Monday, March 20, 2006

Did you say that Starbucks is socially responsible?!?

For those of you who know me, you know that there are two fundamental truths about my existence. First I love coffee. While I've given up all my other vices I still am an unabashed caffeine addict. Indeed, there are days where I drink upwards to six cups of coffee...for breakfast (such as when I was in Italy and had access to some of the tastiest coffee in the world, I think I was up to at least a dozen cups of espresso a day, and I didn't drink them in those little shot glasses, I was having big mugs of espresso whenever and where ever I could find it). The second fundamental truth of my existence is that I hate Starbucks with a passion. I've been known to refuse to talk to people simply because I saw them with a Starbucks cup once. It always struck me that Starbucks was one of those evil corporations out to take over the world and turn everyone into robots with mermaid logos.

That and I always had assumed that, given their size and their apparent similarity to other large fast food franchises such as McDonalds, they single handedly kept down the coffee growers in Central and South America. Indeed, I had always thought that when you buy a venti machiato not only were you being a pretentious prick but you were aiding in keeping the developed world impoverished by aiding a multinational corporations exploitation of the poor.

However, according to CBC Radio's The Current I might be wrong. Apparently, Starbucks does fairly well (relative to other large coffee franchises) in terms of being socially responsible. While drinking Starbucks' coffee still makes you a pompous asshole, I guess they try to buy fair trade beans and actually donate quite a bit to various social projects (at least according to Starbucks' own reports and the various social scientist types that were on this morning's show).

What was more surprising is that icon of Canadian caffeinaholism Tim Hortons (aka Timmy Ho's) is an evil poor folk exploiting coffee cartel. While Starbucks ranked a B- for their social responsibility Timmy's only got an E-. This seems so very wrong. I always thought that drinking Timmy Ho's (while indicative of a lack of true coffee appreciation) wasn't the kind of evil act that drinking Starbucks' was. It saddens me that I'm wrong.

Though, that said, I guess I don't really ever go to Timmy Ho's all that often. I think I might have been there perhaps three times in the last five years (and that was because I wanted their donuts rather than their coffee). I guess I'm safe sticking to the small independently owned java joints that I frequent such as Weeds, Higher Ground, and the Hop in Brew. As far as I know all these places not only sling fair trade coffee exclusively but also have a more interesting clientele. I mean you're not going to walk into a Starbucks or a Timmy Ho's and find a chess tournament in action or be able to join into a conversation about merits and failings of the various proposed foreign policies of the three major Canadian federal parties.

That and Starbucks is always full of those shiny people to groom too much. Anyone who puts that much attention in appearing nice to go drink coffee has to be hiding something.


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