Brands for life - Starbucks
I use life loosely. I have only been a coffee addict for a decade or so. I started using around the age of thirteen, pubescent and enriched with caffeine. If it wasn’t munching on chocolate coated coffee beans, then it was my Dad’s percolated coffee that gave me a taste for it.
A bottomless cup of the fresh stuff accompanied by The Box, "Music Television You Control" - channel 2 on the old cable & wireless - was a stimulating start to any Sunday morning.
Fast forwarding three years and I was working in my first job, a labourer for a landscape gardener. I was totally out of my depth, knocking up cement and using kango breakers, but I couldn’t have cared less about my inabilities, because come Friday I’d be a wad of fifties richer regardless.
It was money to blow, a teenage desperado unhinged from society… yeah I’d buy coffee.
"Mocha Flake, please". I was hook, line, and sinker for the branded coffee. Still am.
It was Costa Coffee back then, a very particular branch in a tidy pocket of South East London. It was my haven for years, my local if you like; the hub for all my best-laid life plans.
Hang on Harvey, you’re sounding very "namby-pamby" - what about beer, football, and girls? Yeah, that’s all equally as prominent in the life of me, but that’s just generic boy-baggage and after all, Starbucks as a brand is actually quite thought provoking.
When Starbucks became ubiquitous it was only natural that I would be pulled in like a moth to flame, because I am a writer and the relaxed atmosphere is inviting.
It is cliché to say, but I do think coffee shops are the ideal place for scrawling. It is plain to see that most of the coffee drinkers are also writing, on their iPads, Notebooks, and sometimes even on… pen and paper! Me, right now, I am writing on my iPhone, though the cliché doesn’t extend to baggy cardigans, kooky glasses, and unkempt floppy hair. I left that to Mort Rainey (impressed if that's a name you don't need to Google).
Starbucks turned a simple commodity into a five-pound splurge, an experience of soft voluptuous seating, atmospheric lighting, and soothing music that oozes from discreet speakers, not to mention the glorified coffee.
I buy into it and I'm very conscious of it. It's choice. Does it feel like the devil's work? Yes a little, Starbucks is a global monopoly. Like cluster bombs they open six new cafes daily. It can be argued they crush community values and flirt with cultural insensitivity; they trampled on China's Forbidden City! Alas, the cafe there didn't last long.
The recent introduction to ALL their coffee as fair trade takes the edge off, but ultimately I'm so consumed in the brand that it's integral to my daily living now.
There have been ups and downs; Starbucks was there on a first date once where I was offered a sip of her Strawberry Frappuccino. I said yes and she handed it over. I took a longing sip and smiled, but when I handed it back I noticed Frappu-goo stretching between my lips and the tip of her straw and had to sort of chop it apart with my hand. Luckily, she saw the funny side. On a more serious note, I had to cut back to one Starbucks every other day, after I found a lump under an armpit and the doctor suggested it was the result of drinking coffee profusely. It’s come between girls and I and it’s come between the doctor and I, so it certainly does cameo in my life.
A Starbucks for me - or a Nero, Costa, or most recently a Vida E'Caffe, I'm no purist - is my way of putting life on hold. I hit the foamy pause button. It is my cigarette to you smokers and probably just as costly. Very rarely do I buy a coffee with the intention of being awoken - I'm convinced caffeine only makes you hyper and non-productive - I'm simply buying a drink that tastes damn good. In my mind, it is also a token for 20 minutes of peace, a warm hug in a mug, escapism.
'Harv, why don't you just buy a coffee from that little cafe down the lane, you know the one that is run by that Italian guy with exceptionally hairy forearms and his wife who always seems to be fashioning polka dot dresses? The coffee is only £1.50 and coffee is coffee is coffee, after all...' is the question I may never be able to answer convincingly, but here I think I have at least laid out the pieces to the puzzle.
Tall Caramel Macchiato, if you're buying.
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Kickers and Osh Kosh
Twitter chat - #brandsforlife