Starbucks announced this week that they were opening their first outlet in Italy, a country that takes great pride in its coffee and its culture.
Starbucks, a truly American brand has taken the McDonald’s route rather successfully but their landing on the shores of Italy may not get as big a reception as their Trenta size drinks. As noted, java in America is a coffee-to-go experience and while Starbucks are gathering stops for the desktop entrepreneurs and the often retired, coffee in the rest of the world is a cultural part of daily life. In Italy, Greece, Spain, South America and the Middle East, to name a few (and the home of many Starbucks), there is nothing like getting your morning fix, in a cozy little coffee bar, tucked away on some side street where all the world’s problems are being settled, one espresso at a time. On my travels, I sit for an hour at these places and eventually the language barrier is breached and I’m welcomed in. It’s a distinctively European/world culture that embraces.
The social clubs of the new millennium a place where a bunch of guys from all faiths and cultures sit, drink and kibitz. Never mind your religion or sometimes lack of, Lenny Bruce would have said that if you’re sitting around talking, you’re kibitzing.
Where I have often found people go to places to either relax or be a recluse, coffee bars from Mumbai to Milan allow one to soak it all in or dish it all out. The jokes, the insults, the heated political and religious discussions, the retiree, the fireman, the shopkeeper, and yes, the pauper, the puppet, the pirate, the poet, the pawn and the king.
Friends come in all shapes; sizes, religions and colors. Rather than care what the world thinks of them, these sippers just sit around and talk. They dialogue, they argue, they agree, they differ and they come together and we don’t have to imagine their views, we hear them.
I always believed I never learned something from someone I agreed with and by venturing out to be with my own as well as the others has made me smarter, kinder and accepting. They don’t see life for what it is, until they’ve sat in a chair, stirred their little cup and opened their eyes and their hearts.
In a rather unique, and often scary, time in our lives, people have found havens do just that. Starbucks may find some pushback where national pride and an accepted way of doing things are hard to change. And maybe they should not change. Progress isn’t always found in a special brew from a $4500 grinder and coffee maker but in a tradition that deserves to live on. These gems may not be places where its denizens end world hunger or achieve world peace but there,it’s real, it’s refreshing and yes, it’s aromatic.