Coffee Conversation

February 8, 2007 at 10:52 pm (Pop thoughts)

Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water. ~The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, 1674

Coffee and Blogs, a match made in heaven.

Gentlemen and Ladies, I give you a coffee conversation.

It has been stated by not a few visitors to my den that Starbucks provides the best coffee for their money. This type of statement, in my opinion, is an example of the worst type of plague. It is a plague that infects the brains of nearly every man woman and child on the American continent. The plague of marketing.

We believe Starbucks is the best because we have been told it is the best. Who told us this? Everybody! But who told everybody? Didn’t somebody at some point have to tell somebody else before anybody found out and started telling everybody else to tell you to tell anyone?


BUT it wasn’t until we tried it that we actually agreed with it. Right?


Here is how you can know for sure that it wasn’t your initial experience with Starbucks that made you believe it’s taste was superior to others. Two questions

1. What was the first drink you had at Starbucks?

2. How often do you drink Starbucks?

Those two questions will tell you the reason why you like SB so much. If your first few experiences were with straight up Black Coffee in a mug then perhaps you really do prefer the taste of SB. But I am willing to bet this is not the case. In fact I suspect most people started experimenting with the crappucinos and nonfatsugarfreeextracarmelsoymochamachiattos. These first few moments were extremely influential in convincing you of the superiority of their business.

Likewise if you drink SB on a regular basis then of course you will prefer it’s taste to any other. I give the example of my friend who claims he prefers the taste of tap water to bottled water or the case of my out of town relative who preferred the taste of Burger King french fries to In-N-Out. They aren’t necessarily lying, they just are so accustomed to something of lesser quality that they are convinced it tastes better.

But SB does one better on us. They charge us more then any other coffee place so that we believe their coffee to be of the finest and highest quality. Quick question. How does this make any sense? Wouldn’t the highest quality also be the rarest? Such is the case with the infamous Kopi Luwak coffee. That Cat Poop coffee sells for 30 bucks a cup. YIKES! It must be the best because it cost the most right? At least cat poop coffee really is rare. SB coffee obviously is the most plentiful coffee on earth since there are more Starbucks then there are Taco Bells (Why doesn’t anyone claim TB has the best Taco’s on earth? Because they only cost .89 cents!)

This is the crux of my argument against SB quality. How can it possibly be “the best cup of coffee in the world” if it’s so dang plentiful? They try to mask how plentiful it is by jacking up the prices to make you think they are gourmet ( purporting to involve high-quality or exotic ingredients and skilled preparation). They cannot be “exotic” if they are on every street corner.

They began this illusion by listing the name of the “barista” during that shift. (Evidently “barista” is french for “3 dollars more than minimum wage”). Ironically they’ve suckered the populace so much that they have given up on this ruse. The last time I was in a SB I saw the sign said, “your Barista is: A highly trained professionall“. They aren’t even bothering to write down the folks names anymore!

I stopped drinking SB when they came out and said they were raising their prices because the price of sugar and milk had gone up. This bothered me because I drink my coffee black, as should EVERYBODY if it’s so good. But clearly hardly anyone does if the cost of sugar and milk (two things you have to put into bad coffee) was going to drive up their prices. Now I know their price gouging had nothing to do with the price of sugar and milk but rather with what they know they can get away with, but it was enough to make me quit.

I still love coffee and will drink it from pretty much anywhere. I’ve had some really bad stuff and some really good stuff, but as the danish proverb says, “coffee has two qualities, it is hot and it is wet”. I think i’ll save my money for something with more qualities then that.



  1. itsasecret2u said,

    You mean like wine?

    Whoa, just kidding. I’ll have to think up a crushing reply to this SB thing later…

  2. Matt S said,

    This is capitalism at its finest. Go live in Canada if you want uniformity. They are charging a price the consumer is willing to pay, this is no different than any other business in America.

    Go back to when the original Starbucks opened. I know this is hard because they have a million of them now. That original coffee house had to serve something the public liked at a price the public was willing to pay. The only way they were ever able to expand is because they did this.

    So either the coffee has and always will be good and the public wll continue to buy it, or it was good originally and now they have lost the touch but they have been able to create so much brand equity that taste matters less.

