Starbucks’ Hipster Formula

I used to think I wasn’t cool enough for Starbucks.I’d walk in, immediately become overwhelmed and intimidated by the hiss of the espresso machines, the excruciating inflections of the over-enthusiastic barristas and the complicated looking Italian words on the menu,  and promptly rush across the street to Tim Horton’s instead.

Corporate Breezyk loves her some Starbucks. (Photo courtesy of my friend Stephanie, who thought we were going on a coffee break, but instead was forced to take 75 pictures of me doing this exact same pose on her blackberry.. suckaaa)

I chalk this up to being from a small town where the closest starbucks was two hours away, and the double-double reigned supreme. But after a couple years of being a big city girl myself, I now am not only a Starbucks fan; I’ve also perfected the art of ordering. 

Every morning, I cooly sidle up to the counter, give the barrista my best “”I’m really f**cking busy, so let’s just do this” look, and confidently order my grande Americano (in a venti cup, mind you)- soy at the bar, please. If I’m feeling a little crazy, I might even tack on a spontaneous banana. I like to live dangerously.

I’d pat myself on the back for being such a Starbucks aficionado,  if it weren’t for the fact that pretty much everybody else is one too. That person in front of you? Guaranteed their order  is 10X more complicated than yours,  and involves a “pump” of something or other, something “drizzled” or “sprinkled”, strict stipulations on the amount of foam, and possibly the use of a thermometer.

What really amazes me though is not only the sheer number, but the varied types of  people who all share a love for Starbucks.  Seriously. Hipsters, corporate executives, interns, soccer moms, highschoolers, movie producers, Britney Spears, the homeless-  they may be polarized on other issues, but if you cut them, do they all not bleed Christmas Blend??

Wannabe hipster breezyk at the first S-bucks store in Seattle.. don't be jealous
In a world where everything is cliché- somehow,  it’s still not embarrassing to say you like Starbucks. I mean, it’s no chi-chi European espresso, or fair-trade organic drip that comes with instant karma points…  but what Starbucks is, is cool enough to get by.
So how do they do it?  I for one, think they’ve got a formula that combines the perfect level of hipsterness with mainstream appeal to pull in the masses: 

1. Location

  • Each location is slightly different, and caters to their clientele. The one in my young, urban neighbourhood for example is in a cool old  historic building with worn-in leather couches and 19 year-old hipster barristas with asymmetrical haircuts. The one in my office tower at work, however, is all business. I’m convinced the employees are all droids operated from a single switchboard, and the place is set up like a human cattle herding device. It’s narrow as shit, and I don’t even think there are any seats in there because, let’s just face it, THERE’S NO TIME!!!!!!!!

2. Sustenance

  • They pander to the ever-increasing anorexic crowd with all of those mini cupcakes and “petite scones”  that are basically the size of my baby toenail. I also noted recently that almost everything in the display case is now preceded by the word “Artisan”.. which doesn’t fundamentally change anything about it, but subliminally sends the message that its made by real “salt-of-the-earth” types in an actual bakery, and not  by Kris Humphries in a factory in Minnesota. (Seriously. that’s his job now).

3. Music

  • The music they play inside is always something that makes you feel slightly cooler for having listened to it (like Fleet Foxes, John Legend, Or Etta James) but not SO cool that it’s alienating in that “so obscure you probably never heard of it” sort of way.  Plus they are always offering free iTunes downloads and selling mixtapes. A mixtape of anything increases indie cred substantially.

    Starbucks: offering a great beard growing soundtrack at all times

4. Corporate Responsibility: 

  • They craftily mitigate their would-be “big, bad, corporate conglomerate” status by being all do-goody and selling that Ethos water that tastes like shit, but you can’t complain about because starving babies in Africa are using it to make Soy Lattes. (Or something like that). Plus now they’re building all these “green” stores and ethically sourcing their coffee beans. Show-offs. 

I sort of picture it to be like that movie, “Weird science”…. two nerdy executives load all of these elements into a supercomputer, but instead of a hot babe, out comes a half corporate/half hipster looking Human Centaur,  drinking a Frappuccino and rocking out to Feist on an iPod while wearing skinny jeans and a casual sweater.

