I must admit that I have not seen any in my neck of the woods around Modena, but would like to invite my friends Gianandrea Facchini of bizandbuzz in Rome and Maurizio Goetz of Marketing Usabile in Milan to weigh in with their thoughts and information.
Meanwhile, I ran a Google search and came up with some interesting bits of information in no particular order:
- There exists a site called ihatestarbucks.com containing a heated discussion from this past summer. One thing of notice is that soon the conversation around brand spills over into the personal and becomes a discussion on cultural differences.
- A barista in Tokyo, Mitsuru Sakuraba, is trying to persuade his home town coffee drinkers that quality counts. See the article titled appropriately, the Italian Job, in Metropolis, Japan's English magazine.
- An answer provided to the same question Daniel posed in Yahoo! Answers catches a less than flattering response: "In Italy we call that 'dirty water'".
- Illy, the inventor of espresso in Italy in the 1930s, positions the famous brew as premium not unlike the Gucci of coffees. See the article published in The New York Times on December 26, 2006. Illy is quoted to say that they have taken the battle onto Starbucks' home turf for 25 years. They can be found, not surprisingly, in upscale shops like Whole Foods Markets.
- My search also took me to an Italian blog where the author posted an entry on Starbucks coffee because he says Google indexed him a while back on a short write up he did, and now every time someone like me searches the words, they land on his blog.
You get the idea. My two cents on Italian coffee and why Starbucks is an unlikely blend in Italy (I've been proven wrong before):
- True espresso coffee is an experience hardly any Italian gives up. It is often accompanied by a little pastry -- and I mean little -- a cigarette smoke, and a quick read of the sports section of the daily news. If the customer needs it, the caffe' quickly becomes "corretto", which means a splash of liquor graces it.
- The corner bar (that's how we call cafes) is cozy and the choice is personal. Each bar brings its own experience and clientele. In Modena we have Il Caffe' dell'Orologio near Piazza Grande, the main square, where a coffee can become a delightful blend of caffeine, chocolate and whipped cream in a champaigne flute with little salatini on the side or remain its old, marvelous self. In the summer, you can sit outside between the store windows of Max Mara and iBlues. I'm there only once a year, but they remember my name. There are many others, of course. Including one that makes the best hot chocolates in winter -- they literally coat your bones and protect you from the rigors of weather.
- Each bar has its own clientele and personality, even time of the day. When I'm there with my family, we head to one in the early morning, one in midmorning, and yet another one in late morning. All cafes work double duty, becoming aperitif places in the afternoon -- clever they are, and pleasure-loving we are. My favorite hangout for the afternoon and early evening cocktail or drink is the Caffe' Concerto in Piazza Grande, Modena. In the spring and summer they have tables outside where you can sit, relax, listen to the music, and watch the world go by and the sunset kiss the red bricks of the buildings and pink marble of the cathedral.
Have I sold you yet of the many reasons why a Starbucks chain would be an unlikely blend in Italy? Even here, I have been avoiding them in favor of the comfort and intimacy of local coffee shops. We used to gather at a local Starbucks, but they since eliminated most places to sit, made the music louder, and the baristas crankier. The profit machine must keep feeding itself, I guess.
What are your thoughts and experiences?