Starbucks: Culture It is not so often that a coffee house gets to tell so much about culture. Think about a Russian coffee house that can tell foreigners about our lifestyle and our character, about things that are important to us in business and in personal relations, in gastronomical tastes and political affairs… I would not dare to name one. Yet when I think of American culture, I marvel at how interestingly it is reflected in Starbucks, the most famous and the largest coffee and coffee house chain in the world. It all started in 1971.
Two teachers and a writer (Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker if you care for names) started the Starbucks company, which was at first not even a coffee house, but a high quality store of coffee beans and equipment. As far as roasting the beans was one of the companies primary occupations, it is very likely that the famous Starbucks roast, now proudly displayed in many coffee houses, was developed in those remote days. Although the Starbucks roast itself deserves applause for the intense, rich flavor it brings out in coffee, it is not the roasting technique that paved the company’s way to greatness.Order now
It is the coffee houses with their unmistakable atmosphere and high-quality drinks that led Starbucks to success. Today there are more than 16 000 of them all over the world. They may be condemned for Americanizing the world or may be hailed for bringing a piece of genuine American culture to other countries and finally giving it a more elaborate image than the greasy genetically modified McDonald’s burger. Everything about Starbucks seems to be astonishingly American. Even the name of the company originates in the very core of American culture.
It comes from the book, which is claimed to be the second best-seller after the Bible, Melville’s Moby Dick. It is said that originally the founders wanted to name the company Pequod, in honor of the ship from the novel. However, it was a big question whether anyone would want to drink coffee from Pee-quod, so they ended up with the name of Ahab’s first mate Starbuck, which also reminded of a turn-of-the century mining camp Starbo, thus adding a tinge of history. The name, once pronounced, immediately awakes the image of the famous green-white logo.
Originally it was not at all green, but brown and the siren (yes, the lady is a siren, moreover, a twin-tailed one) was way more graphic, that is, she had breasts. Can a woman on the logo, be it even the siren herself, have breasts in a country that was partly found by puritans? Certainly not! In the battle with the American idea of what is proper the visitor from Greek mythology lost not only her breasts, but also her navel. The logo has happened to reflect more than the high moral standards of American citizens. Its story also happened to unite the American love for parody and their court-oriented mentality.
In 2000, San Francisco cartoonist Kieron Dwyer was sued by Starbucks for copyright and trademark infringement after creating a parody of its siren logo and putting it on the cover of one of his comics; later placing it on coffee mugs, T-shirts, and stickers that he sold on his website and at comic book conventions. In a similar case, a New York store selling stickers and T-shirts using the Starbucks logo with the words “fuck off” was sued by the company in 1999. The most interesting illegal usage of the logo, however, is that by the Christian community. The parodies of Starbucks are not limited to the logo.
There is a very interesting satire on the everywhereness of Starbucks in The Onion, the online parody newspaper, which is called “New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks”. All jokes aside, Starbucks is one of the most global-issue-conscious coffee houses in the world. It supports Fair trade, buys coffee at prices that are higher than the average market prices. It produces cups from recycled paper and tries to work out a technology to make those cups recyclable (as of now, the plastic that is added to keep the form of the cups makes them impossible to recycle).
Starbucks conducts charity programs and helps in fundraising. Nevertheless, Starbucks remains a constant target for criticism. Many people are against its monopolistic marketing strategies. Many find that the charity and Fair trade programs are superficial and exist only to create a positive image. Some even accuse Starbucks of being involved with Israeli military. Just like the policy of the Unites States, the policy of Starbucks is widely disputed. With all the weight of cultural significance that I’ve mposed on Starbucks, one shouldn’t forget about the simple everyday role that Starbucks plays in American life. You can hardly find an American who has never been to Starbucks. Most of them either hang out there regularly or drop in every now and then to grab a paper cup of the season’s specialty. The bright walls, the little tables standing closely together, the extremely comfortable armchairs, the relaxing music, people with laptops and books – everything contributes to the atmosphere of an intellectual lounge, of the desired freedom of spirit, thought and body.
Starbucks shares the rhythm of the Americans. In the morning it is all about noise and hurry, in the afternoon it is very businesslike, while in the evening it is cosy and loud. Being a coffee house, Starbucks may also be considered a journal of American life. Most trends that are typically American find their reflection either in the products of Starbucks or in the company policy. Starbucks carries American culture around the world, but unlike many other stereotypically American things, it does indeed play an important role in the everyday life of American people.