Starbucks

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Sorry for the delay in this post, but I have been extremely busy with work and other things. Ok maybe not that busy, but I did end up spilling a few drops of coffee on my laptop, so I had to have it turned off for a few days, and thankfully now it works fine:) No worries, I am still a coffee lover as I used to be…though I must admit I wasn’t too happy about those few drops on my keyboard. Anyhow, as mentioned in my last post, this one will be about Starbucks, and why I am no longer a fan. To make it a bit ironic, I was first going to go there, get a “coffee” and write this blog, but I just couldn’t be bothered to waste my precious morning coffee:)

If you remember in my last post, I used a quote about how Starbucks is not really making or selling coffee, but instead a lifestyle. I couldn’t agree with the statement more! I do admit, I used to be obsessed with Starbucks. Everywhere I traveled to, be it from DC to New York, I would have to stop at a Starbucks along the way; at every airport as soon as I got off the plane; at the Starbucks right by my department here in Sheffield; etc. My point being, it was really the convenience of the Starbucks locations, more than the coffee itself, that brought me to it. Ok, I have to admit again, that the christmas atmosphere in a Starbucks is still great, but their coffee really isn’t. Which brings me to my point again, that they are selling a lifestyle and not coffee.

To be fair though, I am still a hugeee fan of their summer Iced Passion or Green Tea, combined with a lemon pound cake (YUM!), but that’s not really for a coffee blog. I guess if there was anything I like about coffee and Starbucks is their Coffee Frappucinos, but I’ve gotten really good ones, and horrible, over-sweetened ones, that I had to throw away. I may sound like a hypocrite, but in the end I will still go to Starbucks, but not nearly as often as I used to. I did criticise their coffee, but to be fair again, a lotttttt depends on how the barista makes the coffee for your, whether they’ve cleaned the machine often, how they prepare the milk (a lot of times they make it too hot, which destroys the coffee, and gives it a burned taste), etc. Every now and then, you might actually get a decent cup of coffee, cappuccino, machiatto, etc, but when you do, appreciate it because it won’t come around often. Also, you have a better chance of getting a good cup of coffee, when the line is not that long, which means the barista might take more time to prepare your coffee. If there is a long line….RUN!!

Next Post: Rating my favourite cafe in Sheffield.

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Quartermaine Coffee Roasters (Bethesda, MD, USA)

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 So the first café/coffee shop I will talk about, is probably one of my favorite spots in the Washington DC area, called Quartermaine Coffee Roasters. It comes to no surprise that it was also ranked “Best of Bethesda” in the Bethesda Magazine for several years now. While its roasting plant and center is in Rockville, MD, there are two small coffee shops in Bethesda, MD. Only two shops yes. It is by no means a “Starbucks” (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, as personally I am no longer a huge Starbucks fan), but perhaps that is the best part of Quartermaine. The fact that it is not a large chain of coffee shops, allows it to maintain its charm, personality, and most of all good coffee (sidenote: Starbucks coffee is not great at all, but that’s a story for another post).

When I still lived in Bethesda, Quartermaine was my place to go for good coffee, a chat, and sometimes to do work for school. Best times were always on the weekends, when dozens of runners, bicyclists, families, etc. stood in line that sometimes stretched far down the street. First you would have to stand in line next door at Bethesda Bagels, for literally the best bagels ever (my favorite: toasted whole wheat everything bagel, with cream cheese…yum!), then go into the line to get the coffee from Quartermaine. Even for the most impatient people, standing in those two lines was always worth the wait. Their Baristas are always friendly, and gladly explain any questions you might have about coffee. I should also mention that the store has a wide selection of smoothies and juices, which are made freshly and truly are amazing!

Anyhow, back to the coffee. Another great thing about Quartermaine is that they have quite a wide selection of coffee varieties, from Arabian Mocha Sanani, to Sumatra and Tahitian Vanilla, as well as numerous blends such as the Vine Street Blend (a blend of four coffees from estates in each of the world’s major growing regions), which with is complex acidity, strong aroma and a dense, full body truly make it the “most serious cup of coffee” (http://www.quartermaine.com/coffees/varieties.html).

In my opinion, what makes a good coffee shop great, is first (obviously) that it needs to have good coffee (and good Baristas), but equally important, it needs to have that charm and the personality that sets it apart form the big coffee chains (i.e. Starbucks, Nero, Costa, etc), which are only “selling a lifestyle, not coffee.” It is in the independent cafes, such as Quartermaine for example, where you get the best coffee experience, the moment, when “however busy you are, in the time it takes you to finish that coffee your normal world is put on hold and you go somewhere else in your head” (Robertson, 2008).

Here is a really interesting article about big coffee chains vs. independent coffee shops: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7204551.stm

Next post: Why I am no longer a Starbucks fan