Coffee Culture and the Curse of Starbucks
I love Starbucks. I have loved Starbucks since I became aware that hanging out in coffee shops was acceptable, and better yet, was regarded in the circles I wanted to be circulating in as… COOL. I was 16 when I believed that hanging out in Starbucks in any way, shape or form added cool points to a wannabe indie status. At this time, I also believed that Topshop was the best shop EVA! I might actually die if I met any member of (scoff) Blink 182 and that an hourly wage of £3.40 was, you know, not that bad.
Many things have changed since I was 16. I now moan about a job that pays me double my original wage but still not quite enough, I discovered the joys of eBay shopping and I would only be very, very excited if I met any single member of my adolescent favourite. No instant death for me. My stance on Starbucks has also changed. It’s become absolutely distorted and confused, a love/hate relationship that sneers at the stereotypical hipsters in their converse and their Macs drinking endless cups of skinny caramel macchiatos whilst sitting across the room from them in Doc Martens, a much cheaper filter coffee and wishing I had a Mac to call my own.
I hate that Starbucks is everywhere. I hate its very mediocre coffee. I hate its ginormous cups that are just way too much fluid for any human to comfortably consume before the contents gets cold. I hate their faux friendliness when they shout, ‘coffee for my pal, Gemma!’ The bitter, Starbucks hating part of me screams back, ‘You are not my friend, stranger across the counter?!’
And here is where the hypocrisy comes in to play. I love it. I equally love it. I love hanging out in Starbucks. It’s so easy. The wi-fi is good. There are no weird coffee house locals staring you out because you’ve only bought one coffee in two hours. The price isn’t so overpriced. The mediocre filter coffee has free refills in most stores and the teas are an almost acceptable price for what is essentially some leaves in water. Th music is usually pretty nice… in short, it’s a pleasant experience. This is the curse of Starbucks. It’s nailed that coffee house experience that 99% of Urban Outfitters customers are looking for.
Right now I am sat in the middle of Amsterdam in, believe it or not, Starbucks. Generally, Amsterdam is fairly immune to the curse of the commercial coffee chain, at least American ones (Bagels and Beans and The Coffee Company are pretty much everywhere here). So why, when there isn’t even a lot of them around, would I choose to come here? It’s close. They have big tables which are always free? There is a good view! There is! All valid reasons that become instantly void when taken into consideration the plain and simple fact that there are at least five coffee places in the vicinity that have all of those attributes, as well as being small, independent, quirky, cool and very, very Dutch.
In fairness to myself, I often try to visit other places, and avoid the warm glow of Starbucks in favour of a non-all consuming chain of coffee house. But you know, I had never really thought about it too much until I met a guy who was in the middle of starting up his own coffee house. He showed me around his bare shop, excitedly talking about his vision for the place. Good coffee, good people, an awesome atmosphere. He kind of brought it home just why it is so bad that I can’t crack the commercialised coffee chain habit. Not only will his place be better than Starbucks, it’s going to be somewhere where people actually care about what they’re doing. Environmentally friendly, fair trade and happy to be there. This is what my meager wage should be supporting.
But it’s ease. It’s comfort. It’s something I know. And how disappointing is the realisation that stability has dulled that sense of adventure and intrigue, even if it is only finding a brand new coffee shop every day. Damn you Starbucks, take your ‘
infiltration inspiration of the human spirit’ and go home. Maybe just leave the one I’m hypocritically living up to my stereotype in right now…