More on the Coffee you Hate to Love

My love-hate relationship with Starbucks just escalated to borderline destructive…. Yesterday morning I entered a Starbucks directly across the street from the South Tower at Columbus Circle. I was greeted by an employee with a headset who took my order, barked into her headset alla taco bell drive thru style, handed me my drink card and my coffee was ready for me by the time I approached the counter. Not bad. Brilliant in fact, ‘well played’ I thought to myself…

This morning, when I arrived for my coffee, the line was literally outside of the store, so I had to wait with the lady who asks for your spare change for the homeless. Now, I don’t give spare change away to anyone, so when I ignored her, amongst her ramblings of statistics, she managed to get in a “Always concerned with yourselves…” to which point I looked at her, yanked my headphones out of my ears and asked, “Really?” because really, standing here in my Target flip flops, in desperate need of a legitimate haircut, amongst the Coach bag clutching mani-pedi robots, I was hardly the enemy.

So yes, when I finally entered the house of coffee, the headphone chick took my order, but didn’t give me my drink card. I watched as a light went off in her little head as she counted (with fingers) how many people in that line just wanted regular coffee, and took off like a flash. A barista to save the day!! And here I thought, for like the MILLIONTH time, that Starbucks should really think about having a specific line for fru-fru drinks, and an express line for people who just want COFFEE. No “grande soy half caf cinnamon dolce latte, no whip, heated to 125 degrees- in a venti cup….” I have nothing but hatred for you bobbleheaded little androids!!

And after all of the line shenanigans, I still had to wait over in that side section as I watched the whole team of baristas with headsets maneuver like little worker bees, and there was something sooo disturbing about it.

Please indulge me: As I stood there, again wearing the Target flip flops, waiting for my oh so difficult to procure medium cup of black cofee, a woman approached the counter and ordered a “half caf soy latte”- the register attendee repeated back “half caf soy latte”-the woman in head set “half caf soy latte”-barista in back “half caf soy latte”, who after making the half caf soy latte hands the beverage back to the headset woman who repeated “half caf soy latte”, as she handed the beverage back to the register guy who then reiterates that her beverage is indeed a “half caf soy latte”. I watched this exchange for five minutes this morning as I waited for my grande cup of black coffee, and you have no idea how tempting it was for me to just run behind the counter, grab a medium cup, pull the freaking nozzle and pour my fucking cup of coffee…It was dark… and way darker than this Pike’s Roast blend shit they’re ladling out like yesterdays oatmeal to orphans.

More on the coffee you hate to love….

Taylor Clark has penned a tall tome titled “Starbucked: A Dark Tall Tale of Caffeine Commerce and Culture.” It’s supposed to be a rich read packed full of nerdy facts. Check out a detailed review at the Observer.

I’ve already written on my experiences as a coffee snob, and I’m the recent recipient of a pound of Kona coffee, which from what I understand is equivalent to holding a bag of 100% pure uncut cocaine. It’s still sitting unopened on the couch now because it intimidates me, but when I do try it, you’ll be the first to know. So here’s what I learned this morning: the first Starbucks opened in NYC in 1994, a far journey from its Seattle home. If you’re anything like me, you probably grew weary in the next few years of ordering even the plainest Cup o’Joe only to be forced into swank-sizing it with a modifier…. tall-venti-grande? I remember an experience in the late 90’s in Princeton where I asked for a “medium” coffee, and was corrected “Grande?” to which I snarkily replied (and I was WAAAAY more snarky then) “Uhh… yeah, y’all are from Seattle right???”…. blank look from barista…blink…blink…cricket…cricket…I resumed, “Yeah, just checking.” Snark unappreciated.

Anyways, when the first Starbucks opened in NYC it was one of 425 stores, now they have expanded to 14,000 (4,000 of which are located outside the US…. they’re overtaking the world!!!)and 170 of those 10,000 in the US are right here in Manhattan!!

But they’re not all evil….they may have infected our entire country with a caffeine habit, as evidenced by the compete surge of coffee shops from 585 in 1989 to 24,000 in the US today… only 10,000 of which are Bucks…..Nah, they’re not so bad, and bonus!! they have those sweet inspirational quotes on their recycled cups to ease the yuppy pangs.

Confessions of a yuppy coffee snob stranded in Red Sox Nation

In the days of the World Series aftermath, I experienced living amongst Red Sox Nation fans….. Although I’m a native New Englander, I don’t have any Red Sox paraphernalia, but I like to route for the underdogs, so I found myself sitting crossed legged on my parents living room floor cheering our Sox on to their second world championship.

When I visit my folks, there’s just something about me that screams SHE DOESN’T FIT IN HERE, and I’m not sure what that is….Other people notice, too. After making the move to New York in May I’ve become obsessed with “New York” mentality…. Mostly because I can’t stand it, or the fact that most New Yorkers are transplants, not native born New Yorkers….So the search for this synthetic change in me is something I’m very conscious of. I’ve been watching myself closely an chronicling the subtle changes in myself that reflect my new surroundings… like tuning up my creepy guy/safety skills, or perfecting the subway stare and increasing my spatial intelligence with my knowledge of the NYC Subway System, etc….

