[Homeroast] (resending )The Dreaded Starbucks

Kris McN krismcn at gmail.com
Mon Mar 8 11:50:58 CST 2010


Well, I was a teenager/early twenties in the mid 80s - early 90s, so a
generation later in coffee house years, I guess.  Starbucks was a local
chain at that point, but aside from the Last Exit and Allegro there were
independents in Montlake, Capital Hill, Ballard, Crown Hill, West Seattle,
Queen Anne, the ID, Freemont, everywhere really, that I hung out at
regularly.  I can't really speak to the quality - I had an uneducated
teenage palate and mostly drank cappuccinos because it sounded cool. I
suspect that the overall quality of the actual coffee was no better than
Starbucks - the third wave was only just building, right?  But, I'm talking
about coffee house culture.  An independent joint with a motley assortment
of comfy seats, a cappuccino, some awesome home-made scones or coffee cake,
and a pile of self-published zines on the coffee table.  Who cares if it's
raining outside? It was a favorite bragging point back then that Seattlites
drank more coffee, read more books, and owned more sunglasses per capita
than any other city in the country.  More than anything, more than the
actual coffee, Starbucks took that concept, coffee house culture, sanitized
it, homogenized it, packaged it, and sold it to the rest of the country. At
first at least, they were selling an experience as much as a beverage. The
fancy-pant-ness of the coffee was just another aspect of that.  But make no
mistake, there was a lively coffee house culture in Seattle back then.
Seattle may have stolen it from the Europeans, but Starbucks stole it from
us.  And at first, Starbucks was just another option in the mix.  By the
mid/late 90s when I moved away, the Starbucks juggernaut was just taking off
nationally and was still a source of pride for many in Seattle, but by then,
I was dunzo, for the reasons I've already enumerated.


Kris McN

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