    All this from a non coffee drinker

  3. danielbalc said,

    It is capitalism at its finest.
    I agree. (I am not anti capitalist, I am not saying we should prohibit SB)
    It is the publics willingness to pay.
    The public is foolish for this. I refuse to be that sheep buying the lies “our coffee is the best” “you love our coffee” “you need our coffee” “It’s got electrolytes; it’s got what plants crave!”

    I’m not saying it’s not good. It’s fine. In fact it has 3 times as much caffeine as most coffee’s. I’m saying it’s not worth the money you spend on it and you only spend that money because you think it’s “better”.

  4. danielbalc said,

    Same reason people buy aquafina.

  5. itsasecret2u said,

    Aren’t things such as taste and even quality subjective?

    I maintain that my fancy Viennese mocha tasted a lot like Starbucks’ mochas and both were INFINITELY better than the wanna-be Starbucks’ mochas in my old office building. So can’t I say that it is worth the extra $1.50 to go to Starbucks? It tastes better! I’d rather spend $3.50 on a mocha I like than $2.00 on one that is just so-so. It’s just like the name-brand argument. Some things are just worth more if they taste better.

    Maybe I don’t get it because I don’t drink black coffee. There are many other variables when you drink frou-frou drinks (quality of milk, chocolate, caramel, whatever). Presently, I am quite glad to be a girl amidst all your manly chest-beating and “I drink it like a man!” declarations. I can at least hide behind my femininity and say, “I’m a girl! Of course I like crapuccinos!”

    But I digress…

  6. danielbalc said,

    FWIW the best cup of joe I ever had was in KONA HI, It was called “peaberry” made from cherries that only have one seed in them (less than 1% of coffee cherries are like this).

    I freely admit it was the best I ever had because I thought it special and I bought the marketing. Plus the setting helped a lot as well.

  7. RubeRad said,

    I remember the first starbucks I ever had, I liked it quite a lot. I had already been taught by my college roommate (who was the restaurant reviewer for the college newspaper) that you can only tell if coffee is any good if you drink it black. He shared good, black coffee with me, and I learned to like it. So when I had my first SB, it was black. I think it was house blend, or maybe something with a tiger logo (sumatra something?), and I remember thinking “Wow, this flavor is so smooth, it’s like it has cream built in!”

    Nowadays I virtually never drink starbucks, because I’m not willing to pay the $$. Currently I have been drinking SB when I meet with guys from church before work monday mornings, but only because I got a $20 gift card for Christmas. Once that’s done, I’ll go back to Einstein’s, where I like the coffee just fine, and they have great bagels too!

    So either the coffee has and always will be good and the public wll continue to buy it, or it was good originally and now they have lost the touch but they have been able to create so much brand equity that taste matters less.

    I offer a third way. Starbucks was good originally, they’re as good now as they ever have been, but due to the bar they set, public expectations are higher, and other providers have stepped up. But SB have been able to create so much brand loyalty that people are still willing to pay more for the label.

  8. Echo_ohcE said,

    I drank it black for the first time and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My mom served it to me from her coffee pot.

    Their espresso still doesn’t impress me though, but that’s because I’ve been spoiled by this little dago espresso shop that had a pump driven espresso machine that came out so smooth and creamy it was unbelievable. I used to make my own espresso with SB Sulawesi coffee. That was out of this world.

    But their espresso and espresso drinks you get in the store – yeah, it’s all a rip off and it isn’t that impressive. Some people really like it, and maybe once a year I’ll get a latte if someone else is buying, but for the most part, I just buy their beans and make it at home, and it’s wonderful.

    For some reason, the coffee I get in the stores is not as good as what I make at home. I think they burn it.


  9. Matt S said,

    Once that’s done, I’ll go back to Einstein’s, where I like the coffee just fine, and they have great bagels too!

    How much cheaper is their coffee? And don’t you end up spending more once you add the bagel in there?

    So maybe it is better for you to go to SB so you dont have to purchase a bagel thus spending more money.

  10. Echo_ohcE said,

    Unless the bagel is breakfast, in which case he’d just buy the bagel at starbucks, or worse, coffee cake.


