When I came to the US thirty years ago, coffee was this brown muck that cost about a dollar per gallon. In the generation that has passed since then, coffee has become a spiritual experience, a political statement and a way to save the planet. Sleek new devices that hiss and purr when stroked have replaced the old coffee machines. The people who make the coffee have never looked better. Many of them have college degrees, even if they are unaware that Venti is simply the Italian word for twenty .
Starbucks just took out a full page ad in the NYTimes touting its exceptionalism.
They Want You To Think Coffee is Coffee. Well, It’s Not Just Coffee. It’s Starbucks.
It’s lotsa bucks actually. Until a year ago, $4.50 was considered a reasonable price for a cup of coffee. Starbucks is, like the Hummer, Enron and the AIG, an emblem of turn of the century excess. Now McDonalds is eating their lunch. The baristas at Starbucks still look upon with you with condescension if you ask for a “small cup of coffee” instead of a “Tall Americano”. But you can see the fear in their eyes. The Ad says that these are highly trained individuals, who can make 87000 different kinds of coffee. If so, aren’t they a bit over-trained? Punching a few buttons on a coffee machine is not exactly rocket science.