Starbucks Controversy :: Are they ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ for the specialty coffee industry?


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Starbucks.  Just saying the word stirs up conversation and controversy in the specialty coffee world.  I asked a simple question on my facebook and twitter pages yesterday morning “Starbucks…thumbs up, or thumbs down?”  The results were

starbucks controversy just as I had suspected, split right down the middle.  Not surprisingly, those inside of the specialty coffee industry were heavily on the negative side, while many consumers were positive.  So, are you a Starbucks lover or hater, and why?  What side is right?  Why so much disdain for the specialty coffee pioneer? To look into this deeper I’ll use my own roller coaster outlook on the coffee giant as an example.  Back in the day I used to drink preground store-brand coffee.  I had no idea that coffee was any different; ground or whole bean, Colombian or Costa Rican, Robusta or Arabica.  I was ignorant to the virtues of specialty coffee.  I had heard of the popular Starbucks brand via (not VIA) television shows, movies,  and the media.  When I was visiting a large urban center and saw the crazy two tailed coffee mermaid I had to give it a try.  I was overwhelmed by the menu…”Espresso”…”Americano”…I thought to myself “Where is the ‘coffee’?  lol   I ordered an Americano, only because I remember a friend of mine saying they are good, and my eyes began to open.  Now, was that the best Americano that I’ve ever had?  The answer is most definitely NO, but on that particular day it was.  From that day forward I thought that Starbucks was the epitome of excellent coffee, and there was no better to be had (a reflection of an effective marketing strategy no less).  A little over a year ago I decided to start this blog and learn more about my favorite beverage.  I began to consume all of the information and fresh


roasted coffee I possibly could…my eyes were opend again!  As I began to explore the coffee world I was surprised by the amount of negative feelings for Starbucks in the specialty coffee world.  It was as if every independent roaster viewed Starbucks as their arch enemy.  This confused me greatly at first, and I was so young (still am) in my coffee journey that I was easily swayed by the ranting.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many things about Starbucks that I loathe, such as; their exceptionally burnt roast profiles, the release of the revolting instant beverage known as VIA,  the rebranding of small / medium / large, and the murder of the Macchiato.

So what’s MY vote?  I give Starbucks a ‘thumbs up’.  I want to say neutral, but that is a wishy-washy way out.  My thumbs up for Starbucks is kinda like how you view a hall of fame sports player that hangs on a little too long.  You still respect them, but they aren’t the same player they used to be.  You can’t expand from 1 store to more than 16700 in 49 countries and retain the quality product and service that you previously had.  Starbucks was not only a pioneer in the coffee experience, but they were also extremely instrumental in raising awareness in the ethical sourcing of coffee.  Before Starbucks, what normal coffee drinker knew what fair trade was or even that there was such a dire need for more ethical trading practices.  Today you would be hard pressed to find a coffee company of any type that doesn’t at least attempt to address consumers about their sourcing programs (not that all of them are ethical!).  I also have great respect for Starbucks for being the bridge between store brand coffee and specialty coffee, allowing coffee drinkers to expand their horizons.  Starbucks is a pioneer of the industry that attracted consumers to the coffee house for the experience, not just the product.   The bottom line is that Starbucks laid the groundwork for the rise of the premium specialty coffee industry, and everyone that enjoys specialty coffee or makes their living from it should remember that.

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Nate

Nate is a special kind of coffee lover. He began drinking the same swill that most others do, but thought there must be something better out there. Sure enough, he was right, even more so than he ever dreamed possible. He soon found his way into the specialty coffee industry, and was tasting exceptional coffees from dozens of roasters from around the country. He is now committed to teaching others how they can appreciate coffee, and how they can make the best coffee in town and save money at the same time! Cheers c[_]

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  • Darla Leatherman

    What do you suggest for a good coffee to brew at home? I really like Green Mountain but can't find it around here except for Paul Newman organic which is good but it is more expensive than Starbucks.
    I like Starbucks bold coffees but cannot stand Pike Roast. I don't drink fraps much but I have tried the new one and am not impressed. Their other ones were better. It doesn't seem like their as creamy. It doesn't seem like their changes are really improvements.
    We spent 5 weeks in Germany and it was easy to find a good strong flavorful coffee anywhere.

