Tag Archives: Starbucks

I am Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks card.

Hi! I’m Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks card. You can download a picture of me to your phone and buy coffee with it. Seriously.


It’s true. You can use Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks card to get yourself a free coffee. The real card lives in Jonathan’s wallet, but he has posted a downloadable copy that can be scanned at any Starbucks. An iced vanilla latte, a French press pot of Guatemala Antigua— name it. There’s no cost, no catch, no strings, no restrictions.

Jonathan Stark was curious about the concept of social sharing.
About a month ago he loaded $30 onto a Starbucks card and posted the image for his friends to use. They quickly turned it into caffeine, so Stark added another $50 and invited a few more friends. This time, the card wasn’t depleted. His friends were adding money as well as spending it, starting a twitter conversation in the process. So he created a program that allows coffee drinkers to check on the card’s balance, updated every minute, and encouraged users to share it with their friends.

Jonathan Stark’s Starbucks card has become an experiment in anonymous collective sharing that turns a cup of coffee into an act of participation and social engagement. It’s kind of a high-tech version of the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny dish next to a cash register. Sure, you could order 8 pounds of French Roast and a round of venti frappuccinos for the office, but there’s a karmic toll to it; the same one that keeps you from dumping the whole take-a-penny dish into your pocket, even when you see a bunch of quarters peeking through the copper.

The card occasionally struggles to find its equilibrium between generosity and  moochers. As of this writing, a few hundred dollars is passing through the card every hour or so, with nearly half of the users also giving back.

Say ‘Hi!’ back to Jonathan’s card.




Posted in coffee, cyberculture | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Small Indulgence: Bite-sized desserts


[image via Show and Tell]

Forget about ordering one dessert with four forks.

What’s big in desserts right now is small. We’re scooping itty bitty spoons into tiny tureens of tiramisu and downing shot glass shooters of passion fruit soufflé. Already precious cupcakes have morphed into the cake ball trend, and little pies are appearing atop lollipop sticks.

Restaurants are happy to accommodate the baby sweet tooth. They find that average checks are higher when small desserts are on the menu; customers that wouldn’t typically indulge are lured by the novelty and smaller commitment of the miniatures, and while they’re at it, they’ll order a coffee, a tea, maybe an after-dinner drink.

We are more adventurous with tiny desserts. We want a big taste in the small package and are willing to experiment with unfamiliar ingredients and preparations. The stakes are low– we’re committing to just a few bites at a lower price point than for standard desserts.

O.K., but just a sliver.

A tiny dessert can be perceived as a guilt-free indulgence. Whatever the caloric reality of a flight of wee custards or micro nut tarts, we think of the minis as a lo-cal, portion-controlled treat– kind of like those 100-calorie pre-packed snack bags of chips and crackers. Is it technically even dessert? It almost doesn’t count.

For the true fan of bitty foods, you can get an eyeful at Must Have Cute, a blog devoted entirely to the genre.

The Stir examines the bang-for-the buck of the Starbucks Petites line and Dairy Queen’s Mini Blizzards in Mini Desserts Will Make You Fat and Poor.

Get ready for dollhouse-sized cheesecakes. Industry insiders predict that cheesecake is due for its own mini makeover.

http://www.5minutesformom.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/easy-bake.jpg It’s the original mini dessert maker, and it’s still baking little cakes with just a light bulb. See where it all began:  Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven.

image courtesy of MarcWellness.com Are you portion savvy? Gigabiting explores portion trends in Mini-Size Me.



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No, It is Not Iced Coffee Season

I do love my iced coffee.
A tall glass, lots of ice, and just a splash of cream. When properly made, the coffee is rich and smooth with very low acid, notes of chocolate and caramel, and barely a hint of bitterness. Sugar is superfluous.
Why would anyone want to wait for summertime to enjoy it?

Finally, the rest of you are catching on and catching up.
According to an independent survey commissioned by Dunkin’ Donuts, iced coffee is now seasonless.

More than a fourth of the yearly, billion cups of coffee served by Dunkin’ Donuts are now iced, and 56% of their iced coffee drinkers prefer iced coffee to hot coffee, even during the winter months. 42% said that what they like best is the energy jolt they get from iced coffee—in fact Dunkin’ Donuts uses a double portion of ground coffee in its double-brew method, although melting ice dilutes the double dose of caffeine. 21% said they like that they can gulp it down, while hot coffee requires careful sipping; 18% claimed that their favorite thing about iced coffee is the straw.