  11. itsasecret2u said,

    At least some Starbucks are removing trans fat-containing treats from their menu (I would wildly guess coffee cake is among these). I wonder what they will do for replacements?

  12. Echo_ohcE said,

    Oh for crying out loud.

    What’s the next scare gonna be?

    When did this country decide that people don’t have a right to pollute their bodies?


  13. Echo_ohcE said,

    I just opened pandora’s box didn’t I?

  14. Matt S said,

    When did this country decide that people don’t have a right to pollute their bodies?

    I Corinithians 3:16-17 1 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

    Your comment seems to fly in the face of what you are arguing for over on Rubes blog, no?

    God’s law not man’s law.

  15. RubeRad said,

    How much cheaper is their coffee? And don’t you end up spending more once you add the bagel in there?

    The bagel is the point! I love a good bagel. And a bagel at Einstein’s is cheaper (and better) than any muffin or scone or whatnot from SB. And the coffee is a little cheaper (Maybe $1.50 for a tall, instead of $1.85), plus you get in-store refills. And the nice thing about “fountain” coffee, you can put a splash of each variety in your cup, and taste them before you pour a full cup.

    Although I bet if you asked at SB, they would give you disposable paper sip-cups of various coffees if you wanted to decide what to buy a whole cup of. Kinda like Baskin-Robbins with their little pink spoons…

  16. Echo_ohcE said,


    Obviously I agree that our bodies are a temple, and that we ought to take good care of them. I DON’T agree that the state has ANY RIGHT WHATSOEVER to enforce this.


  17. itsasecret2u said,


    How is the state enforcing that in this case? SB is voluntarily removing their heart-disease treats. The FDA is only requiring that packaged food companies and restaurants list trans fat separately in their fat breakdown so people know what they’re eating. I think that’s fair. It had all been previously listed under “saturated fat,” but shortening and butter are two VERY different creatures, though they are both high in saturated fat. One is a man-made, molecularly-altered substance; the other is a natural product, easily processed by the liver. These two types of fats should be listed independently.

    My 2 cents…

  18. Echo_ohcE said,


    You’re right.

    When I asked when we decided in this country that people didn’t have a right to pollute their own bodies, I ceased commenting directly on this case, and began commenting on a general trend in our culture, e.g. the anti-smoking laws. The state has taken it upon itself to protect me from myself.

    I think Matt understood my point, but asserted that the Bible says that our body is a temple, and that we ought to take care of it. He’s right that the Bible says it, but that has nothing to do with what the state has the right to enforce.

    However, given this trend, various restaurants have taken it upon themselves to take this fat out of their food – who was it, Wendy’s? – voluntarily, because they know it’s the trend. So when something begins making headlines, companies, out of fear of lawsuits, take action, to gain pity when the lawsuits come, because, they will say, we took precautions against it before it was illegal.

    While I don’t have the right before God to pollute and destroy my body – because this is sin – the state has no right to enforce that. I have that right before them. In the same way, before God I don’t have the right to engage in any form of idolatry, but I do have that right before the state.

    But the state has taken it upon themselves to punish companies that make money off of me hurting myself by polluting my body, as if it’s their fault, not mine, when it’s really mine.

    So anyway, you’re quite right, but I just think our country is getting crazy.


  19. RubeRad said,

    Price check: Large (fountain) coffee at Einstein’s: $1.79. So the price is basically the same, but if you’re in-store, you can help yourself to refills.

  20. danielbalc said,

    This is coffee we are talking about right? According to this coffee calculator If I paid 1.79 for each cup of coffee I had during the year I would spend $1,342.50 in a year.

    Do the math, is Starbucks really worth it? Or Einstein for that matter? Or Coffee bean (my personal favorite)? It’s crazy!!!!!!

  21. itsasecret2u said,

    I was going to ask about Coffee Bean… I’ve never been and (since I don’t drink coffee anymore) I’ll probably never go. How does it compare to SB? It seems to be the new “it” coffee place.

  22. danielbalc said,

    Coffee bean has been in business since the 60’s and it’s a so cal based company. The so-cal part automatically draws me there. I think the product is comparable, but alas so are the prices. Coffee bean has a much better selection of teas though. And for a non-coffee hot beverage, they are the only place that sells “hot vanilla” which I happen to enjoy immensely.

