Breaking News: Europeans Hate Shitty Coffee

Alas, poor Starbucks–I knew it, Horatio.

While many of us are desperately wishing for a melancholy Dane to ponder over the bleached skull of the most irritating corporate force in America, those mad geniuses behind your burned coffee are seeking to conquer that Dane’s homeland–think of them as Fortinbras with a Frappucino.

Starbucks is embarking on a multimillion-dollar campaign to win over more of Europe’s coffee aficionados — with a upscale makeover of hundreds of stores to cater to an ingrained cafe culture, and adjusting beverages and blends to suit fickle regional palates.

Yet despite the full-court press Elsinore is, for the moment, safe:

After eight years spent setting up 63 French Starbucks stores, the company has never turned a profit in France. And even in the parts of Europe where the company does make money, sales and profit growth lag far behind results in the Americas and Asia.

Europe’s debt crisis and sluggish economy are a factor. So are high European rents and labor costs, which impinge on profits more than in any other region in which Starbucks operates. But the biggest challenge may lie in tailoring the Starbucks experience to appeal to a variety of European tastes.

Ah, I see–young Europeans aren’t yet used to the idea of a soul-killing career for a company that does not pay a living wage. But there is hope for the ‘Bucks, and that hope lies within the simulacrum:

“In markets where there is an entrenched coffeehouse culture, like Paris or Vienna, I was expecting to hear more requests to be like them,” Ms. Gass said. “But I heard the opposite — people want the true Starbucks experience.”

Presumably this desire for “the true Starbucks experience” necessitates a surly barista, a urine-soaked homeless person, and some asshole with a clipboard whose resume lacked the civic activities required for admission to Harvard Law.

Ultimately, Starbucks will conquer Europe. McDonald’s, that other beacon of American food corporatism, eventually found traction and so will the ‘Bucks. Whether it’s Eurotrash hipsters desirous of lemon pound cake and a watery latte, or bloated American tourists too afraid to try a local cafe, people will make their way into the black and green empire of aestheticide that is Starbucks.

On the other hand, the British need Starbucks: shitty or not, it’s likely the only passable cup of coffee you’re likely to find on that entire miserable island.

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14 thoughts on “Breaking News: Europeans Hate Shitty Coffee

  1. It is almost as if Europe thinks it can make its own coffee. The coffee bean is a new world species. Deal with it Europe.
    The Irish thought they could take our potato and make it their won, and look what happened there…
    And do not get me started on the Italians and our humble tomato…

    • Damn Europeans! But alas, they can be snooty about it, because while the potato and the tomato are both New World exports, it would appear that the Old World can lay claim to the coffee bean–cultivation apparently began thousands of years ago in the Middle East. In fact (according to the ever-informative Wikipedia), it would seem that our word for coffee is borrowed from the Turkish.

      Also, as a side note, the best coffee I’ve ever had was in a humdrum Paris equivalent to a Bodega. I’d live in that cafe if they’d let me.

      • The best coffee I had was also in France, but not Paris. 🙂 I have to say though, even though Starbucks may seem expensive to most Americans, it is so much less expensive than coffee in Europe (and even the smallest cup is often more than twice the size)!

      • I know! But after I had a sip I couldn’t complain about the price (although I suspect I might have been gouged a bit by my metropolitan location). You really do end up paying for quality, though–Starbucks just doesn’t cut it!

        It’s also funny that in that article they mentioned young Europeans drinking Starbucks solely to be hip; to me, that’s not a ringing endorsement–although I suspect anyone profiting from irony doesn’t really mind!

      • Honestly, when I was in Paris the only people I noticed at Starbucks were young or American. I really have a hard time with that because I honestly think that if you travel you should experience the place you are in. A lot of people, unfortunately, just look for things that are familiar in foreign places, i.e. Starbucks or MacDo (McDonalds) in Paris. It’s unfortunate.

      • I know–people just can’t seem to get out of their comfort zones. I will, however, admit to a curiosity about some of McDo’s menu items–as bad as it sounds, I’d totally order a “Le Croque McDo,” thus ruining my years of practicing for that ultimate moment when I’d get to say: “Je voudrais un sandwich au jambon, s’il vous plait!”

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