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Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
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MarkPrince
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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2012, 12:00am
Subject: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

Starbucks Tries Something New
The Cafe Stage article by Will Ten Haagen

On March 8, 2012, Starbucks is about to try something that in some ways is a radical departure from the company's normal cafe openings: They are opening an Experience Lab Cafe in Amsterdam!
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2012, 5:19am
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

I know it's popular amongst the "third wavers" to bash Starbucks and, as I saw on Twitter yesterday, to call Starbucks a follower and not a leader these days (I guess Will gave that impression with his take as well), but personally, I think Starbucks should just be completely congratulated for taking this step with this new cafe. And there's a bit more.

There's one seriously solid fact of information most people who bash Starbucks fail to take into account: without Starbucks trailblazing the way in the 1970s and especially 1980s and 1990s, the specialty industry as we know it today (especially espresso in N. America) would not exist.

I think it's always important to criticize a company on their products when they fail to meet a standard that the rest of the specialty industry has set. Even more so when that company fails to meet a standard, but tries to give the impression that it still a standards setter. But when that company also has a long and distinguished history of truly setting new standards, this always should be acknowledged.

And when that same company takes serious attempts to up their game? To get their coffee programs to a level that smaller companies have raised the bar to? Independent companies that don't have to worry about presenting coffee in 10,000 locations, but just one?

First, this is a huge, massive, humongous task for a company like Starbucks. They don't have the luxury of finding 10 or 15 bags of coffee they feel stand out from all the rest in a CoE auction. No - they have to find 5,000, 10,000, 100,000 bags of coffee that stand out. When they decide it's time to jump in and get a training program on board so that a key staffer in every location in a city, state, province, country, global region (etc etc) knows the principles of manual pourover, that's on a different scale than reading a few web pages on coffee brewing theory, buying a 12 pack of local micro brew, and hosting a jam education session for your staff in your indie cafe.

Let's face facts: Starbucks has dropped some massive balls in their day. Dropping La Marzocco machines (or any semi-auto, hands on espresso machine) for push button hands off technology was a huge one, and Schultz himself admits as much.

But when Starbucks decides okay, it's time to up the game. It's time to present coffee in a new way (for them). It's time to get back to brewing basics. It's time to re-examine how we roast. It's time to look at how we engage customers. Even if it is just one location for no. When Starbucks takes these steps, nothing comes off as hipster elitist trash like saying "nice job copying so and so, Starbucks". Because the fact is, so and so has copied a lot of things Starbucks pioneered: like serving espresso to a buying public for one thing.

I don't know about others, but for me, I get very encouraged and quite happy when I see a major company like Starbucks take these steps. Any kind of increased transparency and situations telling the average joe customer that coffee is not a commodity but a culinary process, I love to see. When the big green does it, it gets me even more excited. Because like it or not, Starbucks sets trends for customers - even the most (eventual) elitist, snobby, demanding customers ever to walk into a Portland hip shop. Because some of those customers got their coffee start with a Starbucks. And going back to when they started appreciating better coffee... if they gained their initial appreciation from a new age, back to the roots, back to transparency Starbucks model that this Amsterdam cafe is trying to do, that means we're all collectively more ahead of the overall game to get people to stop thinking of coffee as just a fuel and a commodity, and more like a culinary thing, and a respected process.

Anything that can get the peeps off Nespresso, Nescafe and Maxwell House, I'm so for. Long view, this is what this new Starbucks model might help achieve.

Mark

 
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Bitches_Brew
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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2012, 7:26am
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

honestly, of all the recent articles posted, this was the only one that caught my interest. there are many independent shops out there selling stuff that is nowhere near starbucks quality. nice article!

BTW, i love that ceiling.

 
"You can write down how to make the perfect cup of coffee. But to make it really good, you have to play something fictional, you have to dress up, you have to think, This is the most important thing."
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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2012, 7:56am
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

The truth is Starbucks gave me the incentive to get into this hobby as deeply as I am.  There was a time when I viewed a Starbucks latte or just a cup of their daily robust as a real treat.  Then things fell apart.  Every time I got a coffee I was disappointed.  What was it I wondered.  Then I noticed that almost before I could get the order out of my mouth, the cup was ready.  This didn't make sense.  That's when I learned about super automatics.  I don't know what happened with the daily brew.  My guess is they started using less coffee.  That's what it tasted like - insipid.  
So, I got my own espresso machine and started roasting my own.  I did notice though, when we were in Seattle, there was a Starbucks kiosk in the hotel lobby.  Every morning my wife went down and got me a cup of Sumatra and it was very good.  The good news for me is that I couldn't get a cup like that from any Starbucks a year or 2 ago, which led me to this wonderful hobby.  I don't think they can get me back though.
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espresso_jim
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Posted Thu Mar 8, 2012, 12:30pm
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

My first experiences with espresso started with Starbucks. For years, I ordered fresh roasted beans from New York going back all the was to the mid-70.s This was before the fast delivery companies and I got my beans from New York sent to Texas. Slow was the name of the game. I was so proud of my whirlybird grinder and my "fresh" roasted beans. My coffee was better than what was available locally,

Then came all the coffee shops. Of course I ventured into Starbucks and had good coffee compared to other places. The product was consistent. Then I tried espresso at Starbucks. It was different and strong so I tried it in milk concoctions. When Starbucks brought  out their "new fangeled" pressurized espresso makers, I jumped on board. But, the product was inferior to anything I was getting at the stores. I took the machine back.

