Starbucks – Beyond the Coffee

Almost everyone in Poland knows what Starbucks is, and literally everyone knows it in New York. In Manhattan alone, there a Starbucks every couple of blocks (over 300 places in total), and even if there are fewer of them in other boroughs, the number keeps growing (recently they even opened one in Greenpoint – the picture above). In Poland, there are only a couple of Starbucks cafes and the price of the coffee is exorbitant – over 10 zlotys for a latte is really too much. Over here, Starbucks is far from the cheapest option available, especially when you compare it with McDonald’s, but still: small coffee is $2 and medium latter $4, which is nothing considering the American wages.

Starbucks is more than just coffee, though. No, I do not mean the “extraordinary experience of coffee drinking” that you may hear about in the ads. As I see it, Starbucks simply redefined what a coffee place means. First of all, it changed the sizes of the beverages: what used to be large (tall), now is small, with ‘venti’ standing for the largest option. A whole series of new beverages was created, all of them bearing names I cannot even say. Believe it or not, but when I hear some people’s orders here, I sometimes turn to look at them, my jaw on the floor, and want to ask: “Really…? You really need the double soy latte macchiato with skim milk, no foam, with ice and some of that green stuff sprinkled on top…?” How about just getting some coffee…?

In the States, Starbucks is rarely the place for intimate chats over a (paper) cup of aromatic brew. Sure, people meet at Starbucks, but they treat the places more as waiting rooms of sorts and internet cafes. Our date is late, it’s cold: let’s just wait it out at Starbucks (often without even buying the coffee). My phone died, I need to pee, I need to check my e-mail or google something quick – I look for the nearest Starbucks (which always has free Wi-Fi).  I think this is why the coffee is a bit more expensive here: people used to the idea that they can spend half of their day at Starbucks – using the restroom, electricity, heat and roof over their head – without ever being asked to leave. Looking at it this way, their coffee really seems cheap (especially since refills are only 50 cents). I wouldn’t be able to rent another working space for $2.50 a day, especially one in which my name would be called out in such imaginative ways. Every time I hear “Jaga”, “Baga”, or even (my favorite version, which I will assume as soon as I start that new career as an exotic dancer) “Daja” – I feel special. And this is what Starbuck experience really means to me.