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bucksAs an avid coffee fan I have frequented the many coffee houses in the city of champions. Often times, initiating a visit based on an online review written by a local. To my surprise, I have found that there is a very good reason why companies like Second Cup and Starbucks are so successful/popular; they do it right, they do it well, and they do it consistently. I managed to find one non main stream coffee-house in town that delivered an exceptional coffee experience; a smooth flavor, robust and distinct, with just the right amount of syrup and milk. But then I went back a few days later to find a different barista at the helm. Which yielded a totally different coffee than the first time. So sad, but still not enough to stop me from going back a third time. And on that third visit I realized that the barista who made me that first mocha latte was running the espresso machine. Yay!! Without hesitation I placed my order, exactly as I had the first and second visit. When he called my name, with overwhelming anticipation I grabbed my coffee and took a long and full drink. And it was even worse than the second visit. There was no consistency at all! Three separate visits, three exact same orders, three totally different cups of coffee, which of course dissuaded me from returning for a fourth coffee visit. It almost seemed as though they had no recipe to follow and just poured whatever amount of whatever products they felt like. Did I mention that the temperatures were inconsistent too? I know this because I always ask for my coffee to be done at 130 degrees so that I don’t burn my tongue.

It seems that organizations like Second Cup and Starbucks have spent a great deal of time and resources to come up with recipes that are widely pleasing to the palate, and they come with the assurance that no matter what location you visit, in any province, or country for that matter, you can place an order and expect your coffee to be exactly what you were hoping for. As silly as this may seem, something as trivial as a consistent cup of coffee can stop home-sickness dead in its tracks. I know this first hand as a travel aficionado. While abroad, when I start to get that little pang of home-sickness I head for the nearest McDonald’s. I know that world-wide, McDonald’s sells the Big Mac. And I know that they always take me home. That familiar odor when I walk in to the McDonald’s, the equally familiar sound of chatter and beeping fry machines, the customary greetings, the easily recognizable uniform. The entire experience truly makes me feel closer to home, and by the time I finish that last bite of burger, or that last greasy frie, or even that last sip of  soda, I have forgotten my woes and am once again comfortable with my surroundings. And on my recent trip to Amsterdam I learned that McDonald’s isn’t the only company offering this comfort. Walk in to any Starbucks around the world and you will see what I mean. Yes, from place to place they have additions and substructions to the menu, but there is always something on the menu that is available “back home”, where ever “home” is. And there is just something so soothing about sitting back in an oversized leather chair with a steaming cup of your favorite beverage. Like mom, wrapping you up in your lion king blankey at the end of a long day lol.

At any rate, the long and short of this is that as much as I like to support local business, I don’t want to do so at the expense of enjoying my hard-earned dollars. So if in Canada or the US I have the choice, I will always head for the tried tested and true coffees of the big chains. Europe sells Illy, so in Europe I will always head for the Illy signs, but if i can’t find one, Starbucks is my pony.

All that being said, I will be spending the next 2 weeks trying various coffees from Starbucks. I will venture out of my comfort zone and explore what they have to offer, and as is my job, I will report my findings to you, my readers. Until then, bottoms up.