I went on line and found a relatively new website called Coffee Geek and Coffee Kid. What a wonder. I read through the pages and reviews with awe.  I ended up with a Mazzer Mini and a shiny stainless steel Isomac Tea. I had fun and sought the perfect shot.  Had to give it all up for medical reasons. I still remember Mark Prince's disappointment in me.  Skip to present. I got better doctors and they diagnosed much better. I now have a Mazzer Mini E and a La Speziale Mini Vivaldi II that, together, put out really great shots.

Do I still go to Starbucks?  Not really because my home brews beat cafes hands down. When Starbucks went to automatics, I was disappointed. All-in-all though, Starbucks grabbed me by the allure of what "could be" with coffee. They got me started on the process of seeking the "god" shot.  Their equipment didn't do the trick for me but did get me started researching and growing regarding coffee and espresso.

To see this story regarding their new venture in Amsterdam brings new hope. Perhaps it will introduce the process and the experience of quality espresso to a new generation of coffee drinkers like it did me all those years ago.

Thank you for the story as it is really great to hear about a huge corporation's quest to grow and improve.

 
Jim
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Posted Sat Mar 10, 2012, 9:13am
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

A very pretty shop, however I have never been impressed by Starbucks. Ever since my first encounter with them at one of their carts in a mall I have thought of them as all glitz and glamor but no substance. Here we have all the glitz, but I wonder whats on the menu and what they are making that coffee with. Hopefully their new take on doing things is a sign that they have truly changed and will end up serving a good product.

 
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Posted Sun Mar 11, 2012, 11:05pm
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

dtlord Said:

A very pretty shop, however I have never been impressed by Starbucks. Ever since my first encounter with them at one of their carts in a mall I have thought of them as all glitz and glamor but no substance. Here we have all the glitz, but I wonder whats on the menu and what they are making that coffee with. Hopefully their new take on doing things is a sign that they have truly changed and will end up serving a good product.

Posted March 10, 2012 link

If you click on the first picture and enlarge it, you can see that they aren't using their typical super-automatic.  I can't tell for sure but the machine with big red words certainly looks like it could be a La Marzocco (Linea probably?) and the grinders have the look of a Mazzer.  A huge plus and a move back in the right direction I'd say.
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bobertstowers
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Posted Wed Mar 21, 2012, 10:08am
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

sn_85 Said:

If you click on the first picture and enlarge it, you can see that they aren't using their typical super-automatic.  I can't tell for sure but the machine with big red words certainly looks like it could be a La Marzocco (Linea probably?) and the grinders have the look of a Mazzer.  A huge plus and a move back in the right direction I'd say.

Posted March 11, 2012 link

That's the thing that really caught my attention as well. As a former SBUX "partner" this, like many, is where I got started with coffee. I was taught that when you are making a latte you hold the foam back and then spoon a heap of foam on top. Now I'm making dragons in my lattes at home. So, when I read in the article that they had two La Marzocco machines I was shocked! I didn't see any comments as to why they were there or whether this meant that they were going towards semi-automatic machines or what was going on. This would be hugely encouraging to see a company like Starbucks not only admit that going to super automatics was a mistake but make a move to go back to using machines that promote more of an art and culinary skill and over all better experience for the customer. Is there any info about why the La Marzocco machines are there? I'd be interested to know.
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retsto
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Posted Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:29pm
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

This is my first time on coffeegeek.com so be gentle :)

Hats off to Starbuck's for their new experiment.  I agree with the moderator it takes a lot to steer a big ship like Starbucks.  I just wonder if they can replicate this in the U.S.A.  Most of the starbucks I see are small, filled with plastic chairs, not really a warm setting.  The lab they created would be the exception and definitely not the norm where I come from (medium size city).

Although I go to starbucks often the biggest complaint I have about Starbucks is that it seems like they have gotten away from coffee. You are definitely the minority if you order a plain black coffee.  They want you to order a "skinny latte" or a Mocha Frappucino Light or some other type of milkshake.   I usually just tell them "coffee...hold the double fat latte frappucino mocha delight".....:)  

Starbucks please get back to your roots....coffee.  

Cheers!
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 10:38am
Subject: Re: Starbucks Tries Something New, The Cafe Stage
 

Looks very intriguing design! I like it very much, I can image how much thought has gone into the planing.
I do wish Starbucks all the best in this venture, because the Company did not really take off in Australia. But they did show people the stepping stone to a better coffee - other than instant powder!
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