please empty your brain below

Is it just my eye-sight, or are the space invaders all white? AT a guess, university educated middle-class? I didn't spot a sari amongst them. Maybe the locals will appreciate the coffee, or maybe the competition will lift the game of the locals, so that they make more than just (apologies for the assumption here) filter coffee with the option of sugar or milk.

Most of us have a pension plan of some sort or other, so we are kinda, the unseen shareholders. If Starbucks are crap, stay away (I do) but protests are just insulting to the locals. The local's will win: their incomes must have risen to a level where they are prepared to pay for someone to make them a cuppa, or it hasn't and they'll stay away and SB's will close.

PS What's the deal on that other american cultural icon, the denim jean? Most folk in the photos were wearing them, so I guess its ok to wear them? Where are they made? Do Levi et al sell "fair trade" jeans?

Jeepers, you've pushed my buttons today, DG! ;^)
I am usually one of those "brain-dead" folk, staring off. However, I normally refer to that state as "thinking", sometimes “contemplating", often "observing". At other times I am "unwinding", "recharging the batteries" or "gathering those thoughts".

PS If it were just about caffeine, we'd all drink coke or V. It if were just about hydration, we'd all drink water (well, ALL the time), why ruin water with tea, then?

PPS the REAL answer is to support independent baristas, who make fantastic coffee, preferably from organic free trade beans. Other countries do it, so why not the UK of GB and NI?!

As I’ve said before, maybe the coffee-corporations are just the beach-head, softening us up for the invasion of the independents. Or maybe the locals will rise as “the resistance”, offering an alternative.

AND ANOTHER THING (sorry: I am drinking coffee as we speak) where exactly do the locals get their beans? Do they travel to Columbia and select the beans them selves? DO they roast them in store? Etc, etc. I rather suspect that they buy catering quantities from a company that specialises selling cafes what they need, in quantities that they need, at a price that is affordable.

This post today smacks a bit of that phenomenon of the colonials praising the beautiful and majestic natives. All a bit patronising, really.

Sorry, don't know the name of that phenomenon: not university educated, me.
Phew: I think I need another cup: my hands are shaking!

Excellent advice DG! Just say NO to stupid overpriced barista coffee!

I live in Seattle, the home of the Starbucks empire. In fact I used to buy coffee beans from the original world's first Starbucks, down at Pike Place Market... and it's still there and hasn't changed a bit since 1976.

However... I fail to understand how people can wait in those idiotic lines for 20 minutes as each tailor made gourmet coffee is hand-crafted via lengthy instructions exchanged in an idiotic language of 'Barista Speak'... none of which I've ever been able to understand.

I indulge in approximately 3 lattes a year... and the rest is home brewed.

And don't even get me started on the new phenomenon of people sitting in cafes and surfing the web on their wireless laptops with earplugs all plugged in. WHY do they want to go to a public meeting house and then insure that they'll never be able to hear, see or communicate with anyone who's not 1,000 miles away!???

End of rant... sorry it was a 'Grande sized rant'.


Sorry, I'm with FlashGordonz on this one. I'm not a big Starbuck's fan, but apart from being a victim of its own success, I can see few reasons for the opprobrium being heaped on it. If you don't like corporate blandness go to the coffee shop next door. If you like the comfy sofas (and the branch has them), why not Starbucks?.

It's not as if the excellent coffee shop next door won't be able to easily undercut them on price.

The Whitechapel branch of Starbucks doesn't have comfy sofas, just a lot of robust wooden chairs arranged around tiny wooden tables (plus a few metal tables outside for those who like carbon monoxide with their coffee).

I really enjoyed today's post. I remember Black Lion Yard well, and in fact still have a gold brooch that was made by a jeweller there as a 21st present from my parents.

The Starbucks issue is another thing. I enjoy a Starbucks special about 6 times a year. It would not prevent me buying delicious everyday coffee from an independent trader.

The 'demonstation' featuring rent-a-crowd would, frankly, get up my nose if it happened where I lived. I also think that considering the ethnicity and dietry requirements of many of the local residents, it is unlikely that the other fast food multiples are going to invade the area.

