Today we listed the ten worst things that Starbucks has given us in its 40-year history, sparking lots of ranting about the evil coffee empire and all it implies about the world. Though a lone voice did break through the din and bring a message of positivity.
I'm probably not the guy to defend Starbucks, hell, I usually make a pot of Safeway coffee and keep it in the fridge, and I find myself in a Starbucks just a few times a year, but here goes:
I get tired of the trendy, hipster attitude of putting down Starbucks, as if pre-Starbucks America was filled with lovely, independent, caring coffee shops that were forced out by this evil, corporate titan. It was not. In fact, "coffee shop" was a synonym for an awful, greasy spoon that you wouldn't go near, relic diners that were far from charming (but of course now we miss them).
Really, before Starbucks there were few places you would actually go to just sit. You met people for lunch or a drink, but "meeting for coffee" was something that happened in old movies and Europe. In many ways, Starbucks trained Americans to think differently, to care more (and yes, pay more) for that black tonic you were tossing down your throat each day, often made in a crusty, petrie dish of a pot surrounded by sugar packets and non-dairy creamer in a crummy break room.
Starbucks encouraged people to sit, taste and enjoy. They didn't chase you away once your drink was empty. They put chairs outside, and people slowly began using them (even in winter, like those crazy Europeans!). Because of Starbucks (not in spite of) America became a coffee culture. People started demanding better coffee at home and the office and learned a little more about brewing. New, alternative coffee shops opened up, attracting people allergic to the word "chain." Restaurants and bookstores (some also chains) let people linger longer, and added more year-round outdoor seating. People started to think more about how they lived, what they were eating and drinking, and America became more of a food culture as well.
Is Starbucks corporate and whitewashed? A silly, plasticky American version of a European lifestyle that's been around forever? Definitely. This is America, if quaint makes money we mass produce quaint. But really, Starbucks is responsible for making this country—our beautiful America with its huge TVs, NASCAR t-shirts and shoot first attitude—a little more sophisticated.