LINGERING OVER COFFEE IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS IS A RITUAL THAT NEVER LOSES ITS APPEAL: MUCH HAS CHANGED OVER THE GENERATIONS, BUT THE GLOBAL 'CAFÉ SOCIETY' KEEPS IT TIMELESS GLAMOUR
In 1971, Starbucks was just a single bar in Seattle’s market plaza. Ten years later, the one location had become five, and the company began importing their own blends of coffee. The legend surrounding the birth of Starbucks tells of Howard Schulz, one of the company’s buyers, making a trip to Italy in 1983, and being astounded to learn that the Country had more than 200,000 cafés selling espresso coffee and that Milan, a city the size of Philadelphia, had more than 1,500. Why couldn’t it be the same in the United States? Now quoted on the stock exchange, Starbucks has become, to all effects, a multi-national corporation.
What Schulz hadn’t been able to foresee was that, along with the fortuitous economic boom that Starbucks was lucky enough to benefit from, the company and brand would change the way Americans enjoyed their coffee ritual and the roles that cafés – would play in daily life. The invasion was a peaceful, widespread and fast: younger Americans had re-discovered one of the pleasant pastimes that their grandparents’ had enjoyed –taking your time while drinking coffee. A new kind of American ‘Café Society’ was born.
And so it’s partly the merit of Schulz if in Europe, the homeland of historic cafés, the ritual of sitting at a table in a nice, welcoming café – either alone or in company – is becoming, once again, a social habit. Schulz has succeeded in the rather challenging goal of creating the image of coffee in the United States as a young, trendy drink that’s also connected to the alluring culture of faraway Europe, and transforming his cafés into “cultural circles” where customers can spend all the time they wish, just reading, writing – whether by hand, like many writers have done, from Ernest...