{February 1, 2012}   My coffee journey and Starbucks.

Being a coffee-drinker and being from Seattle, is a little bit of a curse.  On the one hand, I love great coffee; the stronger the better.  On the other hand, I am a bit of a coffee snob!  This is a problem because I currently live in the Midwest.  We are not afforded such luxuries as coffee-snobbery.  I have legitimate good friends who still believe that it is okay to brew coffee from pre-ground beans that come in a can.  I must say that not ALL Midwesterners think that is okay to do.  I do have some friends that understand things such as dark roast, bold flavor and how humidity can affect the taste of the brew.

I guess I should start from the beginning of my coffee journey.  I was first introduced to the smell of coffee as a young child.  In fact I can’t ever remember not knowing about coffee.  You see, my parents were connoisseurs of the drink.  Although then, they too drank the drink made from a can.  Coffee was a reason that people got together.  Many times my parents would “have people over for coffee.”  It took me a while to learn that they were actually coming over for a visit and being served coffee.  I thought that my parents just made amazing coffee.

When I got to college (in the Midwest) and started having to stay up late nights studying, I decided that I better learn to drink coffee, because that seemed to work for other people.  I had tasted my parent’s cups before and thought that it was disgusting, so this was going to be a serious endeavor.  My first legitimate cup…  I made a mug of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, drank a quarter of it and filled the rest of the cup up with coffee.  I could handle that.  The next cup had half hot chocolate and half coffee.  Little by little, I used less and less hot chocolate and more and more coffee.

My dad always drank his coffee black.  He never put anything in it.  He always scoffed at the idea.  “No, no.  I will not adulterate this drink.”  My mother, on the other hand used cream and sugar in her cup.  At the time I decided to learn to like coffee, I was in that ‘my mother is a moron’ stage of life that every girl goes through.  I was my own woman (at 18) and was going to make my own decisions.  My dad’s cup seemed like the better of the two to emulate.  So not only did I have to learn to like coffee, but I had to learn to like it black, unadulterated!  Had I made this decision in grade school, I would probably drink coffee with cream and sugar in it.

After my first year of college, I moved back to the Pacific Northwest and landed in Seattle.  I soon realized that if I was going to be anyone, I was going to be doing a lot of coffee drinking.  I also learned that there was a war going on in the city that every citizen was a part of.  The central question in the war was, “which company makes the best cup of coffee.”  It was serious!  In my family alone, there were four different arguments.  “Starbucks is the best.”  “No, Seattle’s Best is clearly the best.”  “Don’t be an idiot!  Everyone knows that Diva’s has the best coffee.”  “Are you serious?  Do I need to brew you a cup of Tully’s?”  These are conversations that never seem to have happened in the homes of my Midwestern friends.  When I try to explain, I am met with a blank stare.

I decided that I needed to answer that question, but in order to do so I was going to need to be on the inside.  I was going to find out what happens behind the brew at Starbucks.  That and I needed a job to buy my college books.  So I took a job at the Starbucks in the food court by the Space Needle at Seattle Center.  I soon realized that coffee is very involved.  There were actual recipes for the drinks and things like water temperature of filtered water, roast time of the beans, sit time of the brewed coffee, the number of times you tap the metal doohickey for espresso drinks all mattered.  In fact it all mattered so much that you had to go to “coffee school” at headquarters.  There were manuals, and tests, videos and pop quizzes, I felt like it was another college class.  My barista days only lasted about 6 months.  I could not afford to park my car while I worked for the amount of money that I was making, but this did not end my affair with Starbucks.

In Seattle, a person is only 2 degrees of separation away from someone who has ever worked at Starbucks.  Our paths would cross again.  After college, I started working for a video production company.  We did commercials and training videos for other companies.  Low and behold, Starbucks hired us to update their training videos.  I was then working with the owner, Howard Schultz (the Steve Jobs of Seattle), on video shoots.  I was helping to make the very same videos that I hated watching.

Did life with Starbucks end, when I found a new job?  No.  You see, I was dating a University of Washington football player.  He was starting to become kind of a big deal in Seattle.  Apparently he caught the attention of Howard Schultz who approached him and asked him to speak at his son’s school.

I decided that there was no getting around Starbucks.  I was just going to have to roll with it.  I picked up a copy of Howard Schultz’s One Cup at a Time and decided to further inform myself about the company (this was not required reading during coffee school).  I learned that there was a lot that I actually liked about the company.  I really enjoyed reading the book.  It was not, although, enough to get me to like Starbucks over Seattle’s Best Coffee.  That is until Starbucks bought out Seattle’s Best Coffee.

So here I am in the Midwest.  Starbucks begrudgingly destined to be my coffee of choice.  It has been a long journey, but I am an aficionada.  I even pay for my drink with the Starbucks App on my iPhone.


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