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Starbucks Rundle Mall

Starbucks Rundle Mall

I decided to have a cup of their signature hot chocolate...

I decided to have a cup of their signature hot chocolate...

The Adelaide metropolitan area only opened three Starbucks stores, with its first one opening in March 2006 and there was very little hype when they came to town, except made by the ex-pats.  In fact, I had been in there only once before yesterday, its closing day, because we have better local coffee chains such as CIBO, Bean Bar and the Italian Illy cafés.  Although being on the major shopping street in the city, it failed to do very well here.  Their prices are really overpriced for coffee that isn’t that great.  But me and my friend Jen both wanted an Adelaide mug (just because) but it was too late, the store was wiped clean.

In the mid-1990s, I worked at a café that was affiliated with Starbucks in San Francisco.  Back then, there were official Starbucks barista trainers that used to fly in from Seattle to train every barista how to make coffee drinks Starbucks style – complete with illustrations of the drinks.  I was in awe of Starbucks back then and thought that they were so cool.  Starbucks was even known as a great company to work for, treating their employees well and offering great benefits for even their part-time employees.  I knew that Starbucks were expanding too quickly when I went to Vancouver and saw a Starbucks on just about every corner!  After years of studying Chaucer’s works, the pièce de résistance was when I finally made it to Canterbury cathedral in England and was shocked when I saw a Starbucks at the entrance to the beautiful and historical cathedral!  It really ruined the facade to the entrance of the cathedral!  What ruined my experience even more was that there were a few Starbucks employees handing out samples of muffins and cakes – it just seemed wrong.  See pictures below:

Canterbury Cathedral Gate

Canterbury Cathedral Gate

See the Starbucks?

Fast forward to 2005 when I moved to Adelaide and was surprised that there was no Starbucks in sight.  I thought, “wow, a city that Starbucks still hadn’t penetrated.”  I got used to the coffee terms and culture here very quickly.  People in Australia take their coffee very seriously and there are plenty of places that will teach you to be a bona fide barista.  The one thing that I love about a proper coffee made in Australia is that really good baristas can foam the milk so finely that it has the texture of marshmallows floating on top of the espresso.  That type of finely made espresso drink is hard to find in the states – perhaps it’s because America is much more of a drip-coffee country.  Order a drip coffee in Australia and you will be met with a lot of confusion…don’t even ask for “cream” with your coffee, you’ll be met with even more confusion – ask for milk.

I recently went back to the states to a Starbucks and the coffee was, to plainly put it, shit.  I asked for a latte and it tasted burnt and I got barely any foam.  I went back to tell the barista that I would like some foam and he said, “oh, it’s just that a lot people here feel cheated if they get too much foam.”  That’s fine if people don’t want foam but I didn’t ask for no foam.  Sigh…  It’s sad because I used to be such a Starbucks fan but now their quality has gone down and their prices inflated.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like Starbucks as a company.  I do really hope that with all these closings, they will re-train their employees and bring back the quality of their drinks back to what it was before the mega-expansion of over 16,000 worldwide stores.

Here are a few links to news stories on the closure of hundreds of Starbucks:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24099400-5013404,00.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92151783

**Coffee language tips for people coming to Australia:

Flat White – espresso shot with hot milk and very little/no foam (like a latte w/less foam)

Short Black – one shot espresso with hot water

Long Black – double-shot espresso with hot water (like an Americano)

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