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Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture

1 rating: 5.0
2007 non-fiction book by Taylor Clark

Part Fast Food Nation, part Bobos in Paradise, STARBUCKED combines investigative heft with witty cultural observation in telling the story of how the coffeehouse movement changed our everyday lives, from our evolving neighborhoods and workplaces to the … see full wiki

Author: Taylor Clark
Genre: Hospitality, Travel & Tourism, Strategy & Competition, Shopping & Commerce, Business & Finance, Social Sciences, Popular Culture
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Date Published: November 10, 2008
1 review about Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine,...

The rise of Starbucks and the economics of coffee.

  • Feb 26, 2009
Rating:
+5
Let me start by saying that I have been in a Starbucks exactly twice in my life.  The first time was perhaps a decade ago.  My wife and I glanced at the price list and did an abrupt about-face.  The only other time was 3 or 4 years ago and Starbucks was the only available option.  We had a muffin and coffee and frankly were not all that impressed.  Prior to reading "Starbucked:  A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture" if you asked me what a barista was I might have guessed that it was some kind of opera singer.  Still, when I came across Taylor Clark's "Starbucked" it piqued my curiosity.  I wanted to find out what all the hubbub was about.

"Starbucked:  A  Double Tall Tale of Caffeine. Commerce and Culture" chronicles the remarkable ascension of Starbucks into one of the three most recognized brands in the world. Clark offers a brief history of coffee and introduces us to some of the pioneers of American coffee houses like Albert Peet (Peet's Coffee and Tea, Berkeley, CA) who were absolutely convinced as long ago as the mid-1960's that Americans would ultmately ditch their inferior canned coffee and pay a premium price for a product that was far superior.   The very first Starbucks opened for business in Seattle way back in 1971.  The primary focus of the original owners of Starbucks was to sell high quality coffee by the pound, certainly a far cry from what Starbucks has evolved into today.   Perhaps the defining moment in the history of Starbucks was when the company was acquired by Howard Shultz in June of 1987.  A few years earlier while travelling in Milan, Italy Shultz had seen first hand the rousing success of the coffee houses there and was sure that espresso  and other coffee beverages would be a hit in America as well.  He would prove to be the right man at the right time.  Shultz was a visionary who truly believed that Starbucks would become a  national phenomenon.  He envisioned a chain with upwards of 40,000 locations worldwide!

But as you might expect, not everyone shares Howard Shultz's enthusiasm for Starbucks.  In "Starbucked" Taylor Clark discusses the economics of the coffee business.  It is certainly quite disconcerting when you discover that poor Third World farmers receive something like 0.41/lb. for their premium beans.  Seems there is a glut of coffee on the world market that serves to depress the price to those who painstakingly grow it.  Clark also discusses the difference between the rich "arabica" coffee that is grown in Africa and South America and the cheap  "robusta" variety that has been introduced into countries like Vietman.  It is the cheaper "robusta' variety that turns up in most canned coffee and serves to depress the price for all coffee.  The sad truth is that no one has been able to figure out a way to ensure that most coffee growers get a fair price for their crop.   The Fair Trade movement has helped some but only 2% of growers are involved in this program.   There are others who are none too pleased with the rise of Starbucks.   In many communities, leaders fear that Starbucks and other chain stores will displace poor residents in a process known as gentrfication.   Sure, the neighborhood may look better but where are people to live?  Finally, a growing cadre of disgruntled former Starbucks employees accuse the company of "unfair"  labor practices.   Clark spends a bit of time discussing their complaints as well.

Since "Starbucked:  A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture" was first published in late 2007 some things have obviously changed.  The economy has hit the skids and Starbucks has actually announced plans to close hundreds of locations.  But the prognosis for Starbucks in the long term is still very positive.  Why?   Many years ago,  when Starbucks commissioned  a market research company to help explain just what customers were looking for Starbucks discovered a remarkable thing.  Customers were not only interested in great coffee beverages.  They also were longing  for a comfortable "third place" where they could hang out, mingle, do a little work on their laptop or relax.  I can totally relate.  Although Starbucks is not my personal choice I frequent a local bagel shop for much the same reason.   People need venues to reconnect with each other and these places are valued quite highly by many of us.  All in all, I totally enjoyed "Starbucked".   This is Taylor Clark's very first book and it is a dandy.  I learned an awful lot.    Very highly recommended!
Starbucks 1 Starbucks 2

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July 23, 2009
I must write a review of what happened to me at Starbucks recently. I'm sure Starbucks won't appreciate it, but it's the reason that I have not returned to Starbucks in several months and will not patrionize them them in the future. Good review, and yes, people definitely need a place where they can hang out and have a sense of community.
 
April 13, 2009
Ageed DesignDude. I have always given Starbucks credit for such foresight. They truly made spending $5 on coffee cool.
 
March 08, 2009
I love that you've only been to a Starbucks twice. You're right, it really is too expensive considering what you get. W/ the recession, it's much more worth it just to make your own latte (make drip coffee, add milk!).
 
March 06, 2009
For a few years, I lived in the North End, which is the Italian section of Boston. Starbucks wanted to open a coffee shop there, but the local owners of authentic Italian coffee houses would not allow it. You don't mess with them, if you get my drift. Here in Breckenridge, CO, the locals leave Starbucks to the tourists, and drink their morning coffee at Clint's When I travel, I always look for the independent coffee houses.
 
March 04, 2009
As a youngster brought up in the Starbucks world, I can relate to the statement that you don't go to Starbucks for the coffee, except maybe a desert frappucino, but as a place to study, read a book, meet a friend, etc. It's even a good place for an inexpensive first date. Get this: There is a Starbucks a few blocks from the great palace the Hofberg in Vienna, Austria. When will Starbucks stop its rampage??? :P
 
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