There was a time about 10-12 years ago when Starbucks was the pinnacle of coffee excellence in NYC if you wanted anything except really badly made and horrible tasting drip coffee. Then the whole coffee thing hit. Baristas who had been brewing excellent coffee for years overseas visited NYC and couldn’t believe what a coffee desert it was. Everyone from those steeped in the Italian espresso tradition to cold brew specialists then hit town and before you could say “Stumptown’ hipsters and other coffee aficionados were discussing which was the right side of hill to grow coffee on, types of roasts and the various ways to make an excellent brew. Grown up coffee had hit town.
Since then NYC has split into Starbucks coffee drinkers who drink it because it’s a habit, local, quick and they have a special corner they always sit in and the other coffee tribes. These dedicated and committed coffee tribes analyse brews, beans and baristas in much the same reverent way whisky conoisseurs passionately defend their favorite drop. Let’s be clear Starbucks, you are a habit you are not a coffee tribe, you never were and you never will be.
But Starbucks keep throwing themselves into the coffee ring in ever newer guises. They switch up their coffee with weird flavors and heaped cream, they offer new not so delectible eats to go with the coffee but what they never change is the sheer boring sameness of their coffee. Now they are looking to cement the loyalty of NYC coffee drinkers with a new gambit, yes, delivering coffee direct to your desk.
They are running a trial beginning soon where they will have a Starbucks store on the first floor of the Empire State Building and all the snappily dressed professional workers in the many, many floors above the store can ring down and have a coffee delivered to them. How successful will this be in expanding Starbucks hold on the coffee drinkers of NYC? It will depend strictly on how many of those Empire State workers are members of a true coffee tribe. Because if they are, they won’t be drinking Starbucks. And this is a trial, it’s not a done deal.
Give it your best shot Starbucks but I happen to believe that the drinking of truly excellent coffee is now an unstoppable tide in NYC. You can fiddle around with it all you like but increased sophistication and discernment in coffee drinking is now on the ascendant and it’s just a question of picking the brew that speaks to your heart.