Maybe carrying around one of those white cups emblazoned with a green sea-lady doesn’t send the message of unattainable coolness- but what it does do is reduce us all to the lowest common denominator. It says, “Hey, I’m non-threatening, have at least average taste, and am smart enough to  remember a drink order that contains 17 or more words“.

And if that’s not enough validation, then I don’t really know what it is.

Question of the Day:  Are you a Starbucks fan?


19 thoughts on “Starbucks’ Hipster Formula

Add yours

  1. love starbucks – love the cake-pops and mini things (makes me feel like i’m eating responsibly – as in not gorging on sweets, just “sampling” them).

    although i tend to stick to my regular, i’m sure most of their drinks are delicious…i’m just too scared to order them, lest i be disappointed with the drink and end up hating myself for digressing from the tried and true and wasting 10 dollars!


    1. I know what you mean.. I bought a holiday nanaimo bar there the other day and it was SICK.. i was so choked I wasted $3.75 on it. Hey, member that time this summer when I was SUPER hungover and you made me wait for an hour at a Starbucks before coming to pick me up? and then demanded Cake Pops and Lattes for you and your child? I DO


  2. I wouldn’t say I am a fan as Starbucks as much as I would say that I have a problem with Starbucks. I am that girl behind the Starbucks newbies, breathing down their necks, boring holes into their skulls, silently screaming: “LEARN HOW TO ORDER!!” I spent eleven hours, give or take a few, giving birth to my son. The first thing I asked for when that was done? Grande Soy Latte.


  3. The last guy I dated and I had our first encounter at a coffeeshop, where he proceeded to explain that mountain-grown coffee is far superior to coffee from the coast, and that Starbucks is basically pis-water.
    Despite the fact that I am a Starbucks girl all the way, I think I fell in love whim him because he’s enough of a coffee guru to discuss the merits of one brand of coffee over another with the energy of two presidential candidates arguing over their respective tax plans.

    He’s Latin American, which is probably why he’s a coffee snob, but I’m Italian, which makes me a wine snob…judge not, and all that crap.


    1. hahaha he sounds like a keeper. Maybe he never needed to memorize a 17 word drink order because his inherent coolness just spoke volumes by itself…. we should all be so lucky 😉


  4. I don’t drink coffee or enjoy being around others. I went into a Starbucks a few times with other people only because I love barristas. They’re adorable. I might have to learn to enjoy coffee. I plan on moving to LA in a year to finally get rejected in person as opposed to ignored completely through e-mail.

    I have nothing against the place. It’s pretty cool how you point out that they’re different from one another. The only other place I know that does that is McDonalds. They had lobster at one in Boston and I remember an untrustworthy adult saying in France they have wine in happy meals. It might be true. I’ve never been to France and if I was I most certainly wouldn’t spend it in a McDonalds.


    1. I’d have to argue on the barristas always being adorable point. Sometimes they are.. sometimes they’re droid like, or exhausted by how lame you are. It’s a game of Barrista Roulette really.
      They have McLobsters in Nova Scotia where I’m from, too- although I’ve never actually had one… much like the whole france thing, I’d rather eat a real live lobster from the ocean while in Nova Scotia rather than from McDonalds. (that’s not to say that if they DID have wine in french happy meals, I wouldn’t be there in a heartbeat)


    1. definitely not, Al- hard tickets are way too busy smoking cagrettes and painting on their chola brows to be interested in coffee anyway…. they’d totally give it the “no no no” face and corresponding finger-wave


  5. always was because of the smoothness of the coffee… but recently have started to migrate to that other monster chain – Nero… as the coffees so strong it leaves you slightly dizzy for an hour.

    do you have Nero in the US?


    1. I’m actually in Canada but I totally googled this Caffe Nero business.. and I kind of wish we had it here. I saw something on the website about White Chocolate & Cranberry Flapjacks?? Can you send me some of these? I’m sure they will hold up well in cross-atlantic transit 😉


      1. in uk there are three camps starbucks/nero/costa…. and you probably do get a more clear divide in customer types.

        i’ll stick one of those flapjacks in the post tomorra


  6. To say I’m a Starbucks fan is a bit of an understatment seeing as how I named my blog after it. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said, especially the music bit. Its beard growing music sung by musicians with beards. I have discovered many a hidden musical gem through their free itunes cards.

    Now I feel like the epitome of cool holding my grande cup while listening to an obscure bearded artist that no one has ever heard of on my ipod.


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