Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Starbucks lessons.

I heard an urban myth some years ago that Starbucks injected their beans with caffeine, so that customers would experience less 'buzz' from other coffee and always go back to them. As a home-roaster of several methods, I can tell you I've no idea what that would even look like; injecting beans. Even if such 'injections' were possible, it's not feasible in an operation of their size, nor would it show an appropriate ROI. But Starbucks did teach customers that their roast (almost always taken to 2nd crack) was the 'real coffee' taste, so that their brains and taste buds would find other coffees 'weak' by comparison. In reality, they trained the masses that burnt, bitter coffee was authentic.

What else did they teach us? They taught us - young people especially - that it's OK if you don't actually like coffee. That they have wonderful elixirs of milk, cream, syrops and sugar, with some actual coffee buried in there, somewhere.

On the plus side - enough bashing - Starbucks accomplished many fine things. Among them:
- If you build a funky 'third place,' they will come.
- A cafe can also be a vibrant merchant or retail outlet of equipment, books and music.
- A hand crafted coffee is worth 2, 3 or even 4 dollars. This alone allowed thousands of independents to flourish and the overall quality of product and experience to evolve.

OK, now it's that time.

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