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Star coffee for a lot of Bucks
Member Name: H-Cat
Advantages: Wonderful tasting drinks, wide variety, nice surroundings, helpful staff, ethical traders
Disadvantages: Very expensive
Starbucks is a coffee shop chain which seems to have taken over the world in the last few years. Virtually everyone has heard of it and the majority have been to a Starbucks at some point. I'm no different, as I love to have the occasional drink from Starbucks, and as there are around 7 in the centre of the city I live in (Glasgow) they are pretty hard to avoid. So why have they become so popular?
Starbucks shops vary widely in size, layout and so on. Some of them are fairly large - the one I usually go to has 2 floors and lots of tables, and bathroom facilities for when you drink a little bit too much coffee. However, some shops are much smaller and only have a few tables, and some Starbucks' come in the form of a stall in train stations etc. The shops always have a very nice, welcoming feel to them. There are usually a mixture of wooden chairs, barstools, armchairs and sofas so you have a choice of seating (depending on how busy it is of course.) There is usually artwork on the walls and plants etc so the surroundings are attractive and the shops are well decorated. Background music is usually played, and it tends to be unobtrusive music such as soft jazz/arty sounding type stuff which is kept at a low level so even if it's not your cup of tea (no pun intended) it's easy enough to block it out.
In my experience the staff are usually very helpful and polite but obviously as they're people I can't make a general statement about the personalities of all Starbucks staff. I do however think they are well trained by the company, as they always make a great tasting drink and work quickly and efficiently. There is usually at least one member of staff tidying up tables so it's rare that you'll see a vacant table with the previous customers' empty mugs etc on it. On one occasion I ordered my drink and walked to the end of the bar to wait to collect it, and after around ten minutes it hadn't arrived. I asked the girl making the drinks if my drink would be ready soon, and she admitted that it had been forgotten about. She was very apologetic and proceeded to give me a voucher that would let me get my next drink for free. This was very unexpected as I'd accepted her apology right away, but obviously I wasn't complaining about getting a free drink. It goes to show that despite being such a big company they still value customer satisfaction, which is always important in any shopping experience.
Stabucks have a massive range of drinks and have something to appeal to virtually every taste. Just some of the choices on their menu include caffe latte, espresso, mocha, tea, hot chocolate, and frappuccinos. There are 3 sizes of drink to choose from - tall, grande and venti - that's small, medium and large to those of you who aren't coffee snobs. Each type of drink has several different flavours available - so for example if you want a hot chocolate, as well as having regular hot chocolate they have caramel and hazelnut flavoured hot chocolate - which, trust me, is a lot nicer than it might sound. I particularly like frappuccinos, which are basically crushed iced drinks. These have the widest range of flavours, from coffee varieties to fruity ones like peach and pomegranate or something like that. Their iced coffees are definitely a cut above the rest - in Costa Coffee I once ordered their iced coffee naively believing it would be similar to a frappuccino. Sadly this wasn't the case and it was rather disgusting. Not to turn this into a negative review of Costa, but as Costa probably are Starbucks' biggest rival I have to say that Costa can't hold a candle to Starbucks on terms of quality. After the disgusting iced coffee incident, I was in Costa again and this time ordered a hot chocolate - and again it was nowhere near the standard of the hot chocolate in Starbucks, and tasted quite bland. As well as drinks, Starbucks also offer a selection of food, including sandwiches; wraps; a wide selection of cakes such as muffins, scones and cheesecake; and even porridge if you fancy having your breakfast there. If you buy a sandwich, the staff will kindly heat it up for you, which is a nice bonus.
Ok... you knew it was coming. Obviously, no place would be this good without having a major drawback, and no Starbucks review would be complete without mentioning the price. The prices are, to put it bluntly, extortionate. Especially considering a large percentage of Starbucks' most frequent customers are students, who are famously strapped for cash, the prices are ridiculous. As far as I'm aware, nothing on the drinks menu is below £2.50, and this is only for the simpler drinks in the smallest size. If you have one of the more unique concoctions and order the largest size, you're looking at spending around the £4 mark on one drink. And the food prices aren't any better - in fact, they're worse. One slice of cake will set you back around £1.50, sometimes even more. As you can probably pop into your local supermarket and buy a whole cake for around this price, it's obviously not that great for people on a budget. The quality of the food and drink is excellent, as I have stated, but I'm not sure any amount of quality could warrant paying anywhere near £2 for one slice of cake. There are ways to save money in Starbucks, however. There is some sort of membership card which allows you to put money on your card and then spend it in any Starbucks store, kind of like a coffee-specific debit card. Users of this card can enjoy a rewards scheme, which I believe lets you get the occasional freebie after spending a certain amount, however I'm not very well informed about the Starbucks card so if it sounds interesting to you you might want to look it up to learn more. With Starbucks' prices being what they are, any way to save money in there can't hurt.
To those kind-hearted souls who are worried about the welfare of people in developing countries, you'll be glad to hear that Starbucks puts a lot of emphasis on its ethical trading. Sadly, again I'm not too clued up on this aspect of the company, but I know they strive to provide their farmers etc with the best possible working conditions and pay, which is a far cry from the way some big international companies treat their workers. This trading scheme is no doubt part of the reason Starbucks' prices are so high, so at least it can be said that paying exuberant prices for coffee and cake is benefiting someone less fortunate than ourselves. Another advantage is that Starbucks now sells the coffee beans they use in bags, so you can buy a bag of their coffee and enjoy the Starbucks coffee taste in the comfort of your own home. Some shops even sell their mugs, so if you're a real Starbucks nut, you can really recreate the experience of visiting a Starbucks store.
Starbucks obviously gained its incredible popularity from something, and the something is mainly the fact that it makes amazing drinks, which are provided in a clean, comfortable environment. If you haven't ever been to Starbucks - and it's unlikely that you haven't - I really suggest that you try it at least once, because the quality of the drinks really is outstanding. Just try not to become too addicted to it, as visiting Starbucks too often will burn a hole in your pocket pretty quickly.
Summary: Expensive but worth it