Starbucks: Remember Your Roots!

Starbucks: Remember Your Roots!

When Howard Schultz purchased Starbucks in 1987, 5 years after falling in love with the coffeehouses and espresso bars of Milan, Italy, the world had no idea what he was about to do with our lame American coffee culture. 20 years later, while Starbucks is frequently compared to Walmart – coffee’s mass distribution chain, we shouldn’t forget how influential the corporate giant was in exciting us about great coffee.

In the ‘first wave’ of coffee in the United States, peaking just after WWII, Americans drank coffee as if they would get buckets of gold in the afterlife for every cup of Joe they consumed. Coffee was like a big liquid caffeine pill – quality wasn’t even a factor.

The ‘second wave’ coffee movement started in the 1980’s primarily in Portland and Seattle, and represented a desire for Americans to start spending more time in coffee shops – socializing, reading, enjoying better quality coffee for it’s flavor (or should we say ‘flavors’).

It most definitely wasn’t Schultz’s idea to make better coffee than his parents did. But he was brilliant enough (maybe greedy enough!) to realize that Americans wanted better coffee. Those little smelly mom & pop shops weren’t as cool or refined as Starbucks – where Barista’s spoke Italian for their cup size options. And after pushing the famous Starbucks Latte from the 16,618 opened locations in 22 years, Schultz could arguably be the reason I hate Folders (God bless his soul)!

Thus, brings us to the ‘Third Wave’ movement, which promotes super fresh coffee beans, extremely passionate Baristas (need we say freaks), and the type of appreciation for coffee previously preserved for chocolate and wine.

So next time you go ‘Coffee Tasting’ around the city, and crinkle your nose passing a Starbucks on your way to Intelligentsia or LAMill, remember your roots. If it wasn’t for Papa Schultz, we might be sipping dirty caffeinated water with a straw and like it.


The Semi is the weekly school paper for Fuller Theological Seminary. Let me know what you think, and what topics you’d be interested in for future articles.

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