  • Natalie V.

    I thought your comments were very diplomatic. I agree with you regarding Starbuck's in a positive sense. However, I've never enjoyed a (specialty) coffee I bought from them. Most recently I took advantage of their free coffee day and didn't like the coffee enough to drink it. Anyway, I'm not much of a writer…I'll just reiterate, they get a “thumbs down” from me. p.s. I live in the great NW and there are way too many Starbuck's around here!

  • Thank you for taking time to read and watch my post Natalie! I did enjoy my early Starbucks days, but I am spoiled now. I can no longer stomach the burnt charcoal flavor 😛 I envy you being so close to many great coffee houses, but being stuck out here in the upper midwest creates an opportunity for me to open my own place down the road! Have a great weekend 🙂

  • Hi Darla! Actually you can have Green Mountain shipped to your home, fresher than the grocery store, and for less $ too! Check out this early video of mine http://bit.ly/ceIjPa Thank you for your comment and your time. Have an excellent weekend!

  • espressofein

    Well said. You nailed it, Starbucks raised awareness and now Independent roasters have raised the bar. I must say my favorite coffee is….well this is not an advertising board, but if anyone wants to know, ask me.

  • Thank you for your comment…and not just because you agree with me either 😉 Don't hesitate to share your favorite coffee or brand here, that is certainly not a problem as long as you truly feel that way, and you're not just trying to move product. Have a great weekend, I hope you come back on Monday for the Intelligentsia video!

  • Mike

    I really agree with what you were saying! There is good about them and there is bad about them. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who is bothered by their “Machattio.” Can't wait to see the Intelligentsia video!

  • Al Alper

    I basically agree with you; however, I take a lot more away from the chain for some practices than you do: Nomenclature changes, venti for twenty for large, etc. How pretntious, and we are not in Italy here. No Batista, all automatic machines. Sure, consistent, but no chance to shine (or stink) ever. Coffee that's as fresh as Folgers. 'nuff said on that one. Only saving grace of any kind is that at least they ship whole bean and still trust the staff to grind. $20 coffee mugs on sale. Really? Endemic of all they sell. Of course, today's consumer is brainwashed to think 'trendy' needs to be expensive, but that is another rant, back to Starbucks… Using the Find/Compete/Kill principle for store placement. Already a great shop at location X? Build across the street or even next door, trying to steel customers and put the original shop out of business. Shabby.

    Shabby is the best I can say for Starbucks. Thumb is DOWN.

  • Thank you Mike, I'm glad that you concur. I'm sure many people that are either consumers of fine specialty coffees, or even those who work in the industry today, used Starbucks as a gateway.

  • My3Sons33

    I've never really been impressed with Starbucks. It's not horrible, but, I can do without it. I'm not as experienced with different types of coffee. I'm just getting into whole bean now. We have a grinder at work, so when I get whole bean, I take it to work & brew it there. What a difference!

  • Some times they are good some times their bad, in an emergency, i like some of their stuff better than i like the stuff at say Dunkin Donuts , I will go out of my way to look for a coffee house before i go to them though

  • I appreciate your comment! Great, going whole bean is your first step. Enjoy what you like while experimenting with new coffees and different ways of brewing. Pretty soon, you'll be a certified coffee snob like me 😉 There is always SOOO much more to learn!

  • Thanks for commenting! Sometimes my wife wants to stop there as a last resort and I'll get a smoothie or tea, but other than that…I'm off the $ Have a great week!

  • I enjoyed this post man, I am going to share it will all my followers. Your vids are getting better, great job!

  • Thank you Jason! I appreciate the support. I am feeling more comfortable with the camera. For my first 30 videos or so, I had the feeling that I was recording in front of my in-laws or something. I've learned alot too, which tends to increase confidence…but so much more to learn. Thanks again!

