Sunday, November 11, 2007


Today when heading to your local coffee shops, the options are incredible. Whole, 2%, skim, and soy for milk options; single, double or triple shots of espresso; regular or sugar-free pumps of syrup; Equal, sugar or Slenda; and tall, grande or venti for size. You could get a headache before even ordering. This New Yorker cartoon does a good job of poking fun at the Starbucks coffee naming culture.

I like to try new options when I go into Starbucks, but I do have my favorites. I use skim or soy because I am allergic to dairy, and choose sugar-free syrup with each drink. If I have a long night of studying ahead of me I’ll choose a drink with a double or triple shot of espresso (as I have previously mentioned I run on caffeine). I also try to choose drinks with low calorie options since I consume multiple cups of coffee a day.

I am not proud of this next story (but it is quite humorous). Last year during exams a barista at Starbucks laughed at my drink order saying it was the longest one that she had ever heard. Rembering back I think I ordered a triple venti sugar-free skim latte, no foam, extra hot. She may have laughed but that personalization is the reason I seek out Starbucks! And even that laugh is interaction between the customer and the employee, which adds to your experience (whether good or bad), it is not just a transaction which you would recieve at McDonalds.

Even though I love the personalization to coffee, I do not go to coffee shops every day. Each morning my coffee pot is set to go off at 7:45am, whether I get up at that time or not, it begins brewing. Additions to my coffee that I make at home every morning are two packets of Splenda and a tablespoon of vanilla coffee creamer. Occasionally I use sugar-free syrup and some milk, but that is only when I run out of coffee creamer. Last year my sister advised me that maybe I should cut back on the sugar-free/Splenda habit and go back to the natural products such as sugar. But how could I say no to no calories and the magical advertisements that Splenda has created. Even the advertisement is telling me not to be scared of sweets, because in theory (with Splenda) you can eat sweets and not gain weight. I say BRING ON THE DESSERTS (and coffee)! :) But whether I get skim or soy, syrup or sugar-free, tall or venti, I couldn't imagine life without coffee and my personal touches to it!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Starbucks Logo

Does it seem like Starbucks is everywhere? I feel like I see their logo everywhere I turn, from store fronts to ice cream cartons in the grocery store.

Have you ever wondered where the Starbucks logo came from? Take a look at it. What do you see?

I first saw a girl wearing a crown inside a green circle with Starbucks Coffee branded on it. Then I began to wonder what exactly was the point of their logo because this face did not seem to convey coffee in anyway. So I Google’d "Starbucks Logo" to find out exactly what this image meant (Google is my favorite online tool...I way overuse it!!).

Turns out this is not the first version of the Starbucks logo. Let me take you back to 1987, when the original owners of Starbucks decided to sell their coffee shop and Howard Schultz jumped at the opportunity to buy it. He currently owned an espresso café in Seattle named Il Giornarle. The original Starbucks Logo which was a UPS brown and originally named Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices and featured a two-tailed mermaid, also known as a siren. The siren is a mythical creature whose stories tell of luring fisherman through song. Starbucks is using the lure of female sexuality to draw customers to the coffee (Brand Autopsy). This is not where hidden meaning behind the Starbucks logo ends.

Originally the owners wanted to name the coffee company "Moby's Coffee" but coffee drinkers did not positively associate coffee with a whale. However the Starbucks name still has a strong relation to Moby Dick because Starbucks was the name of the coffee drinking first mate in the novel. The name also brings up the idea of stardom and big bucks- two very appealing points to consumers. Still digging deeper into the full meaning of Starbucks, you can find a character named Mary Coffin Starbuck (in a novel named In the Heart of the Sea: the Epic True Story which inspired Moby Dick). When dissecting her name, associations to Mary Magdalene, death (coffin), and even sounds like "coffee" are present. This may seem like a stretch to explain Starbucks' success, but isn't a company with a market value of $20.9 billion worth analyzing? I think so.

"The mermaid/siren may be a vestige of ancient myth and folklore, but its lure is as pervasive and as powerful as ever," and can be seen through Starbucks success. However, some people believed the logo was too lurid and sexually suggestive so when Howard Schultz was combining the logos he used the waves of the siren hair to hide her breast and later cropped the image so now you can only see part of the siren's tails and no navel. Even through the progression of change, the meaning behind this symbol still seems to attract coffee drinkers everywhere. (The Mermaid)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

History of Coffee

As everyone knows by now, I basically run/function on coffee. This morning after my run, I decided to refrain from having my morning coffee...a little experiment. The results: advil around noon and a nap at 3pm. Needless to say I have a hard time functioning without coffee. This little experiment made me wonder where/when/why exactly this coffee addiction happened, not specifically for me, but for society in general. So here begins the history of coffee...