Personally, when in the East End, I get a saltbeef sandwich on rye from the Brick Lane Beigal Bakery.

What's wrong with instant? If you have to ask, nothing (no implied slight, a factual observation). What's wrong with making your own filter brew at home? Nothing. Even less, making your own expresso.

Isn't it the "clubbing" nature that drives the shoppers? After watching all the American TV/films, people just want to be able to go somewhere, order a skinny fat origami with chestnuts (or whatever) and be understood.

Fact is, there have always been places to find a decent cup of coffee in the city. That is: expresso, with or without milk. However, most of the drinks served in these places go to extreme lengths to hide the fact that there may be some coffee in the drink.

Maybe it's not about areas becoming more upmarket, but about Starbucks realising that everyone is exploitable, irrespective of income?

I suspect it's a hard, calculated business decision. Like everything else in this world - whether or not people understand, or choose to acknowledge it.

It ain't about the coffee, it's about the lifestyle being bought into: people sit in those corporate hell-holes, like zombies on 'soma', staring into space, thinking they're having some 'me' time. All the whilst preparing to go sit in another corporate hell-hole afterwards, to earn their living. Both times, some shareholders are undoubtably getting rich. Different location; same outcome. Why question what people are used to? It's the capitalist way, after all.

Also, being a bit of a coffee snob and fan of particular beans myself, I would liken coffee to wine: why would I drink a £1.99 wine that tastes of vinegar, when I can spend £5.99 on some organic Cabernet Sauvignon that tastes delicious?

As well as being horrific as a company with an awful track record in being fairtrade, Starbucks' coffee is absolutely dreadful. Rather than buy into that, instead I am sat here at home, with my home-brewed (bought from local shop) Organic Fairtrade Guatemalan ground coffee and very nice it is too.

But please don't call 'instant', coffee: it ain't. Its molecular structure and ingredients are about as far removed from the coffee bean as you can get; and if you want to fill your body with huge amounts of dangerous chemicals, that would be the way to do it.

'Instant' to coffee is Special Brew to wine. I rest my case.

To be honest, while I'm not a giant fan of Starbucks, it definitely serves better coffee than the majority of little cafes in the capital. There are a few really good ones out there that definitely deserve their patronage, but I've been continually disappointed when trying out cafe coffee. Maybe it's because Starbucks actually trains their staff...

That and I've already ranted about Starbucks hate before - there are hundreds of companies more deserving of hate than them. They're one of the world's *better* corporate citizens. Still evil, of course, but you've got to pick your battles...

(And no, I wouldn't wait for more than about 3 minutes for my coffee - not for Costa, Nero, Coffee Republic, Starbucks or any of those)

You missed a third Starbucks that opened in the East End, in fact its only a mile away from you...

dg writes: Alas the Store Locator on Starbucks' website doesn't appear to be working at the moment. If I search for Starbucks stores in London, apparently there aren't any. If only.

""People sit in those corporate hell-holes, like zombies on 'soma', staring into space, thinking they're having some 'me' time."

.... while typing gross generalisations about people into blog comment forms via the wireless link, presumably.

Actually Chris, I type my gross generalisations about people via a wireless link at home. Less chance of my laptop getting nicked by some Starbucks' scum, innit.

If I want a "comfy sofa" I'll go and sit at home, not in a cafe or a pub; it certainly wouldn't be a reason to support and endorse the clone-town corporatisation which spreads at a great pace across the UK.

is a comfy sofa all it takes thesedays...? *sigh*

I know the Whitechapel area fairly well and have had coffee in a few of those places. Mostly it isn't better coffee. Smaller does not mean better. Independent does not mean better. If the independent were that good people would be protesting their massive expansion on the planet.

I really like Starbucks coffee and will continue to drink it and find Space Hijackers extremely funny. I love it when anarchists are organised and don't get the irony*. They need to get a job and a haircut. Bring back National Service for stinkin hippies.

*Like Alanis Morrisette I am not completely sure what exactly constitutes irony.

Starbucks is the best of the chains - and (alas) better than most independents.

