Review

Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture

by Taylor Clark

Chances are, sitting there reading this review, many of you
have a cup of coffee in hand. And, more likely than not, many of
those cups of coffee are from Starbucks. While it's easy to make
fun of Starbucks (think of those iconic scenes in Austin Powers
2
and Best in Show) or disparage the company
("Charbucks" or "Staryucks"), no one can deny that they are a
contemporary business powerhouse and have changed the way Americans
drink coffee. In STARBUCKED, Taylor Clark explores the influence of
the Starbucks Corporation on business and its ubiquity on the
American cultural landscape. It is at once funny, informative and a
bit scary.

Clark tackles many topics directly related to Starbucks. He starts
by examining the history of coffee drinking itself. His account is
brief but full of interesting tidbits. For example, before coffee
came to Europe, the breakfast drink of choice was beer. Soon Clark
is on to the contemporary world of specialty coffee. He discusses
popular and influential roasters and cafes and even the work of a
couple of coffee scientists. And, of course, he discusses the early
days of Starbucks, originally conceived and founded by three young
men in Seattle. From a commercial point of view, things get quite
interesting when Howard Schultz, the man who leads Starbucks today,
enters the picture. It's hard to believe that the Starbucks craze
was just getting underway in the early 1990s; for better or worse,
it seems like they have always been here.

Under Schultz, Starbucks has grown into an international
phenomenon. But, Clark and others question, at what price? Is the
coffee good? Are the employees well-treated? Why does a cup of
Starbucks coffee cost so much? Are the coffee growers growing as
rich as the company's upper management? Does Starbucks negatively
affect local, independent coffee houses? The author addresses all
these questions and more with humor, brevity and
thoughtfulness.

Clark manages interviews with both Starbucks heavy hitters like
Howard Behar and Schultz himself, as well as former and current
baristas, interior designers, real estate agents, roasters, coffee
growers and marketers. The result is a well-rounded book, even if a
tad predictable in its tone and criticisms. Sure, people love to
hate Starbucks, but they can get away with opening a cafe on every
corner because each location is successful (although not so much
the Tiananmen Square one, as Clark notes).

For foodies, history buffs and coffee lovers, this book is highly
recommended. But there is enough to entertain and enlighten readers
interested in economics, business and cultural studies. STARBUCKED
is a heady brew indeed.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 23, 2011

Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture
by Taylor Clark

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2008
  • Genres: Business, Nonfiction, Sociology
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316014036
  • ISBN-13: 9780316014038