There are legends as to how coffee was discovered, of which one story refers to a goat herder who was amazed at his goats behavior after chewing on some red coffee berries. Historians know with more certainty that coffee was grown in Yemen in the 15th century, and was brought into Yemen and Arabia through the port of Mocha (famous coffee name even today) from Sudan. Mecca put restrictions on these berries so that they could not be grown elsewhere.

Yemen authorities encouraged use of coffee as opposed to Kat, which when chewed produced similar effects of coffee. Kaveh kanes (aka coffee houses) were first founded in Mecca. Each Kaveh kanes was unique and a place for social gathering including singing, games and gossip. "Arabian coffeehouses soon became centres of political activity and were suppressed," at times being banned over the next few decades (early 1600's). Throughout the next two centuries coffee spread to Asia, Europe and the Americas, becoming extremely popular in Italy and London.

It wasn't until 1720 that coffee began to be grown in the Americas. The story of Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu and his journey from France back to the America with a coffee plant has become one of legend, some even refer to it as the romantic story of the history of coffee. However romantic this story, it was truly the Dutch who first introduced the coffee tree in Central and South America, where today it remains their main cash crop. 1885 is an important date in US coffee history since it was when coffee was first produced in Hawaii (picture of a coffee farm on the Kona coast of Hawaii). It is the only state to produce coffee and one of the finest!

Coffee in the US started in Seattle in cafes and spread the "latte" culture which today can be found in every city in America. Coffee is growing on global level too, you can now find coffee house in London, Tokyo and Sydney. "Coffee is crucial to the economies and politics of many developing countries; for many of the world's Least Developed Countries, exports of coffee account for a substantial part of their foreign exchange earnings in some cases over 80%." (International Coffee Organization)

The rest of coffee's history is still to be written. So keep consuming your morning coffee, because who could imagine a world without coffee. Tea (too weak), hot chocolate (to sweet) and cola (ewwhh carbonation) just don't cut it. Coffee is my drink of choice, whether it be morning, afternoon or night (or currently 1:23am) I love my coffee!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coffee Paint?

I stumbled upon this video when searching for videos similar to my previous post Art in a Cup. Unlike that video where art was created in the cup of coffee, this video uses coffee as a medium.

This post is going to be a bit off the coffee track because this coffee art piece inspired me to research other forms of art. More specifically film art.

Padre Nuestro won the best US drama in the Sundance Film Festival Awards held in Park City, Utah on January 27th (I will have to rent it and let everyone know if it deserves the award ;). Independent films are my sisters favorite type of film. Years ago, when she came home to Buffalo for vacations, she would drag me to the independent movie theater around our house and we would watch all the latest released films. Now it takes less effort on her part to persuade me to go because unlike Hollywood films, you can see the creative genius within independent films. The acting is better, the emotions feel real and the plot line is more involved (in a good in-depth way). I feel like I am supporting TALENT when I buy a film ticket.

There are many indie (independent) film festival throughout the world, of which the most famous includes the Sundance Film Festival, the Slamdance Film Festival, the South By Southwest film festival, the Raindance Film Festival, or the Cannes Film Festival. The award winning films will usually get picked up by major film studio.
There is a new indie film coming out November 2nd "Wrist Cutters: A Love Story" which is about a world, or almost limbo where people are stuck when they "off" themselves. It sounds a bit morbid saying it like that but it has multiple nominations and awards from various independent film festivals. This film also has some mainstream actors, including Patrick Fugit, Leslie Bibb, and Shannyn Sossamon, which is becoming more of a trend in this film industry. Actors such as George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and many more have been doing independent films lately. This movie is definitely at the top of my movie list! (Wristcutters website)

I will let everyone know how the film is as soon as I see it. Well sorry for the non-coffee post, I was just feeling like I needed to mix it up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Starbucks' in Education

I've talked about Starbucks growing outside of coffee and into the media landscape through music and and film, but Starbucks in education?? Are you a bit confused?!?! so was I. Starbucks in Uptown Oxford offer coffee class on Monday nights at 7pm. When you walk in they have tables pushed together and a variety of coffee and pastries on the tables. The purpose of these classes you ask...well of course to education their consumers on coffee.

Starbucks has become the leader in premium coffee in the US and they want their customers to be educated on the coffee they sell. These classes to educate you on their premium coffee...FREE! Yep, you read me correctly, absolutely, positively free! My opinion on why they offer this service goes back to Starbucks' original goal for the atmosphere of their stores; to be that local coffee house feel. Charging for their classes just wouldn't line up with their strategy. Also by keeping consumers in the "know" and knowledgeable about your product, you are tying that coffee knowledge directly to the Starbucks brand.

Each week the class focuses on a different bean and they teach you everything from how to smell the coffee to how to taste the different attributes of the bean (some are earthy, fruity, bitter, etc). They also pair up the coffee with one of their pastries, because they explain that coffee and pastries should complement each other to bring out the strongest flavors in each. You get stamps for each class you attend which are specific to the region of coffee you learned about. The class I attended this week focused on the correct way to brew coffee.

