Monthly Archives: August 2008

Grinds in Their Coffee

The headline was music to my eyes: Starbucks is closing 600 of its 7,100 stores.  All I can say is, there is some justice in this world!


Sure, I feel sorry for the employees losing their jobs. But that’s where my sympathy begins and ends.


I’ve never understood the Starbucks appeal. I’d rather brew a tasty cuppa in my kitchen then drink Starbucks bitter house blend. Does anyone honestly think their coffee tastes good?

And I’m loathe to hand over five or six bucks for a fancy-ass beverage with zero alcohol whose name I can’t even pronounce. The company boasts “up to 87,000 different drink combinations.” Who needs ’em? How about one decent cup of coffee?

In the occasional spare moment, I’ve pondered the rationale to having these coffee shop clones on every corner. Is this the 21st century’s take on “a chicken in every pot?” A Starbucks on every street. As in the housing market, this balloon had to burst.


In downtown Annapolis, the all-too-familiar green-and-white logo is a boil on the backside of the Maryland Inn. Is nothing sacred?  In 1783-84, the red-brick inn on Church Circle hosted 11 congressional delegates who came to town to hear George Washington resign as commander-in-chief and ratify the Treaty of Paris.  


Perhaps we owe gratitude to the economic downturn that the Seattle-based company hasn’t yet desecrated the U.S. Capitol. Who knows, maybe it’s in the works.


This Luddite doesn’t get it. The coffee tastes like socks after a week-long hike through mud. The look-alike stores are devoid of character. Maybe that’s the appeal to acolytes: I can go somewhere and blend in.   


When I want a good cup of java in my town, I head for Hard Bean Coffee & Booksellers. It’s Cheers for the hooked-on-caffeine set. (And almost everyone knows your name.) The coffee is delicious—flavorful and full-bodied and reasonable. The staff is courteous and sincere. None of that automaton–“Have a nice day. Next in line.”–baloney.  


Gary Amoth, the owner, greets customers personally. He’s a master kibitzer who displays art by up-and-comers and hosts signings by local authors. And he doesn’t need prior approval from any corporate office.  


At Hard Bean I can linger all morning if I want, browse the books, crank up my laptop, or check e-mail on one of two computers—for free.


Are you listening, Starbucks?


Have a nice day.