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Starbucks and changing tastes

March 10, 2007

Re "Starbucks' 'venti' problem," Current, March 4

Most coffee addicts I know were not shaken by the recent memo from Starbucks Corp. founder and Chairman Howard Schultz about the Starbucks experience. We were shaken years ago, when Starbucks diluted the quality control on the one thing that matters to us -- good coffee. Like Daniel Gross, I favor the doppio espresso, which, in Starbucks' early years, had a perfect crema and a lovely cherry aftertaste. But when Starbucks changed the beans and went from hand-pulled to automatic brewing, the espresso became just bitter coffee.

In Orange County, many of us switched to Diedrich Coffee. Now that Starbucks has bought it out, where will we get a decent doppio?




My first Starbucks experience was in Vancouver, Canada, in 1990, and it was like falling in love. Lines of people waited to go into tiny retail locations that had a big green logo sign with a crowned mermaid. Subdued lighting cast a warm yellow glow as mellow jazz played in the background. The smell of richly brewed fresh coffee flooded the senses. I was hooked like a junkie.

When Starbucks finally came to Southern California, the Santa Monica and Venice stores were packed. When I moved to Oxnard in 2000, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Starbucks.

I have faith in Schultz to right the ship. The things I notice about the current operations are that many of the employees don't seem to know or care about coffee, and that the stores need to have clean tables, milk containers filled and stations wiped clean. It's back to basics.




I have boycotted Starbucks ever since it opened two San Diego stores within as many blocks -- driving out Quel Fromage, one of the oldest coffeehouses in that city. And I wonder why the public continues to gorge itself on Starbucks' bland ambience, as the chain swallows quirky java joints that give communities their flavor. Wake up and smell the coffee!



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