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Monday, February 07, 2005
Looking for Caffeine in All the Wrong Starbucks
I’m not gonna harp on Starbucks just for being a monolithic corporate-coffee conglomerate because I hate large corporations and the fact that they plan to open about a dozen free-standing stores here in Tallahassee in the next year or so. Because, y’know, you can count on Starbucks for a quality drink every time.

Or so I thought.

Until recently, my friend owned and operated a coffee shop, so I’m pretty sensitive to the plight of non-chain coffee shops vs. the (Java) Man. I don’t order espresso drinks all the time because of the heartburn and intestinal urgency that they provoke but, when I do, I try to frequent non-chain places. If they’re convenient, of course.

And, of course, non-chain coffee establishments are very hit-or-miss when it comes to quality and consistency. You’ll always know one or two baristas who will deliver good drinks and one or two who won’t. Apparently, it says a lot of about me that I’m not one of those (Type A) people who stands at the counter and watches the barista make the drink and point out what he or she is doing wrong. (No, apparently, I’d rather get shitty drinks and passive-aggressively write about it on my weblog.)

We were in Atlanta over the weekend, and I had the opportunity to visit a couple of the omnipresent Starbucks in the area with Mia and Miss JAB while Michelle was thrifting. The first was on Pleasant Hill. I ordered a brevé mocha and a piece of pumpkin loaf (to share with Mia), while Miss JAB ordered a chai latte. Her drink was fine, while mine had that burnt, shots-left-sitting-too-long taste . . . something I’d never gotten at a Starbucks (not even the one at our local Target’s “food court”).

The next day, we went to one in the Indian Trail area. Same drinks (except I went for vanilla rather than brevé) and we added a banana nut muffin. It wasn’t a good sign that the woman ringing us up was telling the barista heating temperatures for the various drinks she was working on. This time, my drink was (just) okay, but Miss JAB said that hers tasted like “warm milk.” She went to complain and, instead of receiving a new drink, had hers reheated and more chai spice added, with the barista giving it back to her as an “extra spicy non-fat chai latte.” Miss JAB said it tasted almost normal.

I’m sure Mrs. Dayment can shed a Starbucks employee-manual’s worth of knowledge on the subject, but I just wish that when my desire for frothy, caffeine-fueled goodness propels me to a café, I get a drink worth my $4 (plus tip). I realize there’s an art to it. Maybe I just need to do an in-depth survey / exposé . . . a la The Plug. Hmmm . . .

In other news, the Super Bowl was somewhat less stellar than it should have been (when I’d been hoping the Steelers might somehow be invited to play anyway, because aren’t we ALL just a little sick of the Patriots?), and the commercials were very much less than stellar. Everyone’s blathering about Paul McCartney rescuing our collective dignity, but I’d take a boob flash over his halftime show (ours was a Baby Einstein video before we put Mia to bed). And, apparently, if you’re a five-time Grammy winner, you can get up from playing your piano during the national anthem and your piano will continue on without you. Now that is talent, my friends. Someone alert Norah Jones!