The Starbucks topic seems to be a very senstive one these days when you are talking with me. Whenever it comes up my friends and people I know start rolling their eyes, thinking oh no here she comes again with her fundamental thoughts of why she doesn’t like Starbucks.
And indeed, I try not to go there and if there’s no way around it, I don’t order coffee.
Some people don’t understand that because they think the coffee tastes so good and they don’t understand the background of my decision.
That is why I have decided to give a Statement of why I don’t go to Starbucks.
I used to be a Starbucks lover. I loved the coffee mixes (where you don’t actually taste any coffee) and loved the atmosphere and just everything about it.
It was in 2007 that I read an article in the Neon magazine that stroke me. It told the journey of the coffee beans and how much coffee farmers acutally get for their coffee beans.
Ethiopia is the worlds largest exporter of coffee beans and the article showed the story of one Ethiopian man. While we enjoy our Caramel-Macchiato with lots of foam for 3 to 4 €, the Ethiopian man has to live with less than that for a day and has to feed a family with children.
But not only that: Starbucks stopped coffee farmers in Ethiopia to protect their brand, which would have raised cost for coffee beans in Ethiopia. They were harshly critized for that by the Oxfam (a worldwide help and development organization to stop injustice). Oxfam invoked Starbucks to stay to back up their promotion and show some responsibiliy for the economic and social situation of their production countries. (Neon, 2007)
After I had read this article I made the decision to not go to Starbucks anymore. I decided that I would do my part, what I can do even if it is just a simple little step, I still make a difference.
But to back up my decision I have done a little more research for you to give you some numbers. Coffee shops sell special high quality coffee for up to 14 £ a pound while the Ehtiopian coffee farmer only earns 30p to 40p for their crop, which barely covers cost of production. A 2002 Oxfam report states that on average coffee farmers get 24 cents a pound while consumers in rich countries pay about 3,6 $ for the same amount of coffee – this is a mark up of 1500 %. Therefore coffee costs more to grow and pick than to sell.
Having those numbers in the back of our minds, I do believe Starbucks is highly overprized and I know they tell you now that you pay for the experience, the atmosphere, but truly, I live in a country and a continent that is known for their coffeehouses with beautiful and charming atmosphere, so I wonder why I have to go to Starbucks, a world chain, pay 3 € for an expierience that I can also get in a local coffeshop just without the sofas. Plus, because of Starbucks hundreds of local coffee shops all over the globe (especially in France or Italy) had to close down. That has an effect not only on city pictures (only chains vs many little shops) but also on coffee culture in countries like Italy and makes people who have run a coffee shop for decades unemployed. This in my opinion is injustice that I will not support!
Now maybe the question of Starbuck’s fair trade coffee will already have been raised and I do not want to neglect to tackle this question as well. About a year ago in my Strategic Management class in university I had to read the whole company history and strategy of Starbucks. I was quite impressed with the article and thought to myself, that maybe they are not that bad after all. I mean, they have fair trade coffee, right? So I went to Starbucks, wanting to give them a chance and ordered my caramel macchiato with fair trade coffee. I was highly disappointed when the barrista told me that fair trade coffee is not made for this drink (I want to remark that this particular drink is one of the classics of Starbucks). I had to get it with the regular brand (and felt guilty with every sip I drank). It was only a few months ago that I found out from a friend who works for Starbucks that they don’t actively sell their fair trade coffee at the counter – only packaged to take home. I question that and wonder if their fair trade brand is only for marketing purposes to have a so calles Corporate Social Responsibility so noone can blame them.
Let’s come to the issue of taste though, which is a deciding one when it comes to coffee. And by that I mean the regular coffee, black and basic. For Christmas one of my friends gave me the special Christmas blend coffee by Starbucks and I thought to myself, that I should give Starbucks yet another chance, you know, maybe at least it will taste good. I was wrong. I grinded the coffee and poured myself a cup. It was not good at all. In fact it tasted burnt and was not enjoyable. My dad, who drinks coffee every morning went on a coffee fast until every single bean of that Starbucks blend was gone. In addition to that most of my American friends dislike the taste of Starbucks coffee (and you would think they like it because they are from the Starbucks country of origin).
I could go on about statements by the CEO about not filling cups, but filling souls… do I want my soul to be filled by Starbucks? I could also go on about their Corporate Social Responsilibly and their high requirments for coffee famers to even be eligible to be fair traded. But I will spare you with these reasons.
All I want is for you to understand my decision to not support this corporation anymore and to get you thinking about whether or not you want to support them.
I know I cannot fly to Ethiopia to do economic development (not yet!) and I cannot abolish poverty, but I can choose what coffee I drink and I can do my part here in the so called 1st world, while I still believe that there is One world!
I will make my difference here, will you?