Whenever I see an attractive looking independent cafe I go in, hopes high, but almost always find a messy interior, badly trained staff, a longer wait than at Starbucks even though I'm often the only customer, and (at best) an indifferent product.

Sorry "The Girl" - we're not all brainwashed - Starbucks has succeeded because they do a better job! Perhaps I wish it were otherwise, but it isn't!!

Gee, there ARE a lot of generalisations out there.

Hey, The Girl: when it is time for you sit down to type your blog, first set up a video camera. After you have finished your missive, review the tape. You’ll be a very special person who doesn’t look a “zombie” whilst deep in thought.

I, myself, relax my eyes. It pure misfortune that whenever I tune back in, I notice that they have focused on the attractive waitress, or the young mother breast-feeding opposite. (Luckily I only drool in my sleep, or else I’d be sporting black eyes.) So as a little strategy (just in case I’m be observed, but I’m not paranoid) I make a point of examining the shopping bag of the bloke walking past, then the technology of the light fittings above me.

Blue Witch, you are undoubtedly right: it is a “a hard, calculated business decision” to open a SB somewhere. Gee, like: are they, like, a business or something?
What about the decisions of the folk who choose to imbibe there: for what reason have they cast their economic vote at SB’s? Are they imbeciles? Would you make the decision for them, for they are unable to make the decision for themselves? Do you think SB customers are sub-human, lacking intelligence? If so, you and T Blair, Marx, Hitler et al are possibly in agreement.

The tone in today’s post and some of the comments indicate a disdain or scorn of some folk who purchase at Starbucks. That is the root of prejudice. Prejudice starts wars, stifles debate or alternative viewpoints (bad grammar). I hate prejudice, not people. PS I am white anglo male of lower middle class origin. What little prejudice I encounter saddens me, because I know some folk face so much that they are put to death.

Education and information, trust and understanding help counter prejudice, not offensive generalisations that seem calculated to attest to the generaliser’s superiority to the subjects.

On that note, I’ll take a chill pill and come back in the morrow. DG, you’re a shit stirrer!

(Wait a minute, does that make me shit? Bugger: I’ll have to sleep on that one.)

I have to say i agree with the first post by Flashgordonz.
While i truly despise and lament the
homogeonisation of our highstreets, the sad
fact is that starbucks and tesco provide what people want.

Patronising comment of the day:

"People sit in those corporate hell-holes, like zombies on 'soma', staring into space, thinking they're having some 'me' time."

Perrrlease! When you've finished watching Point Break again, try actually asking someone why they're sitting in starbucks. I suspect the
phrases - "i like the coffee", "i wanted somewhere warm and comfy to sit
while i take a break from shopping"
will feature stongly...

Ah well, that's global capitalism, eh?

Yes - that is global capitalism - giving people more of what they want when they want it.


Hmm, most people have said what I wanted to say. Poo.

Starbucks will live or die by if people want to drink their coffee or not. If people don't like it, the branch will close. But the presumption that that area of East London doesn't want a Starbucks will remain to be seen. I suspect they will do a profitable trade (but I could be wrong).

Most good independents like Starbucks. Because Starbucks has created a coffee culture that didn't exist before, and coffee sales (especially in the UK) have gone up overall since Starbucks started opening branches, not just at Starbucks. Off course the lousy independents don't like it because people have other places to choose to go.

I enjoy Starbucks, I like the fact they are all the same and I know what to expect. Part of this all the same that I like is that they are generally clean and pleasant, and I can plug a laptop in with no one giving me hassles. Of course if I had a Taylor Street Baristas I would like that too. But that doesn't mean that I don't like Starbucks.

You enjoy both.

You can enjoy both. It's allowed.

Of course other people don't like Starbucks. That's cool. Some people also don't like beetroot. But to go with the line that those of us who do are all idiots, because we choose to like something is a bit of a stretch. It's like wine drinkers calling beer drinkers fools.

As for those of us with corporate jobs? Seriously? You know some of us quite like our corporate jobs or what we do. Is it really that bad that people have jobs in the corporate world or is anything establishment wrong and bad too.

