01 May 2012

How I lost my coffee-snob card (damn you Starbucks)

Look, it's no secret that I enjoy coffee. Like, really enjoy it. It started in late college, and through a fortuitous combination of great coffee and deadly boring post-college jobs, it quickly became a every day necessity.

Being in the PNW, there were so many great choices for a coffee shop. My criteria was long and complicated:

1. Good coffee, preferably fair-trade and organic.
2. Comfortable seating area, with tons of natural light.
3. Free wi-fi.
4. Not too crowded, but not too empty either.
5. Fresh pastries.
6. Friendly baristas.
7. Local!

Extra points awarded if they were easy to get to on foot or bike, had gluten or dairy free options, and stayed open late and served beer or wine for the post-coffee hours. I also kind of had a thing for hemp milk. I'm sorry; I'm such a snob I can hardly stand myself.

In Nagoya, my love of coffee has not diminished. My criteria has.. ahem.. simplified quite a bit.

1. Open before 10:00AM.
2. Non-smoking.

Welcome to Japan, bitches. It's full on 1980 here: cash based, limited women in the workforce, and EVERYONE still smokes. I can't stand the small of an unfiltered Lucky Strike in the morning, and I do like to get my coffee at a reasonable time. (See snob comment above). Consequently, and much to the surprise of my former Seattle-residing self, I have ended up a regular... at Starbucks. (See me wave goodbye to the snob card, just like that.)

I know; I KNOW.

Coffee houses here are a different breed: they tend to be a bit dark with a bit of a vintage 1930s feel, and not in a good way:  heavy wood, bitter coffee, an assortment of ashtrays. I want to experience local culture, I do, I do, but, frankly, we all have our limits. My center around natural light, clean air, and freshly roasted beans. When I reach these, I silent curse Amos for not getting transfered to Europe, hop on Lily, and ride to the coffee shop that, though completely corporate and bland, has decent-ish coffee, pastries, wi-fi, and no smoking. There are a couple local chains that can almost compete, like Cafe de Crie and Detour, but then they cave on the whole smoking thing. I just have to ask: As a global population, didn't we catch on to the absurdity of a wall-less "smoking section"? I don't think that partition does shit to keep your nicotine away from my lungs.

Starbucks opens up at 7. You want coffee before then? McDonalds. Yeah, I've been there three times since I landed. No shame. I'm a morning person in a country that, decidedly, doesn't cooperate. (The early morning yoga class is at 8:30. A full three hours later than my old studio). I try and legitimize it, saying things like "I was never that against Starbucks in the States" and "I always used to joke it was local" and "I bet their food standards require that McDonalds uses real meat here." Then I realize that I have a Starbucks punchcard and a McDonalds coupon in my purse. Forget pausing my career, this is sending me into a full blown identity crisis.

Which I'll ponder, while sipping my Starbucks. (When I return to the States, we can forget this ever happened, right?)


  1. Hey man, no shame, no shame. You do what you have to do!

  2. Weird that they still allow smoking! (Excuse me, not weird, culturally different.) But really, I thought everyone knew smoking was disgusting- hmm judge much?

    No shame about Starbucks, with this new job I've full on embraced the place. In fact they’ve almost got my name and drink remembered. Yikes.


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