It’s never too cold for iced coffee.
Look at ice cream. Alaska leads the nation in per capita consumption, with the chilly states of New England close behind.

Iced coffee is expected to rack up another summer of double-digit sales increases, causing food and beverage businesses to trip over each other with new product launches. There are ready-to-drink, canned and bottled versions coming from Wolfgang Puck, the classic Italian espresso brand, Illy, and Pom Wonderful (better known for its line of pomegranate drinks). Starbucks is pushing its one-ounce-shy-of-a-quart Trenta cup, a new Via instant iced coffee packet designed to be mixed into a standard water bottle, and created a page for its iced frappuccino drinks that became Facebook’s third-largest product fan page in less than a week.

For the record, Dunkin’ Donuts is still the nation’s largest retailer of hot coffee and iced coffee. Let’s also note that 91% of their iced coffee drinkers order it sugared-up with added flavorings (mocha and French vanilla are the favorites). You know my position on sweeteners. But I’ve tasted Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee and am willing to cut them some slack.

For the summertime purist who believes (however misguidedly) that iced coffee goes in and out of season, there is a pointless but nifty website called Is It Iced Coffee Weather? Plug in your zip code and you’ll get the definitive answer.



Posted in coffee, food trends | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Should Kids Drink Coffee?

[image via the New Yorker]

Of course kids are drinking coffee.

Soda is out—high fructose corn syrup, you know. Sports drinks aren’t any better.
Certainly not milk—even if you get past the lactose-intolerant crowd, there’s all that animal fat. Juice boxes? Too sugary.
The pickings are slim; it was either going to be coffee or kid-friendly bourbon.

And what exactly is so wrong with that?

Coffee doesn’t stunt anyone’s growth. That turned out to be a giant fallacy.
And it has health benefits, reducing the risk for Parkinson’s disease, liver cirrhosis, and gallstones, although they’re not exactly pediatric ailments.

Of bigger concern is of course the caffeine. Coffee does rev you up and can cause jittery nerves and insomnia, although some feel that coffees’ dopamine boost actually calms down kids with ADHD. Best is to keep a tally of caffeine intake from all sources—soda, candy, hot chocolate, ice cream, and even cold medicine could already be gunning their little engines.

Tolerances and responses to caffeine differ widely among individuals, but it’s pretty safe to assume that the younger they are, the less coffee they probably should drink. The United States hasn’t developed dietary guidelines for kids and caffeine, but Health Canada recommends no more than 45 mg/day for 4 – 6 year olds;  62.5 mg/day at 7 – 9 years; and 85 mg/day for 10 – 12 year olds— compared with moderate adult intake of around 400 mg. (about 3 coffees’ worth).

The real problem isn’t even the coffee.
It’s the vanilla syrup and the caramel drizzle, the steamed milk and whipped cream. It’s all the frozen, blended mochafrappacappalattaccinos that masquerade as coffee. And there aren’t many kids who take it black.

There are coffee concoctions from Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks that hover in burger-and-fries territory in terms of fat and calories. For kids, that can add up to breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in a single to-go cup.

Here’s a little math homework:
N= (2F)x 52
N is the number of times this year that your child will ask you for a 5-dollar bill to feed a twice weekly frappuccino habit.
Solve for N and you’ll have one of the best reasons for kids to cut the caffeine habit.

Posted in health + diet | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Is Coffee Within Walking Distance? Check your walkability score.

image via Apple (Parlophone)/EMI

Can you walk to get a cup of coffee?

If you have ever lived in a highly walkable neighborhood, you already know what a beautiful thing it is. Walkable communities are happier, healthier, safer, cleaner, and greener.

A truly walkable neighborhood offers convenient access to the daily destinations of life. If you’re lucky, you can walk to school or work. If you’re even luckier, there are groceries, a decent bakery, and a good cup of coffee within walking distance. […]

Posted in coffee, food policy | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Starbucks or McDonald’s Coffee? Fair-trade begins at home.

            image via B.S. Report


The coffee beans were fairly traded back in Guatemala, but what about the person who poured you a cup on your way to work?

There are more than 30,000 McDonald’s outlets employing 4 million workers just in the United States. Nearly 1 in 8 American workers has spent time, at some point in their careers, toiling under the Golden Arches.

Burger-flipping at its finest.

