Sunday, March 02, 2003
posted 8:03 AM
CAFE ELECTRIQUE

That's espresso with a tot of crystal meth, said to have been the bevvie of choice among the local equivalent of rickshaw boys in 'Nam-era Saigon. Now that would've made for a different sort of Third Place...

"Third Place" comes from THE THIRD PLACE, a book I'm too lazy to google for you this morning. It was published, I seem to recall, slightly pre-Starbuck's, and may even have provided inspiration.

In any case, as several people have now remarked, it's really not about the coffee. And it's evidently a generational issue, largely, as to how much Starbuck's sucks or doesn't. Those old enough to remember the world of North American coffee (or, God help us, UK coffee) prior to Starbuck's are inclined to forgive a great many faux-Murano lampshades.

Number me among them. Aside from making it possible to readily ingest really pretty damn good coffee just about anywhere, Starbuck's also deserves some credit for having inadvertently birthed a back-market of Anti-Starbuck's, everything from hole-in-wall-with-thrift-shop-sofa operations to the indie-coffee equivalents of The Tattered Cover. If Starbuck's wasn't there, these guys wouldn't be either. (And a lot of them don't make as good drinks as Starbuck's, if you get right down to it.)

Starbuck's culture note: On the east side of Vancouver, where fewer rich folks traditionally live, and freak flags are traditionally flown a bit higher, I know of two Starbuck's where the dress code for staff has either been abandoned entirely or so willfully subverted that the home office might be thought to wish it had been. I'm curious: Does this happen elsewhere? When did you last see a Starbuck's barista wearing neither black, khaki, nor green, and where? "Alternative" neighborhood? Could this actually be *policy*?


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