Starbucks Is Not Italian Espresso – Part 1

Twenty years ago, I went to Italy for the first time. Some of my lasting memories are the bars and Tavola Calda in Rome where we often enjoyed sandwiches, cornetti, cappuccini and caffè espressi.

This was about the same time I started to become aware of Starbucks in New York. I compared their drinks with the ones I drank in Rome. I drank their caffè latte and thought that these were, if maybe not authentic, a little closer to the caffè latte in Italy. I comfortably paid too much money for the opportunity to drink something that I thought was a bit more international. Also, I was reminded of Italy and this stirred up my desire to return.

And then it came into my life, the Moka.

My Espresso Awakening Of Real Italian Coffee

I had always enjoyed a hot coffee but when I learned about Moka, my world changed. It was a beauty of form and simplicity. I knew how to clean it (without soap) and the right coffee to use. I started using only real Italian coffee like Illy, Lavazza and Kimbo.
After this change, when I went to Italy I would embrace the coffee culture in every bar I could find. While my love for Italian coffee grew, at one point I realized that American coffee was inferior in both taste and cost.

American Coffee Culture Abroad

This brings me back to the Starbucks. While the interior of the restaurants has a similarity to a bar, the coffee tastes too burnt and is overpriced. But, more important is the fact that restaurants are omnipresent and are no longer special to me. I could just ignore this lousy coffee up to the moment that I heard that Starbucks will open a store in Milan this year. I hope this does not happen, but I’m afraid it’s too late. In my opinion, this is another example of American commercial imperialism. It is a continuation of the spread of rubbish like McDonald’s, Subway and KFC, but this is a bit different to me because of the existence of the great Italian coffee culture.

The project is for a new monstrosity called The Milan Roastery (La Rosticceria Milano) to be built in the historic Palazzo Delle Poste in 2018. Presumably, the ex-CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, was so inspired by the Milanese bars and their baristi that he built Starbucks. He claimed that they only want to learn from the Italians, but this claim seems disingenuous. This is a giant company that grew through the theft of the Italian culture and this did not happen with humility and respect. It can be expected that the company would try to push their version of coffee without regard to the existing culture. Starbucks would do this only to elevate their stature in a way that only being in Milan can provide.

I am happy to read that Illy and Lavazza are defending themselves. Lavazza will open a new café in Piazza San Fedele, near the place where Starbucks plans to open their restaurant. Illy Caffè will open a luxurious bar even closer to the same place. Their products are superior to Starbucks, and even cheaper, so I hope they can destroy the dreams of the American intruder. If they can embarrass Starbucks, it could stop their plans for the domination of Italian culture. There are many American things that I like, but the spread of our lousiest products is not one. We could share our BBQ or our movies, but sharing the Starbucks is like when I learned that the program called The Ghost Whisperer was shown on RAI. This was not a moment of pride for me.

More Coffee Bar Experiences

If you are interested in learning more about the Italian coffee bars and delicious opportunities to experience them, check out some of our other posts:

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