Friday, March 30, 2012

A Love-Disgust with Starbucks

As a Seattleite, I proudly show my tourist friends the first Starbucks coffee store, located in Pike Place Market. Usually there's a fabulous a Capella quartet in front, swinging with their excellently-blended harmonies.

My photo of singers outside the first Starbucks, Pike Place Mkt.

Purchasing my favorite excellently-blended grande Americano inside, however, isn't such an easy question anymore.  Oh yeah, I've got my special registered Hawaii-design Starbucks card, loaded so I earn their rewards.  But I'm getting word from the right and the left that perhaps using it at the coffee stand ubiquitous on nearly every corner might carry some not-so-approved connotations.

Cochineal beetle pieces. MMMM-mmmm!
I wasn't one to order the Strawberries-and-Creme Frappuccinos anyway, knowing they didn't have kosher approval.  But now I know why: It's revealed that the red coloring Starbucks adopted a couple years ago to align with their "natural ingredients" push is actually crushed up bugs. The Cochineal Extract from ground South American beetles is definitely not kosher. It's not vegetarian, either, and aside from an occasional kosher meat digression (Passover's coming!), our family refrains from eating slaughtered flesh. But crushed insects, added for their crimson color, doesn't comport with the system. Perhaps using strawberries to shade the Strawberries-and-Creme could have been even more natural.

Then I got an email saying Starbucks is pouring millions of dollars into the initiative to redefine marriage, on the ballot here in Washington State this November.  I happen to hold with the traditional Torah view that the entire purpose of marriage is to synchronize the complementary differences between male and female, and to best encourage that each child can be raised by his biological mother and father together.  Love's a crazy-wonderful thing, and if two men or women want to affirm their commitment and spend their lives together, great; I just don't think government should shift the focus of the institution from children-with-parents societal stability to elevating individuals' feelings.  If men and women are truly interchangeable, as re-defining marriage suggests, then family law can no longer privilege biological connection over emotional claims on a child.  The overwhelming data showing children do best when raised by their two biological parents won't mean much in practice after that.

I'm not into boycotts, but it seems that vegans, vegetarians, foes of advertising deception and traditional marriage boosters are coming together in a moment of joint Starbucks wrath.  Perhaps to counter this, I just got an email from the company inviting me to a local benefit concert featuring two indie bands. Sounds like fun. Too bad it's on Shabbat.

 Strawberries-&-Creme ingredients: not kosher
We happen to be fans of Starbucks. Not only is it a local company, but we like their coffee. My husband even drinks their Via instant when he wakes up pre-dawn some mornings. I choose their specially-roasted-for-Costco espresso-blend beans. I trust there are no ground bugs in either. I also like their coffee-houses, and our neighborhood outpost is even decorated with original artwork by a friend of mine. It's cozy to sit near their fireplace, using their free internet service, sipping their java.

So I'm hoping that once again, Starbucks will choose to placate all and regain its position as favored caffeine station. To paraphrase Kermit, it's not easy vending bean, and it's reassuring that the marketplace is a reliable source of feedback for businesses.  I like to see retailers do well, and I'm eager to once again proudly take my politically correct friends to that first Pike Place landmark.


  1. Thanks for shedding light on this. I'm a Starbucks addict myself but I'm a little speechless right now.

  2. That's sad. I also didnt like their no donations to politicians thing this past summer. And the get America working $5 bands. They should've been aiding new politicians. I may have to stop going there as much. Great one Diane! Thank you. Always enjoyable. Elana

  3. I've always heard Wally World (Wal-Mart) was an anti-gun company, but because of the market demand, they have one of the best gun selections and ammo prices you can buy in town. Its good to see a blog to highlight what some companies who have no reason to interfere political/social issues.