Our barista had 3 different brews sitting on the table with several different pastries. The first brew was brewed too weak and was extremely watery. The second brew was brewed too strong and the bean was not ground fine enough so their were bean pieces in the brew. The last sample was brewed with the right amount/texture of grinds to brew a great cup of coffee. When brewed correctly you can smell and taste the difference. It is a bit odd smelling and tasting coffee without cream or sugar, but it is extremely educational! Also when the correctly brewed coffee is paired with the right pastry, the results = PERFECTION!

After the class I received my stamps which I added to my passport book (the book Starbucks gives you at the first class you attend in order to keep all your stamps together). When you fill their passport you receive a free pound of Starbucks coffee. Got to love the free gifts!! Even though I am quite a few classes away from getting my free pound of coffee I have no doubt I will get there soon enough.

Check out these classes at your local Starbucks, just stop in and mention them. If your store does not offer them, ask if there is a Starbucks around that does or suggest they should start providing them. These classes are not only good for a night with the girls, but they are good for that late night, beginning of the week pick-me-up! The best coffee class I have attended yet was right after Valentines day last year, they held a chocolate coffee class, complete with every chocolate pastry they carry and their dark chocolate pieces. Oh...I was in CHOCOLATE HEAVEN!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Study Tips

In tribute to next week...

There is a week in college (typically each semester) that every student uses the term "hell week." It is that miserable time during the semester that it appears as if every professor has plotted against you and assigned an exam or term paper due. Last semester I was "blessed" to have 5 exams during that week. This semester "hell week" is only 3 exams. 3 exams in 3 days is literally finals week, however you also have to figure in that you still have classes, projects, readings and sometimes even a job to do. This week can also be nicknamed "the week of no sleep."

To help alleviate stress during this crazy time of the semester, ...positively coffee offers some study tips...
1. Plan Ahead- make a time table for studying new material, as well as revisions
2. Using YOUR time- bus time/walk time = great study time
3. Focus on Quality Study- playing on facebook is NOT effective study time
4. Understand Your Memory- revise over several days so that information is set into long term memory
5. Eat properly- nutrients and energy from fruits and vegetables can fight stress and increase mental performance
6. Take Exercise- combats stress and promotes relaxation
7. Revise Using Past Papers- familiarize yourself with layout and type of question
8. Prepare and Use Summaries- limits summary to key points and relevant diagrams
9. Try to Sleep Well- sleep deprivation impairs mental performance, just relax!
10. Include Drinking Coffee as Part of Your Study Plan- coffee eases learning by keeping you alert and attentive. The added caffeine not only helps give you added energy but also helps your brain process information better. Coffee is valuable during revision processes because it allows you to focus your attention on a task and helps with short term memory. This decrease in distraction allows you to concentrate on the studying at hand without becoming easily distracted with phone calls or housemates, which is a common scenario for most college students.

College life is full of "hell weeks," so follow these 10 steps throughout the semester and you will see an impact on your exam performance as well as your attitude. Happy Studying :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Starbuck's Empire

I love that every other store in this mall is a Starbucks, and when Bart walks out of the piercing store, he is now carrying a Starbucks cup because it too has been transformed into a Starbucks. However this video forces me to ask "Is Starbucks taking over?!?!"

It is true that Starbucks are beginning to pop up everywhere. As of August 2007 there were 10, 295 stores located in all 50 States (including DC) and 4, 101 stores globally throughout 41 countries (according to the their Company Factsheet). So this makes a grand total of 14, 396 store open since Starbucks was founded in 1971 in Seattle's Pike Place Market. It is not the growth of Starbucks store that disturbs me, but the growth of Starbucks into new markets that scares me.

The natural market for expansion would be movement into the music industry since this adds to the atmosphere that is unique to Starbucks, and they have been very successful in this business venture. In March 2004 Starbucks unveiled their first in store music experience, in Santa Monica, CA, which you can record your own cd's. Also in October 2006 ITunes and Starbucks announced the itunes store will carry Starbucks music so that you can have the experience at home (itunes deal).

Beginning in April 2006, Starbucks baristas began wearing lanyards and playing music advertising the film "Akeeleh and the Bee." This was their first movie ad promotion, and unfortunately not their last (Arctic Tale). Both these movies did not do well in theaters and "Akeeleh" barely broke even in sales. I can understand the partnerships or promotions that Starbucks participates in with cd lables, artists, books and even in store sales of dvd's but I do not believe the film industry is a good area for Starbucks to pursue (LosAngelesTimes).

My main questions for everyone reading this is what makes Starbucks credible in this new market? People come to the store for coffee! I understand you may buy a book or cd when you are there because it fits with the "theme/atmosphere" of a coffeehouse, but what is going to drive you to a theater to see a film?!? I see grocery coffee beans, coffee machines, food, music, even books in Starbucks future but I do not see films being a lucrative venture for them. Afterall would you highly value a movie recommendation from a coffee bean expert?