The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A plea for solidarity with people who don't order stuff at Starbucks | Spengler

The two men were exactly right: The right thing to do in Starbucks is not to order anything, because the coffee is disgusting. Starbucks' response, to be sure, was incommensurate with the problem: Rather than subject their employees to the ritual farce of sensitivity training, the company should spend money on high-quality coffee beans, and roast them lightly rather than burn them into acidic volcanic ash. The best coffee (namely Italian espresso) is not bitter, but bittersweet, like dark chocolate. High-quality Italian coffee (for example Illy or Lavazza) is widely available in American supermarkets, and the persistence of Starbucks in the face of higher-quality competition is a testimony to the poverty of the American palate.

Famously, Starbuck's marketing idea is the "affordable luxury." So-called craft beers are another case. Although Americans can make excellent beer (Blue Moon is a perfectly good Hefeweizen, for example), most of the craft beers contain far too much hops and are too bitter for human consumption. The "hoppy" quality of craft beer has the same effect as the burning of Starbucks coffee beans: It adds a flavor which is mistaken for sophistication, when it is merely unpleasant. Not one of the great German beers has the hops content of the typical craft beer.


This is just wrong. Starbuck's coffee is somewhat bitter, probably from over-roasting the beans. I'm sure they have a good reason for doing that, somehow connected with taking over the world. But in the meantime, they still make a pretty good cuppa coffee, especially if there's not some little cutesy Italian cappuccino place on your corner. Good God, man, in the chain of muffler shops, cheap haircut joints, pizza parlors, sushi joints and other nameless strip mall tenants, Starbucks stands out as a kind of beacon of calm, a peaceful retreat, a place with clean restrooms (what those guys in Philly liked), a spot you can read quietly. A sort of suburban shangri-la.

But Spengler really steps over the line in his scandalous comments about beer. He doesn't like IPAs. They're too hoppy. He prefers Blue Moon. What a dork. IPAs are so popular precisely because they're so delicious. Don't ask me; ask the millions of satisfied, even enlightened beer drinkers whose eyes pop open as that tangy, citrusy bitterness hits their tongues. There's a little hamburger restaurant near my house (Spengler would probably criticize their hamburgers, made exclusively with Omaha beef) that has 11 different IPAs, last time I checked. And so far, everyone I've tried is just yummy. Blue Moon. Guy probably has Cheerios every morning for breakfast.

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"High-quality Italian coffee (for example Illy ...": I now reveal our Illy policy. When you see a tin of their stuff at a much-reduced price, buy it. Drink the coffee - it's not too bad - and then use the tin for storing much superior coffee bought in the city market. Yes. I'm recommending Ily for the good quality of their tins.

For decaff coffee there's a remarkably good product available in our supermarkets, by Taylors of Harrogate.

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 18, 2018 1:54:11 PM

This is not to deny, of course, that the way to get a really good cup of coffee is to go to Italy.

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 18, 2018 1:55:56 PM

The Earth shook. The sun dimmed. Time stood still, as two Titans faced off against each other: Spengler vs Smith. I like them both. I'm torn.

Posted by: JMOD46 | Apr 19, 2018 6:25:18 AM

Starbucks. IPA or Illy. It's the kind of place where you can take a break from walking your Chihuahua. Set a spell. Take your shoes off.

Could be the Philly thing was a setup. Or maybe those guys wouldn't order anything because they were jacked on home-made espresso. You know what they say about hard cases.

Posted by: Jonathan | Apr 19, 2018 3:18:09 PM