I have a soft spot for Starbucks. I know what you’re thinking. Starbucks? She’s a cog in the corporate machine! A betrayer of local cafes! Shun! I am aware plenty of people are averse to Starbucks, but let me take a couple minutes to explain myself.
I come from a small city in Louisiana, and it took forever for us to get our first Starbucks. It was an event, the entire city waiting on the edge of its seat for the grand opening. And when it did, it changed everything. You’ve got drip coffee, iced coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, teas, pastries, and of course, who can forget the frappuccino? So much variety, and for people who were used to only drinking coffee at home or in the office, it was exciting to say the least.
The first independent coffee shop in my hometown did not open until I was in college, and it currently remains unchallenged in that arena. The only other coffee option is Dunkin Donuts, which surprisingly just opened last year. So as you can see, my options were limited. It was either my mom’s Folgers or something down the street from Starbucks.
When I moved to DC for grad school, I continued frequenting Starbucks. First, there was one on campus. Second, I had my rewards card on my phone that would automatically reload, so I would trick myself into thinking I was really getting free coffee. Third, they’re everywhere!
During my last semester of grad school I needed to find a part-time job, as we all know DC is not a cheap place to live, and my internship had just ended. So where do I go for part-time work? That’s right, the ‘Bucks (I actually say this).
I learned a lot about coffee during my time there. I learned how to perform a pour-over and French press. I learned that the country of origin can really define the flavor of the coffee. I learned how to make cold brew and what makes it different from your average iced coffee. And I learned that I absolutely despise Frappuccino Happy Hour. So like I said, I learned a lot, but more importantly I made some incredible friends who I never would have met had it not been for that experience.
Having come into this independent, support local, specialty coffee scene over the past year, I’ve grown almost ashamed of my Starbucks past, feeling like a poser. After speaking with several people who are prominent in the DC coffee scene, however, I’ve learned that they too got their start working for the ‘Bucks. Now these former Starbucks baristas are operating and owning coffee shops! You cannot deny the impact this corporation has had on coffee culture, and like it or not, that deserves recognition.
Starbucks will always have a special place in my heart. It holds so many memories- study sessions, gossip sessions, and friendships formed. It provided the foundation for my coffee love (some might say addiction). And when I go home, it is almost always where my friends and I go for coffee dates, because sometimes, underneath all that nostalgia, I’m just really craving an iced caramel macchiato with my breakfast sandwich.