Why you shouldn't go to Starbucks
Issue date: 7/31/09 Section: Ed-Op
Let us break down any preconceived notions of what Starbucks is or isn't. Yes, Starbucks does purchase high-quality beans. However, the beans are over-roasted, causing the indigenous flavors of the bean to be lost to a generic "roasting" flavor. A graduate study conducted at the College of Education at the University of Illinois indicates that, during the roasting process, flavor relies on the degree that the sugar within the bean caramelizes as well as how much oil, which is the source of the flavor, is released. The darker the roast, the less oil remains in the bean to impart flavor. In other words, in the name of uniformity, Starbucks coffee tastes "burnt," not the beautiful bean that you purchased. Taking the time to go to an actual cafe may be worth your while - there's no gimmick involved with roasting time, nor corporate pressure to pump out coffee at a mechanical rate, so the brew is likely fresher and milder.
Another myth: Starbucks will save the world. Although 20 percent of coffee purchased by Starbucks is at the Fair Trade price, the rest is bought at the global rate. April White from Philadelphia Magazine notes that Fair Trade beans are practically a standard in independent cafes and restaurants in the city; even area McDonald's have caught on. According to Global Exchange, an organization devoted to the economic survival of coffee farmers, of the 20 percent of beans that are purchased by Starbucks, "many Starbucks cafes will brew a pot of Fair Trade - but only if specifically asked." To stop everything to brew a cup of Fair Trade in the middle of a 7 a.m. rush upon request is not exactly convenient, nor efficient. This contradicts the purpose of Starbucks - coffee at arm's length, on the go. And when you're finished with that cup, Melissa Allison from the Seattle Times points out that, despite the recycled material, the plastic coating of the cup renders "the cups ... [un]recyclable, and even if they were, many Starbucks stores do not have recycling bins." Allison says that only about one-third of all Starbucks house recycling receptacles.
Starbucks veils its franchise identity behind kitschy coffee mugs and pricey French Presses, and even momentarily fools the customer into thinking they're in an authentic atmosphere. It's analogous to the Disney Store. That polyester Cinderella outfit does not make you Cinderella, no matter how much glitter you've just rolled around in. You're better off going to a McCafé, which offers similar beverages with a max price tag of approximately four dollars, whereas a Starbucks drink can cost you a few times that amount for the same drink size, guised under a different name. Why do we put up with this? We're getting expensive beans roasted to a crisp, and continue to pay the price because we seemingly have no other alternatives that are quite as accessible.
Breaking the Starbucks habit is not a daunting task. There is good coffee out there, and many times, we are given the opportunity to support our local small businesses by pursuing the calling of tasty brew. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses account for 45 percent of worker payroll and have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs in the past decade. In going that extra block (literally) and stepping into a different cafe to get our coffee fix, we are able to perpetuate this economic growth. Philadelphia is a great city for coffee and cafe eats: from the petite Cuban Cafe Clave in West Philly to Cafe Lucetia near Filter Square (they're homemade down to their lemonade); the variety is a delightful surprise. So, cut the monotony already. Many even feature vegan and vegetarian-friendly treats, but if you're not into that, there's always waffles with your espresso at Bonté.
Meina Kalayeh is a pre-junior majoring in Mathematics. She can be reached at email@example.com