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Jason Holliston
Wednesday, April 06, 2005  
Starbucks Hate

I'll admit it: I don't get it. Where does all this hate of Starbucks come from? A little background before I get into why I'm posting this. I love coffee. I'm fortunate enough to have grown up in the Pacific Northwest, and ever since probably about 21 years old (early 90's, thank you very much), I have been buying my coffee whole bean, and grinding it myself. I remember the first time I bought a Starbucks coffee -- in high school, at their first franchise in Portland, in Pioneer Square. I've had a lot of coffee at other chains (Coffee People, Seattle's Best, etc.) and the Independents. Not only independent coffee houses that buy their beans from larger companies, like K&F, but also ones that roast their own beans. I've worked as a barista at both Coffee People and Starbucks, when I was in my early 20's. So, I consider myself a fairly experienced person in the world of good coffee.

I ran across this, at one of my favorite technology blogs, Lifehacker:

The Delocator finds independent (read: non-Starbucks) local cafe?s based on zip code.

Why? The site reads, ?independently owned caf├ęs around the world are under aggressive attack; and their numbers have been sharply decreasing for many years. is a means to preserve these local businesses.?

The results near me in Brooklyn are so-so; the good news is anyone can add cafe information to support their local businesses.

Honestly, I don't get it. If you don't like the coffee as much as another place, cool. If you don't like how they decorate their shops, I have no problem. But really? The independents are under "aggressive attack"? Please, fill me in, because I don't see it. Throughout the rise of the Starbucks corporate powerhouse, I've found that more and more independents have been popping up. It seems every month I hear about some new cool place that has free wi-fi (unlike Starbucks), much more eclectic decor, and oh yeah, pretty darn good bean. I visit them occasionally, and enjoy a vast majority of them.

Once in a while, I go on business trips of vacations to places like New Hampshire, Orlando, Texas, and Las Vegas. Ten years ago, visiting any of these destinations would have forced me to drink Folgers. No more. Not only is there almost always a Starbucks nearby to give me consistently good coffee, but if you look around a bit, you can usually find an independent to hang out at and get hopped up. Do you think this is coincidence? Do you think that without a major corporate chain forcing themselves into neighborhoods that recently couldn't care less about where their coffee was from and how it tasted, these other places would have appeared magically? My suspicions are a resounding no. Starbucks goes in, creates the market, and other astute business people grab the money jetstream, filling a market that Starbucks can't, but at the same time beholden to them for creating it in the first place.

I've love to hear about one independent that made great coffee that went under because the mean, evil Starbucks set up shop nearby. I haven't heard of one. Until I do, I'll consider all this talk about "aggressive attack" as reactionary blather: talk from people that just have to find something to be mad about.

And by the way, Starbucks does make a fine cup 'o joe.

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