  • Phil

    Starbucks is too overpriced in my opinion. I myself typically go with Chock Full o Nut. I love Green Mountain to brew at home as well. Right across from where I work there's this place… I've been tempted to go over there and buy a bag of beans to grind and brew at home. A coworker once got me a lb bag of ground coffee from there for xmas. It was pretty good.

  • Thanks Al! I can't argue with anything you mentioned. You are on point with your comments. I do credit them for being the stepping stone, but one should not stay there 🙂

  • Hi Phil, hope things are well! I can't condone Chok Full O' Nuts : If you dig it, that's cool, but you can do so much better! Give the roaster across the street a shot. I've never heard of them, but there are approximately a zillion differenct coffee roasting companies out there. Let me know how it goes! Take care

  • Julie

    I don't hate Starbucks, and you have many good points. If I had a choice between a GOOD independent coffee house (they are not all good) and Starbucks, I'd choose the independent one because I find it fun to try new things. However, I appreciate that I can (usually) find a Starbucks easily no matter where I am (while traveling). In my opinion, their coffee products and drinks are not the best, but they offer a good variety for most people (say, if you're with a group of people and not everyone is a coffee drinker). When I crave a sugary [coffee] drink (fortunately or unfortunately), Starbucks can satisfy that need. Because of the many franchises that they have, I think the downside for them is their consistency – from service to “baristas” (and therefore, their end coffee drink products). So, I don't have anything against them, and I don't hate them. To me, they are what they are. If they up their standards, great. If not, I am not expecting more from them at this point. They obviously satisfy many people's needs; otherwise, they would not have been as successful as they have been. I do want to add this – A turn off for me is an independent coffee house that is a “snob.” Don't just assume you are that much better just because you're an independent roaster. You offer something different, not necessarily better. Allow each consumer to decide. One last thing – As far as I can tell, Starbucks is no more expensive than any other coffee place that I've been to, and I've been to many. I really think it depends on location.

  • Good points Julie! I think you represent many Starbucks customers views. Yes, there are countless independent coffee shops that are terrible, either in their service, product, or both. There are some absolutely amazing independent coffee houses too, and it's not always easy to find them when you are travelling. How do you know if a shop is great when you've never been there? I rely on reviews on sites like Yelp.com and have had some success. Once inside, you will be able to see and hear clues that will indicate what their deal is. Maybe I'll cover that another time 😉 Starbucks is a place that sells coffee and their menu is similar from store to store. That helps and hurts them at the same time. Just like how many people choose to eat at McDonald's and I'm pretty sure it's not because they have the world's greatest burgers 😛

  • N M

    I'm addicted to coffee and I can't resistStarbucks

  • Thank you for your commentary. I pretty much agree with your perspective; however, opening the eyes of the masses to bad coffee is hardly commendable. Their mass marketing strategies have exposed many people to a better coffee experience, but has blinded them to what truly good coffee really is. I applaud their achievements and frown on their bastardization of the industry.

  • For the most part, the people they are brining in are the ones already drinking even worse coffee. We agree that Starbucks does not represent truly fine coffee, it does provide a middle ground to bridge the gap and make the leap from preground trash coffee, to exceptional artisan roasted coffees. Thank you so much for taking the time to watch and offer your view! Take care

  • Chad

    i will drink starbucks but i wont like it. i do howevr, find their breakfast blendquite tastey. i guess because its a light roast they cant really burn it 😉

  • Al Alper

    There is, actually, one very positive thing I can say for Starbucks, and this is that if not for them, there would be very many places i travel too that would have nothing better than some greasy spoon coffee to drink if not for Starbucks, places with nothing but a Starbucks for tens and even hundreds of miles around. Thumbs down or not, this is the kind of thing that does help make up for some of their burden of sin1 🙂

  • Phillman

    I believe Starbucks offers a standard. If you want something that is repeatable then go to Starbucks. If you want unique flavor you have to step away from Starbucks. It is good to note that Starbucks is trying to get back to their roots with some experimental coffee houses without the Starbucks sign. They are trying to look rustic and European. I do not know what products they are pushing.