A shift behind the counter at McDonald’s is everything it’s cracked up to be. The pay is low, few work skills are demanded or acquired, turnover can approach 100%, and there is little chance for advancement. The meager benefits include a much-criticized employee health plan that requires most participants to pay annual premiums of $728 for coverage that maxes out at $2,000—an amount that would be eaten up in the first hours of a typical hospital visit.

With a mind-numbing work environment of vinyl and fluorescent lighting and stultifyingly proscribed behavior, it’s the definition of low status minimum wage labor. Literally. The term ‘McJob,’ defined as low-paying dead-end work, was added to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in 2003, over the objections and threat of litigation from McDonald’s legal team.

http://thepursuitofcute.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/starbucks-apron.jpg The 11,000 U.S. Starbucks employ 105,000.

Despite paying most of its hourly workers little more than minimum wage, Starbucks consistently ranks among the best U.S. employers. Training is extensive, benefits are relatively generous, and there are very real opportunities for advancement. While McDonald’s health plan is a joke, Starbucks spends more on health care for its U.S. employees than it spends for coffee bean purchases.

Starbucks has been beaten up by the global recession and underwent a few years of corporate retrenchment that scaled back compensation, prompting some recent employee grumbling. But overall, the company retains its commitment to a warm and fuzzy, healthy work environment that will attract and retain an enthusiastic corps of workers.

Your coffee can be fairly traded and organic. It can be shade-grown, carbon neutral, and bird-friendly. You can drink it in a recycled cup with organic soy milk and sugar from plants that haven’t been genetically altered.

We understand how our coffee choices impact global warming, the rain forest, and the working conditions of coffee pickers in Latin America. Let’s pay attention to how they impact the economic lives of the people that brew it for us.


Posted in coffee, fast food, sustainability | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Starbucks’ New, Flavorless Coffee Beans.

roasted and unroasted coffee beans image via Smithsonian.com .


Customers have long complained that Starbucks coffee tastes burnt. Apparently, the company has been listening. Maybe a little too well. Starbucks is rolling out a new beverage made from unroasted, green coffee beans.

What, you might ask, does unroasted coffee taste like? According to Starbucks’ vice president of global beverage Julie Felss Masino, “It’s coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee.” In fact, the company refers to the green coffee extract as ‘flavor neutral.’ It also doesn’t have a coffee aroma, and contains a mere fraction of the caffeine. And the point of this new beverage is…?

Starbucks has rolled out two flavors of the iced, green coffee beverage called Refreshers. Cool Lime and Very Berry Hibiscus get their flavor from added fruit juice and are sweetened with stevia.

Green coffee bean beverages aren’t exactly new. Like green tea, green coffee beans are  the youngest and least processed form that, on their own, produce a grassy, astringent brew. And like green tea, they have a longer history in Eastern cultures where they are prized mostly for medicinal uses. Recently, green coffee and its extracts have been available in weight-loss aides, and Nestlé has been selling its Nescafé Green Blend and Nescafé Protect, both containing one-third green beans to two-thirds roasted, which Nestlé is promoting for the health benefits provided by high levels of naturally-occurring antioxidants.

Next time you want a cup of coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee, smell like coffee, or pack much of a caffeine punch, you know right where to go.


Posted in coffee | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Some Salt in Your Café Latte? The ‘Starbucks’ of Taiwan has arrived.



Starbucks, Tully’s— all the big names in Seattle coffee are brewing in Taiwan. In fact more of them have opened shops there than in New York. But one local Taiwanese chain has been running circles around the Americans, and now it’s looking to challenge them on their home turf.

Bigger, better, cheaper than you-know-who.

85°C (named for coffee’s ideal brewing temperature) custom-brews each cup individually. You’ll find the usual espressos and frozen, blended drinks, plus some Asian-style bubble teas. The infamous salted coffee is their signature latte with sea salt whipped into the foam topping. It’s a subtle touch that teases out a little more coffee essence without adding saltiness. […]

Posted in food business | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Iced Coffee is Hot Hot Hot!


Iced coffee is expected to rack up yet another season of double-digit sales increases.

The big boys are tripping over each other with new product launches as each tries to cash in on our growing affinity for iced versions of our favorite beverage. Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and McDonalds will be going head-to-head this summer, each with its own frozen-dark-roasted-choice-of-flavored-syrup-blended-ginormous renditions. […]

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