Culture is everything. Destroy the culture and a people will have nothing left to stand on or fight for, and usually, it’s all part of a plan. It’s all part of a plan because we are told every second of the day that everything is relative. Of course, this relativism is defined and defended and shoved down our throats in absolute terms. Oh, the hypocrisy.
Starbucks got its start by trying to mimic the Italian coffee experience, with an added twist of Americanism. That’s all fine and dandy, but is that what happened? Starbucks prides itself on its discriminatory selection process, where they ignore almost all coffee beans in the world and seek out “only the best”. While I don’t doubt the quality of the beans, it is the roasting that makes coffee what it is supposed to be. For a life changing experience, please see my war-ending/peace loving website dedicated to coffee (and pizza)pizzaandcoffee.com. Some of what I will mention here in this article I have borrowed from myself. I think I hit the nail on the head with that site, so why not refer to it?
What is the “Italian” feel that Starbucks tried to mimic? First off, if you have to copy an essence, it’s automatically fake. You cannot replicate soul; you just are “it”. For Italians, the “bar” is their modern day forum, agora, meeting place, center of town, and city life. Everything in Italy is played out in a piazza (town square) or a bar. In Italy, a Bar is not what we think of when we hear that word. A bar in America is a place to get drunk. In Italy, a “Bar” is a coffee shop that also serves some pastries and alcohol, though besides the youth attempting to be “American”, alcohol consumption in Italy is, thankfully, quite low. Low alcohol consumption is a good thing because it keeps people awake and ready to talk and share in a peaceful way. Remember the sitcom “Cheers” “where everybody knows your name”? Well, Italian bars are like that, but instead of beer, you get the best espresso you ever had in your life.
Sure, some Italians go to a bar to read a paper by themselves, but it is inevitable that some other Italian, at some point, will strike up a conversation. Compare that to Starbucks, where most people are by themselves and usually either have their headphones on, listening to terrible music, listening to terrible music they may have purchased at Starbucks (isn’t this a coffee place, what cd’s?), on their laptops or iPads, on social media, on social media WHILE they are there with their friends, texting their friends WHILE those friends they are texting are right in front of them, or staring into their phones like they will get some long awaited answer to Life on a ball and chain, hand-held device. Add a few bums (I’m from the original New York, they are called bums, and no, I won’t stop using that term) taking dumps in the bathroom and smelling the place up.
Starbucks is the exact OPPOSITE of an Italian Bar.
But wait……Italy is changing. And not for the better. Italians, especially the youth, are too tired and downright lazy to worry about carrying forward 3,000 years of the most important and influential culture in History on their shoulders. That last statement about the culture may seem bizarre in this sick world we live in, but it is a fact that can be measured quantitavely and assessed qualitatively.
Italians of today find it much EASIER to just jump on ANYthing else that is less overwhelming. They jump on it and embrace it. With no money or jobs, they somehow manage to travel. During these travels, they encounter Starbukcs and fall in love with it, simply for being different and non-Italian. The whole world tries to eat, live, dress, and BE Italian, and here are these Italian schmucks doing the opposite thing. I have seen Italians comment publicly on the internet TRASHING Italy for not having a Starbucks!!! Italy, so far, is the ONLY, place Starbucks cannot break into. But not for long. Add in a huge invasion of other cultures flooding into Italy, and the country is getting filled with people who do not have the cultural and gastronimic depths Italy worked so hard to create. They don’t know or care about the difference between a real espresso or Starbucks’ nonsense.
Italy, as it exists now, is ripe for a Starbucks raping.
It used to be said you could not get a bad meal in Italy. And that was true. But now, with young “chefs” in Italy trying ANYthing, even if it doesn’t make sense, and so many restaurants in Italy hiring people from other countries who cannot possibly know what growing up with a specific local, Italian flavor is like, the platform has been set. I have had some bad meals in Italy. AND LIKE I PREDICTED, the weak Italian youth will one day want to learn their past and have to ask the NON-Italian chefs how it’s done, getting in return a lesser and watered down dish. If I went to China and cooked in a restaurant, the food I would make could NEVER, EVER be what a real Chinese grandmother would do, no matter how much I “trained”…PERIOD. It goes both ways.
Starbucks even tries to commericalize and market an old Neapolitan tradition of the “caffe sospeso”. As I wrote in pizzaandcoffee.com, “Generous Neapolitans can order and pay for two coffees and only consume one, while the unmade second is left for a poor and unfortunate person in despair and with no means of buying a coffee. This is not only compassion but passion.”
But who will do that once Starbucks takes over?
I honestly believe that if Starbucks gets into Italy, it will be the final knockout punch that Italy has been asking for and deserves. Sadly, people like me, who spent their lives learning and appreciating Italy, will have to watch it all come crashing down. Thanks. Question, was it worth it?
Bye, Bye, Docle Vita.
EXTRA REQUIRED READING:
Also from my site pizzaandcoffee.com (from 2008)
Starbucks and their Disney-like drinks.
Starbucks’ coffee is pretty bad. They over-roast all their coffee so as to give it a uniform taste to be had at all their gazillion shops. This leaves it with an overly bitter, burnt taste. I will never get an espresso there and the few times I do order from these shops, I REFUSE to go along with their lingo. I will not call any coffee a “Venti” or call the dazed and spaced out Starbucks employee a “Barista”. I say, “Can I have a coffee in that cup”, only risking an American coffee, pointing to a size, and always saying “Please” before and after.
I remember watching “You’ve Got Mail” —I have NO idea why— and Tom Hanks’ character said something to the extent, “ People love Starbucks because it gives them all these choices to make.” In other words, it “empowers” them. But what is on offer at these coffee circuses? They serve drinks, which seem to be more concoctions than coffee. Some drinks have so many ingredients, you wonder if there is any coffee in there at all.
You can go there and design whatever you want. Does anyone get that they are essentially drinking desserts? There are so many layers of ingredients and each one is applied with it’s own design, it leaves me confused as to how to even go about consuming it. They all seem to be sprinkled with magical dusts that are supposed to conjure up fairy tale images of the weather, seasons, festivals, or whatever dumb book or CD they are promoting. As a side note, if they promote my book, I’ll change what I wrote :-). I prefer drinking coffee from diners that come in the blue and white “Ancient Greek Disk Thrower” themed cups.
Then there is the problem of the stupid, big cups. Does anyone need that much liquid? If so, why not drink water? It’s better for you.
I am happy to report that Starbucks is all over the world EXCEPT ITALY. They know they have will have a hard time breaking the back of Italy’s culture. Thank God. Though young Italians seem keen on throwing away their culture, it is heart warming to see some things are holding on.