Okay. We want to just start by saying we know this can be an oddly controversial topic. People seem to either look up to Starbucks as the best possible way to start their day or… look down on Starbucks as a corporate giant destroying the coffee business. It’s a bit extreme we know, but we like to find ourselves sitting comfortably in between the two. Living here in Seattle, the home of Starbucks, we thought we’d give our two cents on what it is to live the Starbucks lifestyle.
First of all, let’s talk about what Starbucks is great at.
It can’t be stressed enough how valuable the combination of fast wifi & a reliably clean bathroom is. Whether you’re meeting friends or just headed to work, being able to stop in somewhere that feels familiar and has clean facilities is a lifesaver. Gas stations and fast food spots filled this hole back in the day but we all know we’ve been on a road trip and bought some Starbucks coffee strictly so we could use a CLEAN bathroom. Ok and maybe a cake pop or two… I mean we’re there we might as well.
Which brings us to the drive-thru. Usually associated with not so healthy fast food options, Starbucks really gave the drive-thru a better rep when they started introducing them into their cafes. Utilizing technology like video screens where you can see your barista has slowed the process, but made it more of an enjoyable experience from a consumer standpoint. The time a customer may spend in a Starbucks drive-thru compared to the top fast-food chains is about double. But there’s no mistake that the experience and reward is generally far more enjoyable.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that you can find Starbucks in over 80 countries. The current count is a little over 29,000 stores! That’s insane. This does provide a level of familiarity and comfort no matter where you are in the world which is a pretty nice benefit. Starbucks has mastered the art of consistency. Your two-pump-vanilla-soy-triple-tall latte be made virtually the exact same way no matter what location you walk into, and there is something to be said for knowing your drink will taste the way you want it, consistently from day to day, anywhere in the world. If it doesn’t taste the same, you can ask for it to be remade and as consumers, we are willing to pay for that consistency and guarantee.
Let’s dive into the not so great aspects of this $3.5 billion company.
One thing that most people who strongly dislike Starbucks seem to have in common is this: They consider themselves to be “true coffee lovers.” They drink interesting single-origin coffees from a Chemex and add absolutely no cream or sugar. Starbucks has made super dark french roast coffees their primary workhorse and for good reason, most people pour a whole lot of cream and sweetener into their coffee. Darker roasted coffees can stand up to that battering of sweetness. So if you’re looking for uniquely artisan coffees extracted in an extremely precise way and brewed by an award-winning barista, your friendly neighborhood Starbucks is probably not the place to go. It’s ironic, if you look up Starbucks’ top competitors, you find companies like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. If Starbucks were a “coffee company” why would it be compared to a burger joint and a donut shop? This is more ammo for the coffee purists out there who think Starbucks shouldn’t even fall in the realm of a coffee shop.
All people agree, though— Starbucks is a really great dessert shop.
Okay, we’re half kidding, but seriously: Frappuccinos make up close to 1/5 of all Starbucks sales. Outside of that, quite a few of Starbuck’s items are more sugar than coffee. For instance:
Venti (extra large) white chocolate mocha with whipped cream -- 73.8 grams of sugar (about 18 teaspoons)
Venti chai tea latte -- 52 grams of sugar (about 13 teaspoons)
Venti caramel macchiato -- 42.1 grams of sugar (about 11 teaspoons)
For comparison, a can of Coke contains 33 grams of sugar.
This is a growing concern of Starbuck’s as they are currently working on changing some Frappuccino recipes to be more healthy. Bottom line is it’s not a favorite of the third wave coffee lovers. But guess what? It’s ok to not be a coffee snob! Its okay to drink a little coffee in your cream if that’s how you like it!
Now all that being said…
In an effort to show true coffee lovers that Starbucks does actually know it’s stuff they’ve opened up stores like The Reserve Roastery which we recently toured and absolutely loved! With more of a focus on single-origin coffees and interesting brewing methods, this place is a must if you’re in the Seattle area. You can’t help but feeling just a little bit cooler as you leave!
Whether you are team Starbucks or not,
the fact IS they have become a world recognized brand that has been both praised and mocked almost more than any other. They have an undeniable stronghold on the market and have built the empire to prove it. If you’re looking for a reliable place to sit comfortably on good wifi and sip a reliably decent coffee no matter where you are in the country or world, Starbucks is likely the best option.
But, if a truly third-wave experience of artisan-roasted coffee is what you’re after, visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery or, here are some of our absolute favorites in Seattle.