Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The siren call of Starbucks

The subject of Starbucks is one of lively debate among our Italian friends, as it is among most everyone. Seems most people make a point of either carefully defending it or denouncing it thoroughly: it's either a malevolent corporate giant that hyperbrews coffee to addict its clients or an upstanding company that provides really good benefits; an expanding evil empire running independent coffeehouses into the ground (hehe) or a socially conscious organization that sells fair grade and helps the community; a cookie cutter chain with tired wallpaper or a nice place for a consistent cup of coffee; a cup-wasting, garbage-generating consumer den or an ecological leader. Pick your side.

Italians are overwhelmingly enthusiastic coffee drinkers. Admittedly biased toward all things Italian, most avoid coffee outside of Italy at all cost. The Germans, you know, put cream on cappuccino. The Swiss add cocoa. The Americans actually drip their coffee. For shame.

So the debate is not really about whether Starbucks is real coffee, it's about whether a) there is, or ever could be, a Starbucks in Italy, b) who would go there, and c) whether the atmosphere and "other drinks" at Starbucks are good. As far as I can tell, and I've heard this discussion many times now, "other drinks" are any drinks that do not seem like Italian coffee in name or appearance. This really opens the door to a lot of specialty drinks. We know many Italian "other drink" fans.

I don't have much to add to this conversation except to share my hypothesis that the "venti" size at Starbucks is so called because it's twenty (venti) ounces. (This naming system, by the way, is my least favorite thing about Starbucks. Yes, it is worse than those compilation CDs. It is unnecessarily pretentious. It doesn't make sense. And is foisted upon us. Try ordering a "small" next time you are at Starbucks and see if the cashier does not correct your terminology and then look at you like you just fell off the turnip truck. Those clever Starbucks marketers are changing the way we speak and think.) I have not verified my "venti" idea, just as I have not checked whether there is actually a tourist Starbucks in Rome, but I think I won't. Sometimes it's more fun not knowing. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Forest Gump soundtrack with your decaf cappuccino, anyone?