Growing up Starbucks
Over the years, my obsession with Starbucks has been met with raised eyebrows, scoffs and looks of disgust. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been berated for not supporting “local” business (including the 50 store strong chain, Coffee #1), despite the fact that Starbucks is a franchise, and therefore the stores you see are usually owned and run by local people who pay a sum to use the Starbucks branding.
However, the fact is my love of Starbucks has never been political.
As a child, I never really went in coffee shops. My mother can’t stand the smell of coffee, so she avoided them like the plague. So, my relationship with Starbucks – and journey through caffeine addiction – didn’t start until I was 13/14.
My best friend at the time was a sarcastic boy with Tony and Guy hair, limited addition converse and a penchant for caramel macchiatos. He would drag me into the dark gloom of a Starbucks, and I would drag him swiftly out again, intimidated by the noise, smell and complicated menu. I still remember the first time he gave me a sip from his mermaid embossed cup; we were standing in the Virgin Megastore in Cardiff (RIP), and I had to struggle not to spit the sickly sweet coffee all over the CD’s.
It was, by no means, love at first sight. I really didn’t get the appeal, but on one occasion I succumbed to peer pressure. I was desperate for a drink, so asked my friend what he would recommend. Something with no coffee. I ended up ordering a Strawberry Cream Frappuccino. It wasn’t great – it tasted like jam and regret – but we were in there so often that I began experimenting with my order, until I stumbled across the Iced Mocha. My gateway drug, an summer love. The chocolate disguised the coffee just enough that I grew accustomed to the bitterness, and it wasn’t long until I graduated to unflavoured lattes.
Friendships shifted, and I took to spending almost every Saturday in my local Starbucks (also RIP), tucked up the stairs on a bar stool by the window. There were only two seats, so I could be completely alone and write. First came 20,000 words of a vampire novel, about the teenage vampire with a pulse, that got swiftly abandoned when Twilight became popular. Then came Idiots, the first novel I ever got anywhere near to completing. It involved a fictional retelling of the lives of myself and my two closest friends – tall, lanky heroes who got me through hard times – living and working in a coffee shop in London. I still have my eye on an old fire station, hoping one day it’ll go up for sale and I can convert it into my dream store.
I got older, went to 6th form college, and my social circle expanded. Starbucks became the place I brought people at the end of days spent in town, but only good friends made it up to that balcony seat at the back. It was odd how private I was over a very public space, but it became an in joke. They were my seats, and I would sit with friends and glare at any strangers who dared to take them.
Then the day came for me to head off to university in Birmingham, leaving behind my old home on the high street. My first major concern was establishing which of Birmingham’s vast array would be my Starbucks. You laugh, but I was literally 100 miles away from creature comforts. So the research and dedication I put into this was 100% necessary and I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that.
Fortunately, a couple of friends had provided me with Starbucks gift cards to go away with. Unfortunately, the Starbucks on university campus did not take these cards. Not to mention it was ridiculously busy all of the time, which quickly ruled it out as my new place. However, I lived close to the city centre in first year, so I had options. I took a walk, and found four possibilities on my first try; two in the Bullring, one on New Street and one just off Victoria Square.
I won’t tell you which I chose, but it was a fairly easy decision. After all, my criteria were: height, bar stools, and a view.
My current Starbucks has seen me develop as a writer and build The End of Atlas into what is almost a complete manuscript. It’s also the first Starbucks in which the baristas have learnt my name…and my order. Which was weird, so I dyed my hair just to confuse them. That didn’t work. I have a problem. And I have a gold membership on the app now, which I consider to be all the more impressive since I quit caffeine in 2012.
Oh. I can also literally find a Starbucks anywhere, from Brighton to Barcelona. I’m a human radar. It’s impressive.
So I guess, what I’m trying to say is, my relationship with Starbucks isn’t political; it’s historical. It’s where I spent a decent portion of my time forming as a writer and a human. Want to take me somewhere else? That’s fine. But if I’m alone, I will always choose to hunker down in a shop with a two tail mermaid in the window.
Please note: All of the images in this article are mine. Some of them were taken on a Samsung SGH-D500 from 2005 (hence the quality). Oh, and yes, I made the tiny Starbucks logo on miniature lollipop sticks. It was a graphic design project at AS level. Don’t judge.