  • I think I mentioned before that until 1994 when Starbucks came to town in Arizona,I was living out of a can (Maxwell House) the official coffee of AA.So props to them for moving me along the road to coffee recovery :). How ever I still do not know where else to go around here without going the expensive mail order route.I love Hawaiian coffee, but taking out a small loan against my social security check does not always work.Do you know where I can get some decent coffee around here?Or…visit a place like Intelligensia for a free sample?

  • I sent out some feelers looking for Phoenix AZ recommendations for you. I would also search Yelp.com for user reviews. The Coffees of Hawaii stuff is pretty reasonable and free shipping and %20 off! http://bit.ly/Coffee20

  • Hi Phillman! Repeatable for the most part, but Intelligentsia is repeatable AND has unique flavor…but it is much easier to keep quality control when you have 5 stores instead of 17,000! At some point Starbucks went from being a coffee house, to being a corporation.

  • I think many are in your shoes Chad. They drink Starbucks, but they are aware of better things out there…they just don't know where or it's not as convenient. I appreciate your time in commenting and watching!

  • Good point Al. Many of the bit time haters are in areas that do offer a much better alternative to Starbucks, but for us in the sticks, it's another story all together! Building on your point, Starbucks being in these rural locations begins people on their coffee journey, and opens opportunity for someone (like me someday) to open a 'real' coffee house and hit a home run! Starbucks has opened the market and blazed a trail that I can capitalize on by providing a superior product with better service!

  • Phillman

    I forgot to ad one important thing about Starbucks. Their coffee ground are fantastic for gardens and compost piles. I am not making any negative comments about their brew. Just plain and simple the grounds help your soil.

  • Thanks Phillman, that is a great point. Spent coffee grinds of any sort make awesome food for your garden or lawn. You can drop by your local Starbucks and they will give you a large bag filled with spent coffee to add to your garden or compost! I think they call it “Grinds for your Garden” or something similar.

  • There are some great shops in the Phoenix area. Some to look up: Cartel Coffee Lab (Downtown & Tempe), Next Coffee (North Glendale), Leo's (Anthem), Echo, (South Scottsdale), Unlimited (Phoenix), and any of the 100 or so Starbucks.

    …just my 2 beans
    WO
    @WOnet

  • Great Video! Very high quality. What kind a set-up/camera do you use?

    Let me start by saying, that Starbucks puts food on my plate (i.e. I am a Starbucks partner). However, that being said, I LOVE great coffee, wherever I can get it. Anyway, onto the topic.

    I enjoy your various points of view, and agree with you on most parts. I wouldn't say that Starbucks is the McDonald's of coffee, because since McD's entered the coffee business, well have you had that stuff? It is NASTY!! Yes, I like Starbucks coffee, some more than others (as with different growing regions, you'd expect). Before I found Starbucks, I drank 3-4 pots of Folgers a day, just to stay awake. Then came Starbucks. There was nothing else, at all. As you said, Starbucks did a wonderful job at educating the American public (and further) that coffee can be great.

    17,000 stores does have some good parts: consistency, ease of finding locations, etc. When traveling to a city that I don't know, I always go to Starbucks, as I know I will have something I will enjoy. Will it be the best in that city? Depends on the city, I guess. One of the down sides to that many stores is well, the coffee. Some of the fantastic coffee that smaller shops get are amazing coffees, that just wouldn't be able to supply a 17,000 store chain. Steve @ HasBean Coffee in the UK has VLOGged about some of the mini/micro lots he's gotten.

    Starbucks offers an espresso macchiato, as well as a caramel macchiato. Just as you said, an espresso macchiato is espresso marked with milk/foam. A caramel macchiato is a beverage marked with caramel. True, it is basically a vanilla latte, with caramel drizzle marking the foam, but when that drink came out in the early 90's, most people still had not heard of specialty coffee.

