mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A matter of taste...

A few days ago, Consumerist had this article about how the CEO of Starbucks was dissing McDonalds and other fast-food coffee, saying that it isn't "premium" coffee. Consumerist pointed out that Micky D beat Starbucks in their taste test. The comments section was full of people voicing their opinion of who has the "best" coffee.

The whole debate seems silly to me. Coffee, like most food products, is a matter of personal preference. People want different things in a cup of coffee - some like a coffee that's milder and feel that dark coffees taste burnt, others like one that's darker and feel that milder coffees are weak or flavorless. I think it's silly to pick a "best" coffee, or insist that your favorite brew is the best.

I'm an oddity - I really like the taste of Starbucks - I like a coffee that's a little bitter - but I seldom go there. When I need take-out coffee, I usually end up either at Dunkin Donuts - because they are cheap, their coffee comes in a nice styrofoam cup that doesn't leak and that actually keeps it warm for a while, and they have bigger sizes available. Plus, their lowfat blueberry muffins are pretty tasty. When I need coffee in hurry, I usually go to 7-11, mostly because there's one pretty much around the corner from me.

I will say that even if you don't like the taste of Starbucks, if you are a serious coffee drinker you owe them a debt of gratitude for giving the fast-food places and convenience stores some competition, and making them improve their coffee. Years ago, before Starbucks, coffee was a commodity. Nobody bought coffee at a fast food restaurant or gas station because they loved it's taste - they bought it because it was caffeinated. Fast food coffee was what Dad got on a long vacation drive so he would't fall asleep during the trip - he drank it because he had to, not because he wanted to. These days, you can get a decent cup at McDonalds or 7-11, because they know if they had the same brackish water they used to, everyone would go somewhere else.

And the matter-of-taste thing extends to a lot of other things - food products and beyond. Wine and Beer are two more things that people are often passionate about their favorite brand, but it comes down to what you prefer - just because you prefer a hoppier beer doesn't mean that someone else's favorite brew is "piss" or water. And taste isn't just about food - it also is what you drive, what OS is on your computer, or what kind of pet you have.

The beauty of free-market capitalism is that it fills needs - if enough people like what you sell, they will buy your stuff, and you will stay in business. So if both Starbucks and McDonalds are selling coffee, clearly they both make a coffee that some people prefer over the other.


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