Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Starbucks, we hardly knew ya...

Today, Starbucks announced that it would be closing 61 of its 85 Australian locations in an effort to boost profits and shed under performing outlets. That's 71% of their Australian stores to be closed within days. Why am I sharing this little tidbit with you? To make the following point, Australians take their coffee very seriously and Starbucks simply doesn't cut it.

Coffee is a very large part of the Australian cafe culture. Nearly every restaurant or cafe here in Australia serves coffee made with an espresso machine. That means that you don't need to go to a special coffee outlet to get your Cafe Latte. Most any typical Australian cafe would have more ambiance and atmosphere than the cookie cutter feel of a Starbucks outlet. I've only visited Starbucks one time here in Melbourne and that was because it was literally the only shop open where we were at the time. Otherwise, I can guarantee you, the Handsome Australian would cross the street and walk in the opposite direction if given any other options.

That's right, there is no love lost between the Handsome Australian and Starbucks. Theirs is a love-hate relationship. The Handsome Australian loves coffee, but he hates the way they make it at Starbucks. How does he know how it's made there if we don't patronise their stores? Well, each year I drag the Handsome Australian back to the homeland--my homeland that is--and he is subjected to Starbucks because there are only a handful of other places to get an espresso coffee in the parts of the USA we seem to visit.

Starbucks simply can't be avoided in the USA. It seems like there is literally one on every corner. (Perhaps less true now as the same article announcing the Starbucks closures in Australia also mentioned the company had recently chosen to close 600 under performing US locations...I'm guessing there is still a bloody lot of them though). It was the Handsome Australian's American holiday pastime to find a Starbucks that could actually produce a coffee he would deem drinkable.

The main problem the Handsome Australian has with the Starbucks coffees is the size. The smallest size at Starbucks, which I think is tall is approximately double the size of a coffee cup here in Australia. So it would seem as if you are having two coffees at one time just by ordering the tall size. The Handsome Australian loves coffee though so a double serve wouldn't be a bad thing except for the fact that while the tall coffee at Starbucks is twice the volume of a regular Australian coffee, both contain the same amount of espresso. This means that the Starbucks coffee makes up the rest of the tall cup with warm milk. What does this mean? It means a weaker coffee and a very cranky Handsome Australian.

During our last visit to the USA, the Handsome Australian tried endlessly to get the nice folks at about a 100 different Starbucks locations to prepare his coffee the way he likes it. After about 99 failed attempts he finally came up with a winning combination. The problem with the winning combination is it requires the Handsome Australian to explain the process step by step to the barista amid confused looks and dazed expressions.

So what's the secret combination? The Handsome Australian advises to get a drinkable coffee at a Starbucks outlet you must ask for a Cafe Latte with a double shot of espresso served in the espresso cup. The espresso cup is smaller than the tall cup. So this means there is more coffee and less milk. A nice strong coffee, just the way he likes it. Well sort of...he still prefers the standard Australian version.

What can I say? You can take the Handsome one out of Australia, but you can't take Australia out of the Handsome one.


ibbabs97 said...

If I buy an espresso machine will you come to the homeland more often

Annelise said...

hahahahaha! I NEVER thought you would speak of The Handsome Australian, coffee and America again! IT WAS A DEBACLE in Coppell!
Forget ordering a babyciano (sp?)...that may be asking too much. ;)

Anonymous said...

Did you know that a Starbucks opened in Buenos Aires in Alto Palermo? I was so ticked off.

The line was blocks long for a while, with twentysomethings buying $10 pesos worth of coffee. I think the novelty has worn off. At least, I hope. I've refused to even try it when I can get a kick ass cafe con leche for $5 pesos at a local joint.

suzinoz said...

stilllifeinbuenosaires- I did know about the Starbucks opening in Palermo. I had a friend traveling in BsAs during that time and he was telling me about it. I can't imagine going there in BsAs when as you said, there are so many other great local cafes at half the price.

The same thing happened here when they opened a few Krispy Creme donut shops. People were queuing for hours just to spend stacks of money on a dozen donuts. It was bizarre.