    VIA is not my first choice for coffee, but I don't think it is supposed to be. I think it is a darn ok “back up, when my press is not around, or if I'm on a trip somewhere. It is more convenience, at least that is what I think. However, my wife loves it. But just as you say Starbucks is the mid-point from Folgers to specialty coffee, wouldn't VIA serve as moving up from instant coffee to specialty? But what about those times when you want some coffee, but the only thing is hotel coffee, or “Dennys” coffee. I actually stole a packet of VIA from my wife's purse when we were at Dennys the other morning. I just asked for a cup of hot water. Right then, it worked for me.

    Too commercial? Hmmm. Possibly. If Starbucks hadn't grown the way they did, and had the real impact they did, would the specialty coffee industry had grown the way it did? I highly doubt it. If Starbucks hadn't opened up in Chicago in 1987, would Doug & Emily been inspired to open Intelligentsia 8 years later? I don't know. Without the coffee “revolution”, and Starbucks part in it., I think the world would still be drinking robusta beans from cans, except the few shops around, I don't think the industry would be where it is. And because of that, the world would be a much sadder place.

    …just my 2 beans
    WO
    @WOnet

  • All I can say is “WO” 😉 Thank you for taking the time to offer your view! You bring up some excellent points. I look forward to reading your comments in the future! I also really appreciate your compliments, I am humbled by them. On this video I had to use my digital camera, but it does film in HD, but the mic isn't as good as my other camera. My flip cam died and I just got a new Kodak one that I'm still deciding if I like or not…low light conditions are a real challenge for it. These days, you can make decent video with a cam that is $200 or less.

  • Bkynaston

    Sometimes,. I really like Starbucks. Other times, I find it to be very bitter. It seems it is a crapshoot.

  • Hi Nate! You essentially describe 3 levels of coffee quality, placing Starbucks in the middle bridging the gap between something like Folgers, and perhaps a very small roaster like Intelligencia.

    First off, I have to disagree with the characterization of Starbucks has a burnt roast. Not all of their beans are roasted the same, and some beans create a great deep flavor profile with a dark roast. Did you know that the Starbucks coffee with the lightest roast is Organic Shade Grown Mexico? In any event, taste is subjective and there is no point in going around and around with that.

    The funny thing that Starbucks has done is created a situation where it occupys all 3 positions you describe, all at once. But Starbucks does a really terrible job of promoting this view of their corporation. I actually have an entire blog post in draft on this idea. At the bottom rung, Starbucks produces Via, which will never have all the flavor of a nice cup of Yirgacheffe, but I still think it's the best instant you can get.

    What Starbucks does is fractures how it roasts and sends coffee. In fact this is going to be an entire blog of mine and I feel like I am writing it here. One problem is that the US market is so huge, that when Starbucks sources very small batches of rare beautiful single origin coffees, they rarely send it all over to the US stores. It's hard to do that with an agricultural product.

    Did you know in the UK this year, Starbucks produced an amazing Fair Trade Rwanda coffee from just one single cooperative? They had so little they only sold it in the UK. My latest blog post is on Starbucks Sumatra Aceh and Sumatra Siborong-Siborong: Which were only sold in a few international places.

    The upshot being that the typical North American person walks into a Starbucks, and is, to a small degree, left with a selection of core coffees, that while are wonderful, don't showcase any of the small tiny single origin sourced coffees. The core coffee line up is Sumatra, Kenya, Org, Shade Grown Mexico, Verona, Gold Coast, Estima, etc …

    So the person who walks into a Starbucks that is just a normal Starbucks, will be completely unaware of the many different offerings found elsewhere. I think this is why Starbucks eventually figured out in 2008 that they'd have to make some stores different and began to develop “small batch” coffees that were not sent to ALL stores, but rather just stores with the Clover brewer. This began to open the door for them to send things like rare Kenyas, Bali Batura Highlands, rare Latin American coffees, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, to selected North American stores.

