Starbucks, I love you.

But I feel sort of guilty about it.

Why should I feel guilty for loving Starbucks? It’s hard not to love them. They are consistent in service and quality. I never feel uncomfortable in their atmosphere.  They promote unknown musicians.  They have drive-thrus.  Their cups don’t leak. And they make delicious drinks.

Cup of Coffee

My need for deliciousness has amplified since I’ve become a stay-at-home mom.  To survive and thrive, I need quick and easy ways to feel like I am on a mini-vacation.  I don’t have the luxury of getting a mediocre mocha with sad whipped cream and just shrugging my shoulders saying, “maybe next time they’ll get it right.”  I don’t want to be disappointed with my vanilla latte because it isn’t strong enough or has too much syrup or is made differently depending on whether Sally with the nose ring made it on Monday or cheerful Billy made it on Tuesday.  And I really don’t want a cheap-ass lid that causes coffee to leak out the seam and all over my hand every time I take a sip.

I need to be able to count on my coffee.  Depend on it.  My love for Starbucks coffee drinks is at least 80% rooted in emotional dependency.  Drinking a perfectly made beverage is a little mini-therapy session, frankly.   Starbucks is the stability I wish I had in my twenties- it is the consistency I sometimes lack.  Their drinks are like a hug from deliciousness- an indulgent expense that exists for purely selfish reasons- like because it tastes so damn good.

My day is filled with doing things for others.  But my decaf Americano with extra cream and two sugars?  That is just for me.  That is what Starbucks does for me.  It says: “You can depend on me, Krissy.  I will always taste satisfyingly delicious. You deserve it.”  And it never, ever lets me down.  The only variations are in the amount of whipped cream in my decaf grande mocha extra whip.  I can live with that.

However, I also love supporting local businesses.  But not at the expense of an incredibly delicious beverage, which is sometimes the case when I frequent independently owned coffee shops.

I can think of two examples off the top of my head – one place near where I used to live that had pretty excellent baked goods, but where the owners were rude.  And inconsistent. I would stop there on my way to work, in a rush, and they were almost always out of decaf coffee.  “It’ll just take about 8 minutes to brew,” they would say.  Unfortunately, when you wake up late as I tended to do, I don’t have 8 minutes to wait.  What kind of coffee shop is out of coffee at 7:30 in the morning?

And the more recent example is heartbreaking- it’s a 5 minute walk away and they, too, make pretty decent baked goods.  But the owners have a sterile, cold vibe even though the words coming out of their mouth are standard, welcoming cafe talk.  I try to imagine what it is exactly that feels off about them: Were they recently released from prison for some heinous crime?  Are they spies? Is there an unwilling grandmother being held hostage in the basement?  Do they have unwashed hands?  I will probably never know, but something feels unsettling about the place.  At times they have been downright rude and then caught themselves in it and tried to shine it away with a smile.  Not so fast, suckers! I’m onto you!  Put your hands where I can see them.

In a town like Madison where there are 12 Starbucks (including the ones in Targets), an independent cafe has to make a pretty darn good coffee drink to lure me away from the ridiculous convenience of Starbucks.  Even with a welcoming, cheery atmosphere if your coffee drinks aren’t all that (yes, I said all that), then I will just head to the Starbucks down the street instead.  I love them.  And if consistent, delicious drinks are any measure of love at all, then they love me back.

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