If the Starbucks fails, it would have been an incorrect decision. If it succeeds it would have been a smart one, regardless of if you (the general you) likes or dislikes the chain. Over and above that, is it really worth all the fuss?

This continual splitting of people into groups (Starbuckies on one side, AntiBuckies on the other) seems a bit silly.

Much better we talk about who is the better Starbuck, the girl in the new Battlestar Galactica or Faceman in the old one.

Whitechapel is one of the last places that needs a sodding Starbucks. It's hardly bustling with white middle-class shopaholics is it?

I give it 2 years.

So is it that only white middle class shopaholics should be allowed a starbucks in there areas?

I mean I get target demographics and all, but I'm it's not like this is a Ferrari dealership, and their is nothing wrong with pushing out into new demographics as a business decision.

It is a reality of life that globalisation is here to stay. Whether it is the fact that a housing estate in North Scotland is designed by the same person working on an estate in Devon and uses the same bricks, or the emergence of global brands liks SBs, Walmart/Asda or the Body Shop.
The world invites businesses with proven success records to set up business in their street/Country or invests in Rambo 25 because it has a track record of success over that imdependant masterpiece looking for a few grand funding. Everyone is looking for a safe bet for their investment money and the drive for perfrmance pushes succesfull companies to expand by buying up their rivals (acquisitions offer instant growth over organic which may not exist in a market). Hence companies will continue to get bigger and bigger (just look at the car business, Fiat owns Ferrari, Ford owns Volvo etc etc)

The independants in any line will have a progressively harder time in life. So support them as much as you can (until that is they are seen as a small sucesfull business and bought up by the big boys).

ps: could I please go back and change all my typos: 'independant', 'sucesfull' etc etc indeed.
My grandmother would turn in her grave, if she wasn't 94 and still going strong that is.
I think I need a dose of caffeine from a decent Grande Latte available in our canteen for 55p, now that's value.

I am amazed at the strong reaction this 'coffee shop' opening has caused. Surely in a free society we can choose whether or not to buy this over-priced beverage. Why shouldn't the people in the East-End have more choice? I feel a bit of class distinction coming on here. I choose not to buy, as it's too pricey for my budget, same as the coffee outlets on the Railway stations, which sells coffee for about £2 now for a cardboard cup. It always smells delicious, but on the odd occasion I have bought it, I have been rather disappointed, too much froth, and tastes cardboardy!
I make a good instant at home with hot milk, and a battery operated whisk to re-create the froth.

I don't like coffee. Not at all. Starbucks make horrible tea.

So I don't go in there.

Even Preston has a Starbucks now...

Starbucks basically sells toasted milk. The only chain coffee shop worth even looking in the window is Nero, because they put two shots in the coffee, not one.

Now if you could get a decent cup of tea at any of these places, I wouldn't care.

DG mentions people buying fried chicken from an independent shop. Surely these fried chicken shops are an excellent example of a homogenous phenomenon which exist all over London and the UK generally but aren't parts of the same firm. Same with fish and chips. People only attack big firms as being homogonisers because its easier than attacking a lot of small guys who copy business models used elsewhere - even though it may as culturally damaging as a chain.

My local fish and chip shop got taken over by a chain. It doesn't sell fish and chips any more.

All the "locals" making a protest? Wonder where they bought the ingredients to make the cakes?

Hypocrisy comes in many forms.

Don't suppose it's owt to do with the impending expenditure of £9.3 billion in the locale? I blame 'Friends'.

They do a not bad hot chocolate, though. The thing is, if I am shopping and want a refreshing sit down, a Starbucks is as good a place as anywhere else. You know what you are getting and hey, nobody is forcing you to go there. Or I might go to a local teashop, and frequently do. It all depends. But Starbucks is only successful because it is clearly giving most people what they want, along with chains like McDonalds. Again, you know what you are getting there. It might be crap but its reliable crap.

Sorry DG, for once I'm not in agreement with your post.

Whatever one thinks of Starbucks, criticising people for sitting in coffee shops in general, enjoying watching the day pass by is a little questionable.

