Of course, their early, scrappycool coffee-culture vibe (circa, say, 1996) is long dead. It is not news that Starbucks' coffee is now invariably horrible, the overall quality shot to hell at the expense of absurd, outrageous growth, all made cruelly plain to me yet again by way of the last few times I was forced to purchase a coffee-like drink from them, each time in desperation when driving numbly up/down Interstate 5 and having no other options and each time hoping it might be different, merely praying for a passable soy mocha and every time taking two or three sips and gagging and pouring the thing out on the sidewalk, thus wasting upward of $49 and wishing Peet's was a more ubiquitous chain but also understanding that were Peet's to expand the way Starbucks has they would become exactly as atrocious and tasteless and cheesy and dumbed down and tacky and useless and annoying and forgettable and loathsome and tired and depressing as Starbucks. And no one wants that.Morford manages to make me laugh, feel nostalgic for driving I-5, think about Portland's amazing local coffee shops, and feel defensive about Starbucks all at the same time.
I remember the Starbucks at SE 37th and Hawthorne back in the early '90s, before it expanded. The crew there really did know everyone by what we drank, and they seemed to believe that entertaining the people in line was part of their job.
Morford should try leaving I-5 to head west through Oregon's Coast Range towards the Pacific — where the only option is coffee from a bait shop in some gorgeous, green, run-down and rainy place like Hebo, Beaver, or Grande Ronde, where the locals think coffee is supposed to taste like boiled shoes. With synthetic creamer if you like. Now that's unforgettable. When you're truly far from civilization, Starbucks is a relief. Even the Starbucks at that truck stop on the endless reach of I-70 just west of Kansas, where the barrista looks confused by the idea of half-caf, and she hands you your coffee surrounded by the ambiance of hot dogs on a stick, gasoline, cigarettes, Twinkies, and trinkets for the kids.
I just wish I hadn't let my broker talk me into selling my Starbucks stock lo so many years ago. 11,000 stores today. With healthcare for their employees. And reliably good coffee. Yes it is.