OTHER VOICES

A decent cup of coffee

Posted April 03, 2011, at 6:25 p.m.

Starbucks went into business 40 years ago, and coffee drink-ing hasn’t been the same. The Seattle-based innovator made the “small” into the “tall,” the clerk into the barista and the complex order into perform-ance art and punch line — shot-of-this, skinny-that, 180-degrees, please.

It even went global, winning converts in the tea-drinking strongholds of Japan and Brit-ain. China, you’re next.

What Starbucks didn’t do, however, is make coffee the adult beverage of choice once again. Despite the chain’s visi-bility, coffee consumption in the U.S. peaked decades ago.

Anyone who thinks America is big on the bean today should turn back the clock to 1946: Our soldiers had returned from war, evidently hankering for caf-feine. We brewed 46.4 gallons per capita that year, almost double the amount today.

What changed? Soda pop took off, and more recently bottled water. As women joined the work force, fewer prepared cof-fee at home. Supermarket sales plunged.

By the time Starbucks got rolling on March 30, 1971, coffee had become a commodity in every sense of the word.

Starbucks’ success has raised the bar.

So thanks, Starbucks, on your 40th birthday, for making it easier to find a decent cup of coffee — in your stores and in many others, too.

Chicago Sun-Times (March 30)

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