Why Starbucks is Okay

This morning I tried the Crème Brûlée Macchiato at the Starbucks on Cornmarket Street. It was delicious.

Now some people – a lot of people – don’t like Starbucks because it’s a chain and it’s Taking Over the World and running personalized local coffee shops out of business. I don’t know how much truth there is in the latter parts, but yes, it is a chain, and yes, to a certain extent, it lacks uniqueness. There’s something weird about going into a Starbucks anywhere in the world and seeing the same menu and the same pastries and coffee cups for sale.

But there’s also comfort in consistency. Whenever I see that green Starbucks logo outside, I am guaranteed pretty much the same experience regardless of location. The first Starbucks that was memorable to me was the one on the Corner in Charlottesville. We stopped there on our weekend trip during SEP (Summer Enrichment Program! I attended 2002-2005) pretty much every year. When I went to Oxford over the summer for the first time, my friends and I would go to the Starbucks (the one I was in today in fact) because it was open early in the morning. When I went to Boston on the weekends I would have a mint mocha chip fappachino at the Starbucks by NEC (New England Conservatory!) or at the Barnes & Noble at the Pru. In both Chicago and San Francisco I remember being starving by breakfast time, and knowing that I would be guaranteed delicious vanilla scones at the Starbucks round the corner made my mornings that much happier.

Whenever I enter a Starbucks, I feel slightly guilty about choosing a chain over a local establishment. The ethics of Starbucks is pretty commendable though – they make an effort to reduce the amount of plastic they use, and sell several kinds of Fair Trade coffees. There is a whole section on their website on Responsibility, and that’s cool. But that’s not why I go. I go to remind me of home when I’m here or to remind me of here when I’m home, for the nostalgia of all the memorable trips, accessible in pretty much any city I’m visiting. Sure, for the most part I’ll be at a local café, because Oxford there are so many charming ones to try. I don’t drink coffee that often, so it’s more a matter of ambiance for me, a place to sit and read a book or chat with people. And sometimes the ambiance I seek is that of Memory Lane. I’ll step inside, since it’s right there, and say hey Starbucks, you’re okay. [not out loud though. Usually.]

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