Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Starbucks Generation



In the recent decade there has been an unbelievable feat in the “coffee making business” (well, maybe after Lindo Coffee Brand the overpriced coffee sold by Harrison Ford’s nemesis Don Escobedo in the movie Clear Present Danger?). Nobody can deny that Starbucks Coffee has effortlessly conquered the Philippines. I heard from somewhere that the Seattle based coffee company employs a secret mind-controlling formula loaned from the CIA which can persuade patrons to pay a ridiculously priced cup of coffee- ten folds than that of good ol’ Tiyoy Amboy’s Cape.

I remember around ten years ago when my classmate, Rachel Zozobrado has mentioned to us about incorporating a then obscure coffee company (well, unknown to us Tiyoy Amboy loyal coffee drinkers). Never in my wildest dreams that the entrance of this coffee company to Philippine society will spark a revolution of sorts. A whole new lifestyle of people lining to get in the green and white halo shop like cars with empty gas tanks queuing to have their fill. A Starbucks outlet has popped at almost every corner that it can be called the a sari-sari store. The simple coffee with sugar and cream that I used to know has evolved into latte grande, frappucino tall and other fancy sounding concoction. As long as they can come up with new varieties of the bean wonder, the cash register continues to lure in hard earned pesos.

Blame it on western indoctrination innocently packaged in lovable and funny movies like You Got Mail!, Zoolander and the wacky Austin Powers (where Docteerr Evil was unmasked as the owner of highly profitable coffee company), we Pinoys can't just resist a piece of the American lifestyle. Well, who can deny that it is just chic to bring a laptop or pocket book inside a Starbucks. Or chat away with similarly situated friends over conveniently cheap Frappucino tall. Some say it is better than watching a movie - you can get to be part of the scene being watched. You’re in a Starbucks, man…it is the in thing when you are not really into sosy scene. Just imagine being called out by near perfect American twang of the barrista - ….”Mocha Frappucino for Prow-coh-fio!!” Definitely you will stand out of the crowd. Well, I always use intriguing pseudonyms, Inigo, Tonyboy, Lucio or Henri…these never fail to turn heads and the nods from all around the room.

During my recent trip to Starbucks, I tried escaping to the second floor only to be shocked seeing a room full of students. It reminded of me of our old college library which is a favorite joint of those cramming for the midterms. Med students and their bulky books, law students with their pile of photocopied papers and those reviewing for some exam have established their own fiefdom. It is a few pesos difference from the school cafeteria prices and definitely higher in the “you are cool” ratings. Now what is despicable is seeing one tall drip coffee for a group of ..say..5 students. But Starbucks seems not to mind. Having students hang out at their stores adds up to their hip image – free advertisement. At least, the CIA formula (if the conspiracy theory is true) has good side effects –makes dumb students study. Remove the Starbucks and its ambience, its back to a nation of hopeless youth.

Well for us in the mid-30s bracket, most of us usually retreat to a more dimly lighted competitor: Figaro or the Havana Café with their babelicious waitresses. Figaro which has been in the scene at the same time as Starbucks has begun to carve its niche as the favorite joint of the “any other coffee but Iced Frappucino” coffee. Actually those who don’t give a rat-ass about a dozen of choices of Frappucinos and Lattes would rather go there. On the other hand, Havana Café, coffee afficianados obviously do not go there for coffee.

Sad but true, I am also part of the Starbucks generation. I confess to fall helplessly at the lure of a hot Starbucks cappuccino or the Peppermint Mocha Fraf. That is why it me a breeze to finish the 24 plus coffees and win a Starbucks 2007 planner (Well it only took my wife Michelle a single Peppermint Fraf to wrestle away my hard earned Starbucks planner…lucky lucky girl!). Well my coffee life has indeed come a long way from the days of Nescafe instant which I have devised into a variety of delicious coffee concoctions. I am glad Starbucks has freed me from that chore.

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