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Starbucks. It seems every civilized place on the planet has at least one.
On any continent they are all exactly alike. The only difference is the décor on the mugs. I consider them collectibles. I have no more room on the shelves in my kitchen for them, but I still buy one wherever I go. In fact, I am a bit annoyed if the city I am in (Nairobi, Kathmandu) does not have a Starbucks.
Before I travel, I Google the location of the Starbucks in the destination city. Not only do I want to add to my collection, I want to be able to get a good cup of coffee.
The same people who stood in line in front of me in Macau or London stand in line in front of me everywhere else. They all order just about the same thing. The session goes something like this:
“I’ll have a half latte, half mocha, half cappuccino with half cream and make it only half hot please.”
The barista is usually a college educated person who majored in something like Ancient Sri Lankan philosophy. They dutifully perform the chemistry experiment needed to serve the person in front of me. Meanwhile I select my souvenir mug.
When the overly picky customer sends back the coffee because it is too hot, I chat her up. “Hey, didn’t we meet at Starbucks in Macau?”
“Oh yes we did! I remember the mocha there was very bitter.” She shuffles away, happy with her lukewarm creation, and I step up to the counter. Here is how my order goes.
“I’ll have a small black coffee”
“Will that be mocha or a cappuccino?
“Fresh cream from Sumatran sacred goats in that sir?”
“Black, a small black coffee”
“A grande then”
“No. Didn’t you learn anything at Harvard? Grande means big, large, and bigger than small. I want, again, now listen hard, A SMALL BLACK COFEE”
“Do you want Columbian, Kenyan, Costa Rican or our house blend?”
“If it is black, hot and you don’t ask another question, I don’t care.”
A brief roll of the eyes that say “I should have gone to grad school” is followed by “Yes sir, that will be (Insert too high a price in any currency here).”
But this is just my problem. I’m glad I did not graduate into this economy, so I still tip them.
The coffee they serve is always good, even without milk from sacred yaks. When I was in Bali, I asked for Kopi Luwak, which is made from beans that have passed through the digestive track of a type of cat, then shat, cleaned and roasted. This is the best coffee I have ever had, and a product of Bali, but not available at Starbucks in Bali.
Kenyan coffee is excellent, and Starbucks sells it all over the world, but there is no Starbucks in Kenya. Maybe milk from the sacred Zebra is not available.
The Starbucks at Trafalgar Square in London was packed when I was there, mostly with tourists glad to get something other than tea or Nescafe.
Starbucks cafes are a great place to blog from. Usually the wifi is free, not always. They have comfy seats. People can spend hours in one. I know, I have. So fellow travelers, if you ever want to meet up with me in some foreign country, I’ll met you at Starbucks!