  23. Matt S said,

    So what happens when they expand internationally? Are they then on the “do not buy” list?

    Lets get down to core issue here, all you SB haters are really socialists that hate big business!

  24. danielbalc said,

    That isn’t the core at all Matt. Coffee Bean is big business! The only product I get there is one that I can’t find elsewhere. My being anti SB is based entirely on the deception that you are getting a gourmet product and are thus paying gourmet prices. Call it what it is. It’s overpriced coffee. People can go ahead and buy it all they want, but they should at least acknowledge that it can’t possibly be gourmet if it’s the biggest coffee retailer in the world. it’s the walmart of coffee companies and it charges nordstroms prices. Crazy.

  25. Matt S said,

    Rube just said the price is the same as Einsteins (see post #19) so I would venture to say that coffee is alot like milk, bread, etc… price is about the same across the board if comparing apples to apples.

    SB just does a better job positioning themselves and marketing there product, thus selling more.

  26. Matt S said,

    Obviously if they did not create coffee that tastes better than 7-eleven or home-made they would not be in business. The people that buy it do so because it tastes better,. The people that dont buy it are like you, they do not think it tastes better. So if better-tasting coffee is important then you pay for it. If not, then just make it at home or work or go to 7-eleven.

  27. danielbalc said,

    Thats the bigger problem i have with SB is that it is driving up reasonable coffee companies. At home coffee will cost you less then a quarter a cup. That’s county filter, coffee, filtered (or bottled water) and power usage. They have done a fantastic job of marketing their product. I said it before and I say it again, Good for them. But here is one capitalist that they aren’t getting any more money from.
    Coffee, bread and milk aren’t apples to apples comparisons. Starbucks, Panera and Coldstone are. The biggest difference is that at Panera and Coldstone you are getting something you can’t really get at home for ten times cheaper. Starbucks you can. It’s called “brew it yourself.”

    BTW Breugers Bagels had a promotion at the beginning of the year where you buy a mug for $100 and you get unlimited refills of Coffee, soda, tea for the whole year. That’s a darn good deal, If I lived near a breugers I would have done it in a heart beat. Unfortunately the only one was way out of the way from my home.

  28. danielbalc said,

    See matt, it doesn’t taste as much better as you are saying. It may taste marginally better (pretty darn subjective), but not better then at home stuff. It’s all in people heads. Thats the sad part. They pay more because they THINK it’s better. they are just suckers.

    What people like most about it is the “high class” stigma that is attached to it. Same reason women buy louis vouiton and coach pruses. It is allegedly classier. I see it just as dumber.

  29. itsasecret2u said,

    In defense of Louis V. and Coach, I will say that there is a style element there, too. But I will admit it is mostly label (I would NEVER spend the money for either of those brands).

    And Daniel what about people like me (or me 3 years ago) who favor SB espresso drinks? I can’t make that at home. I have no espresso machine AND I have no barista at my house to put in just the right amount of steamed milk and chocolate. 😉

  30. Matt S said,

    I made the apples to apples comment to point out that price is not what coffee retailers are competing on (like bread and milk price is stable), but on taste, etc…

    Yes it is a subjective matter, but you are imprinting your subjective opinion on the masses. You do not think it tastes much better, other people do that is why they pay. It is not “in their heads” it is their opinion. It is “in your head” that it is fraudulent and that is ok, but not everyone agrees with that, thus SB is still successful even though you do not buy their coffee.

  31. danielbalc said,

    That’s true. People who don’t have espresso machines are at a bit of a loss. Now it should also be known that even though home espresso machines have been notoriously inadequate they are improving a lot. So soon that won’t be a valid excuse. Also let it be known that I am not so much opposed to people who come to SB and meet and hang out for an hour talking. Then at least you are paying to use their chairs. It’s the people who are addicted to the espresso’s that bother me the most. 4 dollars every morning for the milk, caffeine, sugar and heat? That’s more then most people will spend on gas for their cars.

