A journalist asks: How did a modest Seattle coffeehouse become a global juggernaut?
Paying $5 for a paper cup of beans infused in tap water is surely an act of stunningly bad personal economics. Plenty of us commit it regularly, of course, queuing up for gourmet coffee while complaining about the price of gas – a relative bargain even if we can’t get it half-unleaded and with a tank-topping froth of STP.
You can just flick that fact into the H.L. Mencken file: further evidence that no one ever went broke low-balling our collective capacity for thinking. Or you can view it as an opportunity for a little sociological investigation.
Taylor Clark works that second approach in Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture. One of five recent books examining the Seattle-based day-spa-cum-coffee-dispensary, “Starbucked” is a breezily written business yarn with plenty of big-picture punch.
Clark, a former alt-weekly writer from Oregon, also has his Mark Kurlansky moments, taking readers all the way to the Ethiopian highlands, maintaining that Beethoven liked to count out 60 beans for his ideal cup, and describing the Mr. Coffee revolution of 1972, in which the cheap drip-brewer opened US consumers’ eyes to variations in quality and flavor. Frankly, by the time Gabriel de Clieu – who sailed to Martinique with a coffee seedling between his knees – comes up late in the book, you might feel you’ve read enough about the commodity through time.
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