    I think “WO” below me makes great points about consistency. As they got bigger, it got harder and harder for them to figure out which coffees could be consistently sent to 16,000 stores. Yes, I absolutely love Starbucks coffee, but not to the exclusion of others. I know a lot of people must look at me and think that I ONLY drink Starbucks, and I want to correct that misperception.

    The antagonism that exists with some small roasters towards Starbucks makes me very sad. It's not a zero sum game. There are plenty of customers to be had, and lots of new coffee lovers being created. I've been known to drink Caffe D'Arte coffee (found here in Seattle) and enjoy Zoka's (also in Seattle) and a little Intelligentsia. (I think the Intelligentsia French Roast is amazing).

    I don't know if this helps at all, or adds to this conversation. I apologize that it did not have time to read all 37 comments before me. The upshot is that Starbucks can and does occupy more than one place in the specialty coffee industry simultaneously.

    Melody

  • Thank you Melody, and absolutely no need to apologize. This is surely a hot topic! I can appreciate everything that you said, but at the same time the only selection in my local Starbucks is 3 different 'BOLD' roasts and Pike's Place. That is where my burnt classification comes from. I don't hate them, but I prefer a lighter roast, with the exception of Sumatran (typically anyway). I wish I had access to the smaller lots that Starbucks has, but I don't see them shipping them into the middle of nowhere 🙂
    You are exactly right about there being enough coffee drinkers to go around. With billions of coffee consumed each year, I don't think any quality coffee shop is really hurting. If they are, then they are doing something wrong…but I digress. Thanks again for taking your time to respond, and I respect your comments.

  • Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Claire

    I, for one, do not like Starbucks at all. And I never will, and I have always felt this way.

    Honestly, I work for a competitor, and Starsucks, er, Starbucks, beats us in sales by an astonishing amount every year, and it saddens me. Starbucks has a poor product. Their beans and coffees are way over roasted and over processed, and you can tell by it's taste. Each coffee is supposed to have it's own flavor profile, and all of their stuff tastes the same, like oil. The product is way more bitter and tart than it should be, in my opinion. I feel bad for the customers, they should be served better for the price they're paying.

    Also, I feel that the company has “dumbed down” the coffee world. I can't tell you how many times a day I get asked for Venti drinks, or Frappuccinos, or Caramel Macchiatos…these beverages don't exist everywhere, and it's frustrating. Also, when they're not served what they get at the other shops, they get upset, and that isn't my fault.

    I love being in the coffee business, I truthfully do, it combines my two favorite things: coffee, and people/the experience to interact with them, BUT Starbucks makes it very hard for other shops to feel like they have a place in the world. I'm not “dissing” them on the basis that I work for their competition, I say these things on my own personal preference, also just throwing out my opinion.

  • Dutchbrosluv

    I watched video thanks for pointing it out! We don't have Starbucks in Southern Oregon, but I agreed with the Video about Coffee. I got hooked the Dutchbros coffee years ago as I knew the owners but willing to try something else. Starbucks never came to Southern Oregon but Dutchbros roast their own coffee. Tried both and have to have Dutchbros beats Starbucks but when there is no Dutchbros I would go to Starbucks not Chevron..lol Thanks the The May free coffee contest is sponsored by Coffees of Hawaii! may be good too maybe have to try this! ?
    Liked what your said not knocking any coffee company…Would love to try! Done in good taste!

  • Looking at Starbucks from a marketing point of view, you are right that this company has really grown too commercial. They grew too fast here in San Antonio, TX, and ended up closing many of their stores as a result. I don't think they really live up to the traditional standards of coffee brewing because they try to re-make something into something else, and call it – as you said – Caramel Macchiatto (sp?). Even their iced coffee drinks are beginning to taste more like milkshakes or the Wendy's Frosty. I used to go to Starbucks on Sunday afternoon just for the embiance, but even that got too boring and way too expensive. I could still grind and brew my own coffee at home and read the newspaper on my patio and save myself five bucks. Yes, I still enjoy their beverages, but only as a special treat now. I'd like to see Starbucks change their marketing strategy to include updated educational materials about coffee, its growers and the fair trade. In my area, they don't have that info.

