Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Starbucks: It had to be done

Try as you might, you just can't avoid the dark forces of the US coffee empire.

AREA: Everywhere
WEBSITE: www.starbucks.com

Cappuccino (Petra) - 2

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There are a few things you can be sure of in America: you are never more than 10 metres from a snack; if you choke in a restaurant, someone will know the Heimlich manoeuvre, and there will always be a Starbucks on the next corner.

Apparently there are 171 Starbucks outlets located in Manhattan - but I got that figure from a 2007 article so we can probably assume they've all mated by now and there's more like 5 million.

With this kind of neighbourhood penetration it is almost an inevitability that - despite how much of a coffee snob you may be, and despite how much you swore you never would - you will end up in one, if only on the excuse that you want to use their free wi-fi.

So it was that I found myself ordering a double-shot cappuccino surrounded by the new season's mix-and-match separates in Macy's Herald Square, a department store which has TWO Starbucks outlets inside to placate the exhausted shopping masses.

Don't be fooled by that wench on the label. Evil lurks inside.

The last time I tried Starbucks was three years ago during their failed venture in Adelaide, a city which already has a coffee shop on every corner and, despite its otherwise bogan tendencies, prefers a decent espresso to a mug of warmed milk that may or may not have had a passing interaction with a bean.

I think you can see where this review is heading. I do not like Starbucks coffee. I appreciate that they might have been the first major chain to introduce Americans to an alternative to the dripolator, but when the alternative tastes like warmed-up dishwater and costs $5, I'm not sure that's reason to celebrate.

The best I can say about my cappuccino was that it was hot. Although after four hours of shopping like I was training for the Retail Olympics I was so desperate for coffee I would have licked percolator swill out of an ashtray so, with that in mind, Starbucks was fine. I hate to think what it would have been like without the "extra shot".

It also had that signature "pond scum" foam on top, sans chocolate powder.

All this considered, I still rate the Starbucks cappuccino higher than the latte from SoHo hipster favourite Balthazar, which just goes to prove that wearing ironic glasses does not necessarily make you a better barista.

I think it's safe to say I won't be making Starbucks a regular coffee haunt, even though their free wi-fi is very useful. Not just because their cappuccino wasn't that great, but for the following reasons:

1. Calling small "tall", medium "grande" and large "venti". THIS IS SO UNNECESSARY I CAN'T EVEN. HOW IS MEDIUM GRANDE?

Unconfirmed reports suggest Starbucks board member Tom Cruise was strongly in favour of the company's cup naming convention.

2. Pumpkin spiced latte is very, very wrong, Thanksgiving or not.

3. Ditto for salted caramel mocha.

4. LOOK AT THEIR PHOTO OF A CAPPUCCINO. LOOK AT IT. It breaks so many coffee rules it might as well be a milkshake.


  1. Yes! I hate Starbucks with a fiery passion. I hate that pseudo-Italian grande and venti bull. I mean, at least be consistent, and use alto instead of tall. Tall? That makes no sense.

  2. Ha ha ha! Did you read the description? It takes great care to make a cappuccino you know. Wow.