Bad news for fans of the Seattle-based purveyor of caffeine to the masses - profits fell by 97% in the fourth quarter of the year, partly due to their attempt to saturate the market by opening branches everywhere - or as satirical journal 'The Onion' announced back in 2000, 'New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks'. We even have a branch here in Newgate, squeezed between the oakum-picking room and the gallows storage shed.
There's something of a fine irony in the plight of this modern-day coffee-house as the financial descendants of its 18th century counterparts totter and shake. It brought a touch of transatlantic glamour to the British high street, and what a catchy name! Slightly exotic, and with interesting subconscious associations depending on your age and literary taste*.
Unfortunately, what it tried to do in response to the downturn was bombard us with bizarre concoctions of fruit and strange ingredients - vivano, anyone? The hapless customer arrives at the counter in a state of utter bewilderment and, in response to the multitude of suggestions, asks plaintively 'Can I just have a cup of coffee, please?'
*Starbuck was, of course, the name of the second officer in the original Battlestar Galactica, or, if you prefer, the chief mate of the Pequod in 'Moby Dick', whose most memorable line to Captain Ahab was immortalized in 'The Art of Coarse Acting',
'Was't not the same Moby Leg took off thy...er...'
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