  32. danielbalc said,


    And they will continue to be successful. You are right on. I want to help people out of idiocy. This may be why I am a minister as well. In fact, perhaps there is a spiritual lesson in the middle of this. Maybe it is the addictive tendencies that I am automatically drawn to fight against. BUT dang it I keep on blogging, and I the women against coffee pointed out in 1674, blogging and coffee have the same negative effects. Especially when combined.


    It’s the style that people are paying for with SB as well. Clearly I am not very stylish

  33. itsasecret2u said,

    Well, THAT’S no secret. 😉

    I’m still maintaining that SB tastes better, depending on what you get. I can’t say about black coffee because I don’t drink it (and that mainly seems to be what you’re arguing against), but I can say that cheaper espresso drinks taste worse and cheaper frappucinos are HORRIBLE at all the places I ever had them. Ugh.

    Ooo, fraps… another thing I don’t think could be successfully recreated at home…

  34. itsasecret2u said,

    Hey, this is really interesting. We’ve been saying that SB has great marketing, etc. which trick people into thinking they’re getting the “Nordys” product, as Daniel would say. But look how little they actually spend on advertising!! Perhaps there is something to this whole “superior quality” argument…

  35. itsasecret2u said,

    Haha, sorry…

    Try that link instead. I don’t know how my blog got inserted into the other link.

  36. Echo_ohcE said,

    Fascinating Secret. Very interesting.


  37. RubeRad said,

    Yes, very interesting, secret. Take a look at the other outlier in the list, #10 Dunkin Donuts. As far as I know, the quality of Dunkin Donuts coffee has been a well-kept secret for a very long time. I seem to recall them selling their own beans before Starbucks exploded — now everybody does it.

    Daniel, the $1.79 I pay for an Einstein’s coffee is just one cup per week, when I gather with some men from church before work on Mondays. The rest of my coffee I drink at work, where a couple of us guys have a loose “bring-in-a-bag-once-in-a-while” coop. In general, I don’t buy coffee at retail any more than I buy beer in bars — because I’m cheap! I can’t get over the huge price difference between retail and drink-at-home!

    And Matt, 7-eleven coffee is actually decent, and has been for a while. More recently, McDonalds stepped-up the quality of their coffee. It’s all because Starbucks has raised consumer awareness and expectations, and forced everybody else to step up.

  38. danielbalc said,

    Rube, True Dat about McDonalds. And for a very reasonable price (I think,). Not only that but McD’s has the best lids for to go coffee that you can find anywhere.

    Rube, your cheapness, like mine, is exactly what i am referring to. It’s the only way to be.

    It may be that SB’s has raised the awareness, or perhaps that the growers themselves have vastly improved their abilities to grow better tasting beans. How often do we read about large coffee crops being destroyed anymore? (That was one of the goofy lies they used to use to jack up prices in the 70’s and 80’s the same lies that jack up the gas prices today).

  39. danielbalc said,

    BTW thats my other problem with SB. I know they don’t spend much on advertising. Their marketing campaign was to offer their products at HIGHER prices and thus give it the appearance of quality. It’s the stereotype that one feels apart of when they are holding the cup in their hands. “I feel like I am part of a club, an exclusive club. I am so luxurious and elegant. Hmmm I love me some me.” And they get that feeling for much cheaper (so they think) then they get when holding a coach bag. In reality, it’s not cheaper because they get hooked and it becomes a daily addiction. It’s not the coffee, but the feeling of importance that they are addicted to. Brilliant advertising indeed. Tragic testimony on our culture (in my opinion).

  40. RubeRad said,

    Here’s an interesting quote from a post adjacent to Secret’s link:

    the “employee experience matters” at Starbucks because the company recognizes competitors can replicate the products Starbucks serves, but competitors can’t replicate the Starbucks people serving their products to customers. Its people, not products that make Starbucks Starbucks. (Sure, having a variety of tasty coffee beverages helps too but coffee comes second at Starbucks. Really, it does.)

    I don’t know if that quote is from a Starbucks official position, or merely from an enthusiast. But that brings up another point: Starbucks is famed for treating its employees well. Most significantly, healthcare benefits. I’m sure there is no comparable fast-food company (or any restaurant chain, for that matter) where the rank-and-file employees get Med Bennies.

