The Corner


The Real Reason to Criticize Starbucks

A Starbucks sign fits on one of the company stores in Los Angeles, Calif., October 19, 2018. (Mike Blake/REUTERS)

My objections above notwithstanding, I should say that Starbucks is certainly worthy of our criticism. Not because its stores offer a “flat white” music playlist and it had a CEO who doesn’t know how much a box of cereal costs, but because it serves an overpriced, scorched-bean brew of sacrilege.

Starbucks is a global empire that has to cut many corners to serve its millions of customers, and most of those customers are not coffee purists. They’re people who want a cup of Joe that will serve as a caffeine vehicle, or they’re people who want a crème brûlée in liquid form with the frou-frou embellishments. The $6 cups of high-fructose corn syrup and all of the other gut-souring chemical concoctions to have come out of big agriculture and that linger in the saccharine syrups deserve our derision, mostly for being so grotesquely overpriced (this is where Starbucks makes its money). But so do the most basic menu items that aren’t worth the damage to the rainforest that they’re causing: Starbucks drip coffee and espresso.

When you drink Starbucks drip coffee, and it has a carbon-y flavor comparable to the taste of a charcoal grill or burnt tire, it’s because the coffee beans are of a poor quality and are so dark roast to mask the flavor. The beans were not toiled over earlier in the roasting (or even growing) process in order to later highlight the tastes and aromas that a good cup of coffee produces. An even more severe affront to God is Starbucks espresso, which is particularly offensive because what is a sacred ritual for Mediterranean cultures has been reduced to a tar-flavored nectar served in a paper cup. A good cup of espresso is an experience. It’s meant to be sipped in a small ceramic or glass cup, accompanied by a small spoon, and should have a layer of crema — a brown froth that floats over a good cup of espresso. Most customers who order espresso at Starbucks don’t even see the espresso itself, let alone a layer of crema, because the espresso is mixed with milk and syrups to hide its impalpable flavor.

It’s understandable that when you want to achieve timely, fast service, on a scale as large as Starbucks’s, you have to sacrifice quality. Just don’t let a few bad beans tarnish your view of coffee, and give a small cafe with a minimalist coffee menu (the most basic elements of coffee are milk and espresso, and most menu items should be a variation of these two things) an opportunity to serve you a redeeming cup.

A box of Cheerios, by the way, probably costs less than a Venti Double Chocolatey Chip Crème Frappuccino.

Marlo Safi is a Collegiate Network Fellow with National Review.

Most Popular


White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More

Who Is Boris Johnson?

By next week at this time, Boris Johnson will be prime minister of the United Kingdom. Not since Margaret Thatcher has such an outsized personality resided in Number 10 Downing Street. Not since Winston Churchill has such a wit presided over Her Majesty’s Government. Wit is actually the chief reason for ... Read More
Energy & Environment

Ohio Bans ‘Nature Rights’

Finally! After voters in Toledo granted "rights" to Lake Erie -- in a special election, it should be noted, with minuscule turnout -- Ohio has outlawed the enforcement of "nature rights" in a budget bill signed by the governor. From the legislation: Sec. 2305.011...[Definitions omitted] (B) Nature or any ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Ungrateful among Us

This is the transcript from Episode 156 of The Editors. Rich: How bad were the president’s tweets? What does Ilhan Omar owe to her country? We will discuss all of this and more on this week’s edition of The Editors. I’m Rich Lowry, and I’m joined as always, or at least most of the time by the right, ... Read More