When I’m home in New Hampshire I always feel like an alien…New Hampshire itself is a strange state, just look at any recent election… they always vote republican and they’re proud of it…. And then there’s the New Hampshire “look” which is comprised of holiday sweaters/sports team sweatshirts, jeans and Birkenstocks. EVERYONE wears this. On Monday I was the only person not wearing a Red Sox Jersey, even my sister sported a sweatshirt, though I didn’t notice until halfway through dinner. My mother announced she had to wear Red Sox Nation gear to the Anthem Blue Cross center where she works the next day because of the outcome of the World Series game….. I just scratched my head and grimaced…. Something else I tend to do when I’m home.

I guess my point is that I don’t fit in here, and I’m okay with that. I’ve been up here for four and a half days and have yet to see someone who wasn’t middle class white bread American…

One of the unfortunate pieces of evidence that my folks use against me as proof that I’m a yuppie is my intense love of coffee. I admit, I’m a complete coffee snob, and I’m never as aware of this fact as I am when I’m at my folks home in New Hampshire. I tend to make my own very strong coffee at home in Brooklyn, but I buy nice grounds and use a shitload of them. My Dad is a one-cup a day guy…. It just so happens that his one-cup is a thermos full of what I call Hazelnut Hot N Brown, which he dilutes with sugar free, diabetic-friendly Hazelnut creamer. I can’t drink that stuff. I’ve tried just using more grounds but the flavored stuff always gives me a headache. So I play the waiting game, and tell myself that I don’t have a caffeine addiction….. I can do without right??? Until I start twitching around noon and am in search of the nearest Starbucks…which are really hard to find in the Granite State. If you want Starbucks, you need to buy yourself the grounds, or find a Barnes and Noble and get the stuff that they keep in the carafe, which is really only available in the leaded and unleaded variety. So, to the B&N I go in search of my Grande coffee.

I’ve done this three times this week This morning I went to someplace called Coffee Berries, which is a sweet looking Mom N’Pop shop in the town I live in. Sure, I’ll support those kinds of shops before I buy the Bucks….. but I walked in to find eight varieties of Green Mountain Coffee. GMC is ok… it’s better than DD’s imo, but it ain’t no Bucks. It’s the kind of coffee that you find in Mobil Stations that have sandwich counters.

Ok, I said to myself…. We can make this work, let’s see what the options are: Two decaf varieties… no and no. Toasted Almond, Pumpkin Spice, Southern Pecan, and Hazelnut…. No, no, no, and no. Columbian Supremo and Blue Mountain…hmmmm. The plot thickens.

I looked onto the description cards. Under the Columbian Supremo (Supremo??) were the works lush and vibrant, and the Supremo made me want to shout Olé!! Blue Mountain was described as medium in body and flavor…. Medium??? No thank you. So I poured myself a cup of the Supremo, poured a tiny bit of Half and Half in and a two sugars… Now the ratio of cream to sugar is something that takes time to perfect and is different from bean to bean and roast to roast. I admit this is not my strength. My talents lie in the brewing, and if my coffee is not right, it’s usually in the fixin’ step that I’ve faltered. So after the initial doctoring, it was time to taste……I’m drinking a steaming cup of nothing…. Literally tasted like hot water, or what I assume coffee would taste like if you brewed with used grounds, or brewed a cup of hot water in a dirty pot…. NASTY.

So I’m standing there holding this large cup of something I don’t want, thinking to myself, I’ve chosen poorly… what to do… and all I want is my Bucks…God Damn It! Sure, I’m a yuppy, just give me my coffee!!!!!!

It’s at this point that the lady notices that I’m not drinking my coffee but am grimacing to myself and scratching my head…. I explain that the coffee tastes off, a tactic that usually works. If you present the problem to someone in a way in which it can’t be inferred that it is actually THEIR problem, but that for the greater good of the clientele, the product should be removed and replaced immediately… they usually thank you and give you what you want. She was just not having it.

It was at this point that I told her that I thought she should know something was wrong with the coffee. She listened to me explain what I thought was wrong with it, and than told me that I had chosen wrong, and if I wanted something bold I should have chosen the Blue Mountain coffee. Right, thanks lady I think I’ve figured that out now…

And then toothless Martha in the corner looks up from the crate of Yankee Candles she’s unloading and looks me over and says, “you’re one of those Starbucks people, aren’t you….” And my blood starts boiling. There’s an intense hatred for New Yorkers in New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. I could have been standing there in a Yankees cap, the battle was over. The lady holding my unwanted coffee told me that the flavor I had chosen was their most popular flavor, and surely if the majority of their customers liked it, then the problem must be me. Then she tells me she’ll take my coffee back, but that there’s nothing wrong with it. So go ahead, try the other one, she tells me. I hand her two bucks and tell her that I’ll pay for what I took from her, because I feel bad about taking their coffee, but that I’ll find my coffee elsewhere.

I wasn’t going to let her be the bigger person, I gave her my money and was content leaving the store not holding her coffee. My sister looked at me like I was a complete moron, but I don’t care.

To her I was an uptight New Yorker, I know in my heart of hearts that I’m a poor, paycheck-to-paycheck musician… but my money’s green nonetheless, and there’s something to be said for customer service. I know what my financial situation is on a day-to-day basis, and I still believe strongly in the power of consumerism. What I choose to pay for is a very powerful way of supporting an organization, and if I have three bucks in my wallet and you give me shitty service I’m gonna take my three bucks down the road….Cuz, If you assume I’m a yuppy and I want yuppy coffee, I guess I should live up to the stereotype and go find my Bucks, right??