Newest Review: ... a Latte, a Cappiccino, a Macchiato, a Frappuccino or one of many other drinks that Starbucks does all in a range of flavours, with or with... more
Do Believe the Hype, But Not Too Much.
Member Name: OfGod
Advantages: The atmosphere, the ethics, the creativity, the aprons.
Disadvantages: An inferior flavour to certain other coffee chains.
Starbucks are one of the 'big three' coffee chains active in the UK, the others being Costa and Caffe Nero. Whilst the other two offer variations on the traditional Italian theme, Starbucks is unashamedly American about everything other than the names of the coffee they offer. Even the sizes are American. What is it about Starbucks which makes it a coffee shop everyone returns to?
-- Ambience --
Starbucks coffee shops are invariably relaxed, with contemporary but chilled music interspersed with some old-school jazz. Their consistent and creative pursuit of social justice (for example the Starbucks Love Project, which brought together musicians from 156 different countries in a musical collage of 'All You Need is Love' by the Beatles, in order to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa), and opening themselves up for charity events in the evenings helps create a bohemian environment. Of course there are the sofas and wireless connection points which mean you can go in and study, send emails and write Dooyoo reviews in comfort.
-- Brand --
The Starbucks brand is appealing. From the thick white takeaway cups emblazoned with the Starbucks siren to the simple green and black aprons worn by the staff, the designs are well conceived and memorable. I find it very pleasing to sit down in a lecture with a generous size takeaway cup from Starbucks, even though in my head I know it's only a picture and two words.
-- Coffee --
Surely the most important aspect of any coffee shop is the coffee. Starbucks offers the basic cups you will find anywhere - Americano, Mocha, Cappuccino, Latte... but perhaps make more of a profit on their (in)famous trademark Frappuccino line. Available with a coffee, creme or juice base, there are enough varieties of heart-attack inducing sugar to satisfy most tastes. Being a coffee snob, these are not up my street...
The filter coffee is a bargain, coming in at around £1.60 for a 'tall'. With a free refill, this is my normal beverage of choice. It is sometimes risky, as the coffee can be stewed or burnt more easily than the espresso-based drinks, but this does not usually happen.
As far as the previously mentioned espresso-based drinks go, I would not say they are up to the level of Caffe Nero, but are an improvement on Costa. Caffe Nero stormed the customer satisfaction charts in the recent Allegra Consumer Report results, and Starbucks only trumped Costa on atmosphere. The report is available online. As far as the drinks themselves go, the espresso and the Americano are good quality, but for the price you may as well buy a simple filter coffee. Mocha and Cappuccino are two drinks I do not indulge in, so I will have to refrain from comment on those.
A recent addition to the Starbucks coffee line is Starbucks VIA, a new form of instant coffee. This coffee is microground (I presume that means ground really really small) instead of only freeze-dried, and to my surprise, actually tastes a lot better than Nescafe or Douwe Egberts or any other instant coffee I have tasted. It has to be said that it does not live up to the standards of filter, cafetiere or espresso-machine coffee, but it is definitely worth the £4.45 you pay for a box of 12 sachets, if you will be in too much of a hurry to brew your own coffee or wait in line at your local coffee shop.
-- Summary --
Overall, I would recommend Starbucks only if you do not have a Caffe Nero handy. The only thing which Starbucks beats Nero on is ambience, in my humble opinion. To leave you with an encouraging quote from a leading US pastor -
"Seattle has unleashed this weird phenomenon upon the world, called the coffee shop. The coffee shop, thanks to Starbucks, is the place where socially isolated, lonely, needy people gather together to ignore one another."
Summary: Not amazing if you like coffee, probably better if you like a mixture of cream, sugar and cream.