    So another reason that people shop at Starbucks is Liberal Guilt. Liberals love the idea that they are subsidizing better-than-market benefits for fast-food employees. Of course, if McDonald’s and the rest of the fast-food industry followed suit, all fast-food prices would double, and the industry as a whole would tank.

    It’s like this T-shirt company — they have a reputation for social awareness which allows them to either charge more for commodity products, or to get by on slimmer profit margins because of the higher volume that their fame gets them. But if the rest of the industry were to follow suit, their distinctiveness would vanish, and with it, their ability to charge more.

  41. danielbalc said,

    This reminds me of a very very good point that I had forgotten about.

    It is supposed to be about the service, and though i don’t really have complaints about their employees, (I have only had positive experiences) I have many complaints about the wait time and length of lines. It’s ridiculous. I can justify paying more when I get it faster. But it seems to take longer at SB’s.

    I like that you bring in liberal guilt into the conversation. That is a huge marketing ploy, to present yourself as anti-capitalist while reaping huge profits. hahaha, They now stamp all their products with “fair trade” all over them.

    I prefer to buy American products (this t-shirt company sounds really cool). But I realize that it comes at a cost. Seeing as how there is only 1 state in America that can grow coffee I think my conscience is essentially seared when it comes to this.

    America is America, the rest of the world isn’t and I have no desire to make it so. I don’t want free health care here and I certainly don’t care if they have it in columbia either.

  42. itsasecret2u said,

    I don’t know about that T-Shirt company… They sell leg warmers, Daniel. Who in their right mind decided those needed to come back? Seriously.

  43. Echo_ohcE said,


    Re: 39

    You said:
    “It’s not the coffee, but the feeling of importance that they are addicted to.”

    – Echo:
    So, in closing, if you avoid ever being made to feel important, you’ll save yourself lots of horrible consequences.


  44. Echo_ohcE said,

    Secret and Rube,

    Hmmm…liberal guilt. Hmmm…


  45. RubeRad said,


    You’re saying I’m a liberal because I’m talking about liberal guilt? Not me. I only “buy” SB when somebody has given me a gift card.

    In other news, here is a recipe that might help others to avoid the high cost, snobbery, and liberal guilt of SB…

  46. danielbalc said,

    I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all. Of course I can’t figure how what he meant by that either, I assumed it was a jab aimed at me somehow 😉

  47. Echo_ohcE said,

    Are you guys talking about 44? I was just “hmmm”-ing. Only expressing that the expression “liberal guilt” caused me to think. Nothing more.

  48. itsasecret2u said,

    Simply to get under Daniel’s skin, I will now state that it is not liberal guilt but rather “responsible social inclinations” that cause me to buy organic, sustainably-farmed, occasionally fair-trade things. *Secret now ducks*

  49. danielbalc said,

    Occasionally fair-trade?

  50. itsasecret2u said,

    Yeah, only my chocolate (rare purchase) is marked “fair trade.”

  51. danielbalc said,

    Oh I thought the trade was only fair occasionally.

  52. danielbalc said,


  53. itsasecret2u said,

    Well, occasionally would be better than never, right?


  54. danielbalc said,

    No, fairness can’t be fairness unless it always is. One act of unfairness means that every other act which was considered “fair” is no longer fair because the unfair act just diminished the fairness of the previous acts.

    That’s the irony of the “fair-trade” idea.

    the fair trade farmer who lives next door to the farmer who isn’t involved in fair trade isn’t being fair, is he?

    Fair-trade is a code word for global socialism. A nice thought, but the corrupting influences of power will never allow for it to be (note: soviet union). BTW how is it fair to pay more for something that’s “fair-trade” then for something that’s not fair trade if the non-fair trade product actually contributed to a better life then the fair trade product? hypothetically this is very probable.

    My guess is the FTO’s (fair trade organizations) has a much bigger and more sinister plan in the works. They want power for their own corrupt purposes, just like every other organization.

    Your purchasing of these products is actually contributing to a greater, albeit unknown, evil then big businesses. Tisk tisk.

  55. itsasecret2u said,

    *rolls eyes at Daniel*

    I’m communist, anyway.

  56. danielbalc said,

    Secret Chavez

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