third place", which is not home and not work, but somewhere to hang out, according to Mr Edwardson.

"The coffee experience is two things," says John Roberts from the University of New South Wales. "Firstly, it's the product and the taste and secondly the place and the service."

I just don't get it. Coffee is a drink (which I don't especially like, and to which I'm very mildly allergic), to be consumed between or during other activities; a means to an end, but not itself an objective. I can understand that some people regard spending time in a coffee shop as analogous to frequenting a pub, but that's not really about the product, and the sheer preciousness of places like Starbucks infuriates me.
**** the blend and presentation; it's a drink: a mundane delivery mechanism for caffeine and water. It's not even a special drink: mass-production and global homogenisation are considered virtues, so that a Starbucks coffee in Singapore is comparible to one in Seattle – or Slough. Anyone who seriously cares about subtleties of crema in such circumstances really needs some perspective. It's fast food, not fine wine.

I've visited Starbucks precisely twice, in Barcelona and Paris. On neither occasion was it my choice, and on neither occasion did I play the pathetic customisation game. Coffee. Black. One sugar. That's as complex as I need.

Besides, life's too short for mere 'hanging out'. Anyone who has time to kill needs more caffeine.

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