As for 'what's wrong with instant' - well, everything. Instant coffee does not ahve a nice taste. If you drink it, it is to satisfy a caffiene craving more than anything else.

Sitting in a nice coffee shop with a well brewed cup - that is something else.

Try it sometime!

(PS: I don't drink coffee or tea every day - maybe a couple of times a week. But it is for enjoyment rather than addiction!)

If they sold Guinness I might go.

Me? I heartily welcome the Starbucks to Stratford. I'll never go in, but it's better than Percy Ingle.

Roughly speaking,
your reaction so far is as follows:

• Starbucks-positive: 40\\%
• Starbucks-negative: 40\\%
• Starbucks-neutral: 20\\%

For what its worth.

I think one point that's been missed in this thread is that starbucks doesn't just go into an area, it virtually carpet bombs it. However good they are (and I agree a lot of cafes in London sell absolutely vile coffee), independents will be hard pressed to compete when there's a Starbucks on every corner, in every bookshop, every train station etc. etc.). When they've all folded up, half the Starbucks will go too, their job done leaving the area with a lot of closed coffee shops. That's why I dislike the way Starbucks operates ...

The point that people always miss when they harangue Starbucks as being an evil empire, is that Starbucks started out as a very small locally owned coffee shop in Seattle. 30 years ago, Starbucks was the 'Ma and Pa' store everyone seems so eager to defend. They just succeeded and got bigger. Why does success make them evil?

And as far as evil corporate giants go, Starbucks at least tries to have something of a social conscious. They offer health benefits and profit sharing to EVERY (yes EVERY) employee regardless of how many hours they work each week. They have always used free-trade certified coffee only They offere domestic partnership benefits for their gay and lesbian employees, and have always promoted strong environmental policies, impact reduction and recycling programs.

Yes I agree that it is part of their marketing image to do all this stuff, but at least they are doing it.

Best set of comments ever on a DG post.

My near namesake almost managed to offend me. I blame Dr Johnson and Boswell - forerunners of corporate hell-holeness, though encouraging the popularity of coffee houses.

Tomorrow's post: pubs - what's wrong with pouring yourself a glass of wine at home?

If DG could only get a small fee for every word used in these comments then he would make a fortune, perhaps enough to open his own chain of refreshment houses.
Then we could comment on them.

Count me in for the anti-Starbucks side. Support your local capitalists, keep the big chains out.

There's an irony for me that in my experience most American coffee used to taste pretty undrinkable until the Seattle coffee crowd started their march across America.

There was a prior fairly universal convention of two glass jugs, one with a brown top and one with orange for decaf. And, in general, both were awful. So introducing some beans and modest care has lifted the coffee to a more drinkable level.

I was intrigued to see the sofa-less and slightly more utilitarian looking Stabucks you posted a couple of days ago. I was working in Riyadh when Starbucks came to Saudi Arabia and adapted for the local market.

At one level, they changed their logo to remove the woman's face from the signage as a concession to local convention. Then they also adopted the local convention of only providing seating for men and providing a separate standing room only area for women and families.

In case you think this is unusual, most fast food chains like McDonalds do the same in this territory with separate entrances, serving areas and seating for men and women.

Maybe there are some other areas for the likes of the protesters you describe to get involved with.

Doh and I remember that theres a site somewhere that takes a photo of every Starbucks in London. I can't remember what its called though.

But I expect you'll like the subversive Starbucks Logo Malfunction site, in any case.

Does anybody agree that "barista" is one of the most stupid words they have ever heard?

Starbuck's tea is possibly the nastiest in the world (worse even than Lipton Yellow Label), so it is a rare occasion I go in there. But if I do, it's because I'm meeting friends or family, or because it is the closest to the tube station, or because it is in a book shop. So I could go home, I suppose, but that would be rather inconvenient for the meeting people/booking shopping thing I was doing.

If you think Starbucks tea is bad you havent had tea from either McDonalds or the vending machine at the Horniman museum. Even after 20 sugars I still couldnt tell if it was tea or coffee.

