I will forever be in awe of the phenomenon known as Starbucks Coffee Company. While I am a bit of a caffeine disciple myself, it never ceases to amaze me how so many people have become enamoured with the brand. This is especially apparent at the Starbucks in the UCC, where the line stretches a mile long. Western students are no stranger to this. From early morning to late evening, the dedicated members of the Starbucks club can often be seen lining up for their daily dose of caffeine. You might even call them addicts. Why is this? Why do students feel the need to spend their entire meal plan and monthly allowances on skinny lattes, frappucinos and a myriad of other beverages?
I, for one, first became introduced to Starbucks around the beginning of high school. I didn’t understand why my friends were always raving about the newest frappucino flavour, or why people would queue outside the store during the cold, winter months to purchase a cup of coffee. I soon realized that Starbucks coffee wasn’t just ordinary coffee. For many of my friends, both young and old, it was a status symbol and a way of life. Walking down Richmond Street while clutching a stark white cup with the green Siren logo printed on it became a representation of the upper class. Gone were the hipster days when Starbucks was just a little-known company with only several locations in Seattle. Everyone wanted a taste of popularity, and over time, it was decided that Starbucks was going to be their ticket past the velvet rope.
I’ll be the first to say that to some extent, I have also succumbed to Starbucks’ spell. I’m guilty of liking and reposting the typical Instagram and Tumblr posts of lipstick smudges on Starbucks cups, or feeling just a bit like an elitist whenever I place my order for a tall, chai latte with soy milk. The term “white girl” and Starbucks have also become a stereotype, attributing to the fact that it is often young, Caucasian women who are seen placing very specific latte orders. I can’t even begin to understand how a simple cup of caffeine can be customized in such a way. I even struggle to comprehend why people would buy a small, $7 cup of coffee when thousands of families around the world barely have anything to eat. It’s a dilemma I often encounter when I’m trying to decide where to get my next caffeine fix. Has Starbucks become such a large global icon only to lead its followers astray? When did a seemingly innocent latte become a first-world problem?