  • You have some good points, but really if it were not for Starbucks, the industry would not have exploded like it has. So although, you are frustrated (as many other baristas) by the coffee illiterate customers that order ventis and caramel macchiatos in your shop, they would not BE in your shop without Starbucks. In addition, by offering subpar quality drinks, Starbucks opens the door for you (who offer quality beverages) to rescue them! So the next time you have a customer order a caramel macchiato, instead of rolling your eyes at them, as some baristas would, and making a REAL macchiato, explain that it is a vanilla latte with caramel on top. I don't think Starbucks has 'dumbed down' the coffee world, those customers were already ignorant to the coffee world, but now you can teach them whats what, and lead them to the real world of specialty coffee! Thanks for commenting, I truly appreciate it!

  • Hi Diane! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 You can get info about their sustainability programs from their website. http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/learn-m… Funny you mentioned the ambiance. The location in my town is inside of a freaking grocery store…not exactly a relaxing with friends atmosphere! The price is still high though 😉

  • Thanks for checking it out Linda, and for taking the time to comment! I've yet to try Dutch Bros, but I've heard of them. I live in a pretty remote area, so I don't see them putting a shop here. I'll make a point to try next time I'm in the big city 😉 The great thing about being a coffee consumer is that we don't have to be loyal to just ONE brand, when there are thousands to try. It's always good to try something new 🙂 Have a good one!

  • Nate,

    I don't think neutral is wishy-washy on this topic. Based on a lot of the comments, it seems to be the norm. There are things people love about Starbucks and things they don't. I definitely find myself in that camp as well. If I'm in an urban center with real baristas pulling shots somewhere, I guarantee you won't find me in a Starbucks. But If I'm out in the suburbs or a small town and that's the best there is, it will do.

    I appreciate what Starbucks did for the industry and continues to do, but in a different capacity. I think they've been attacked from soo many directions (i.e. Dunkin, McDonalds) They sometimes lost their identity in attempts to react and that was a big turn off for me. When they automated their espresso and started serving egg and cheese biscuits, they lost their coffee cred.

    However, I've also experienced the “future” of Starbucks at their new SoHo store in New York. Even though I was surrounded by great coffee bars, I found myself in their shop enjoying a delicious mug of Clover brewed coffee multiple times. Even the environment was different. It felt less commodity and had a real sense of place.

    I know it's going to be hard for Starbucks to approach every one of their 16,000+ stores this way, but it really determines whether my trip is anticipated or just settling.

  • Great points! Starbucks has tried to be all things to all people, and when you do that, the result is losing your vision and what you used to do well begins to suffer. They got sucked into competing for the low end business (ie VIA), but retained their high end price point. Yeah, it's only $1 per pkg if you buy in bulk, but it takes 4 packets to fill a travel mug, now you're talking the same price as an espresso based drink! They still have their place, and as I've said repeatedly, if you provide a better product with better service, you will enjoy the harvest after Starbucks planted the seed. Thanks for taking the time to relay your thoughts!

  • Natalie V.

    Best wishes in you endeavor. I'm sure you'll be successful.
    N

  • Silvio Ortega

    Hey Nate, I know this is a late post, but I just saw this on YouTube. I agree with everything you say on the video and I'm also a Shift Supervisor at Starbucks. The beans are WAY too roasted. And there's much more to coffee than starbucks. For some customers they still see it as their 3rd place, even with the people commanding their drinks. Way too commercial. Just the espresso itself doesn't taste the same coming from a machine that pulls the shots automatically. I used to think it was delicious until I went to a corner coffee shop that always seemed empty. I got their espresso and I can't stop going there. Things change once a company goes commercial. But awesome review. I couldn't have said it better myself.

    • Wow, thanks Silvio! I appreciate your thoughts and comments on this post!!