The UK has an acute problem; capitalism is supposed to being choice and availability but its becoming restricted.

We're on an economic curve. Companies like Tescos and Starbucks raise the standard and bring greater choice. Many local shops were poorly run because they could get away with it, but they can't anymore so they improve their standards. This is the top of the curve.

But we’re now on the downward bit. Anyone trying to get into business is restricted by big company practices, like bulk buying and loss leaders. Big chains can afford prohibitive rental prices. But people are upset when the deli closes not because they’re anti capitalist, but because their choices start to become limited. If Tescos is the only place to get food near you, the choice which they initially ushered in becomes restricted. When I walk down a high street in Putney or Preston the shops are all the same and its BORING! Having been to various European cities, there are infinitely more good, independent shops – high street all that bit different. Stricter rental price control might have something to do with it.

Everyone is to blame for clone town Britain:

The big companies: the economic model is that if you don’t post year-on-year growth it means your company is failing.

The independent shops: If you had provided good service if the first place we wouldn’t have needed Starbucks et al.

The consumer: when you do have good independent shops you don’t use them, because you’re lazy/been sucked in by big brand marketing/want the cheapest possible prices.

The government: for not doing enough to encourage local shops and high streets.

I think there's maybe a bit of cowardice involved: if you've been into one Starbucks, you know what all the others are going to be like. You don't need to worry that it's going to be dingy, or the coffee's going to be rancid, or whatever, so you stay in your comfort zone, which means not even venturing into the indies.

The Whitechapel High Street argument for me boils down to the fact that Arena does much better coffee than Starbucks, and one can also purchase a tasty breakfast-based croissant, if one should so desire.

Blimey, now you've gone and done it 'DG' - the coffee folk are baying!

I think not! Starbucks provides an essential service. I want to get the heck out of my house (where there are far too many loud, teenage jerky people). I can't go to a friend's house, because in order to relax I must be wearing no makeup and a big, giant ponytail. I need to be invisible, as I sit and listen to groovy jazz and drink my over-priced grande, nonfat, vanilla latte. I might as well use their internet as I haven't seen my computer in days, as it is being hogged by jerky teenagers mentioned above.

Stop having opinions, DG! They're dangerous! Now have a corporate coffee like everyone else.

The old Vortex in Stoke Newington Church St, previously a community squat, is another planned Starbucks - as extreme as example of anti-corporate to corporate metamorphosis as you could find.

If anti-corporate means smelly then GO Starbucks! - and repent ye the soap dodgers with the dogs on a string.

Barista is a good word: why shouldn't skilled folk have a good term for their role (I'm only talking about the trained, quality ones, not the teenager whose turn it is today to refill the coffee machine at McD's).
I was a petroleum transfer technician once. That was a bit rich, since it required no training. Fuckin' good job it was, though.
"Solicitor" is the one that gets me! Practising law? "You can practice on me, luv!" But then she married me.

I have lived in this part of London all my life.

I find it amazing and somewhat supprising that businesses do really exploit any situation to maximise profits. People may be wondering, why on earth would a multinational corporation invest in an area not so fit for business? The truth is, this area IS fit for business... there has been within the last few years especially a huge influx of "white middle class" people living in east london. The actual influx is so much infact, that sometimes we, the ethic minorities, wonder how this sudden change in demography can be... well... so sudden. People are no more afraid, or feel aprehensive about living next to ethic minorities. Although these particular people are welcome, and to this date, have not been met with harsh hospitalities or anything of that nature, their activities, at least to me are somewhat exclusive, there exists two worlds in my area, the common folk (bangladeshis mostly) and the new folk (the white middle class) at least thats the perception I am getting everyday.

This change of demography has led to these businesses (tesco and starbucks) to invest here. I personally dont drink coffee, I was however delighted with the news of tesco opening near me. I would say this, as more businesses invest here, more people will start to live in as well. Its good, it means that those already living here will benefit more. It also gives us the opportunity to exchange cultures, ideas and practices with people.

One final point, there is one McDs in whitechapel, another in Commerial rd, another in Bethnal green rd.

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