Thursday, June 16, 2016

Not all coffee shops are created equally.

Coffee Bean has a terrible Wi-Fi connection.  Doesn't matter if it i crowded or not, the connection drops frequently.  So I use my phone's network.

Though the main reason I come to Coffee Bean is because they have the best-tasting coffee of all the commercial brands--Starbucks, Peet's Coffee & Tea, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  The local, boutique coffee shops don't seem to make the best coffee. They're often flavored coffees but don't have that density in flavor that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has.  Starbucks burns their bean. Peet's is pretty good too.  It's coffee flavor is dense.

IMO, pastries at Starbucks are the best but I just don't eat that stuff any more.  Pastries at Coffee Bean look like they've been taken out of shoe box.

The folks who seem to make the most genuine, friendly efforts are Coffee Bean and Peet's.  I was at one Coffee Bean.  They took my order without realizing that they were out of the house blend but they didn't say anything to me.  I sat at a table with my laptop waiting.  After about 5 minutes I got up and looked around, thinking that maybe I'd missed the call for my coffee but then realized mine was no special order and the barista didn't ask for my name any way.  Then I stepped over the cashier, and that's when he realized that he didn't relay to me that my coffee was being brewed. He knew that I would appreciate the fact that they were brewing a new pot and so didn't say anything because he really didn't need to. When I picked up my coffee, he handed me a $5 gift card.  I said "No, no, you don't have to do that."  But his insistence was very friendly, so I accepted.  So on friendliness, I would definitely pick Coffee Bean.

Peet's is a close second.  They've got competent people at Peet's. Thoughtful people.  Their store that I visit on occasion is in Pasadena's Hasting's Ranch, a neighborhood that once held some prestige in Pasadena for its theaters and its Sears store.  Today there are so many eateries there it seems impossible.  But I like Peet's.

Starbucks hires punks.  Managed by punks and mini-Mussolinis with $.69 authority.  I have caught attitudes from the young folks at Starbucks, which I did not enjoy.  


This one is a tough category.  Recently, I've been spending too much time inside coffee bars.  I go there to work on my computer, where I try to station myself next to a power outlet.  And that's when the trouble begins.  It's not bad.  It's just that I suddenly become an eye sore, a blight on the restaurant ambiance though the place could be empty.  I get clues.  10 to 20 minutes after sitting down, I will get a clue.  An employee will come by my table with a sweeping broom and pan, spot cleaning dirt from the floor.  And they tend to find an extra piece of dirt at the far corners of the floor around my table.  And if there is only a single piece of dirt, it will be something remarkably difficult to reach and they will try and try and reach and reach a second, a third, a fourth, and fifth annoying time to collect a single wadded piece of something.  Another form of non-verbal messages to scoot I get is that if I am sitting next to a window a barrister will come directly to my window with towel and spray bottle: squirt, squirt, mist, mist, and then circular wipes. Going in circles for minutes.  Didn't realize the window was that dirty, was so dirty.  Got to get that dirt!  So I get clues. Clues to pack up and leave.  Yet there are tables throughout the coffee bar.  In the bar I am currently in there at least 12 tables and a few leather chairs with end tables next to them, so there's plenty of space for people to read, sit, talk, whatever.  They even have a few books McCallister, the Eagle's Legacy by William Stone.  Never heard of him, which means nothing at all.  

So I can't always tell what the business model is for these coffee bars.  There is no theater within walking distance to this bar. There is a grocery store, Sprouts, and a Japanese restaurant/sushi bar.  But I'd like to hear their rationale for not wanting customers sitting at tables working on their laptops or tablets.  I see that as a smart set of folks who like to produce, but I guess that computers are still seen as forbidden communication that leads to excessive consumption.  And that is absolutely disgusting.  I don't know.  I don't know why these coffee shops would frown on this.  Maybe the frowning is toward a certain group of folks.  I am almost 60 and white.  In today's Obama society, that itself is a crime.  Saw this movie last night, called White House Down, that had a who's who of Hollywood cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Joey King, and Richard Jenkins.  Channing Tatum, an Alabama-born kid who moved to Misssissippi, plays a White House police officer, who it turns out has special-agent type martial arts skills, where he takes all and every security detail that James Woods' character, Martin Walker, head of the president's security detail, can throw at him.  I mention this movie only because I see the writing on the wall.  This new generation is biased against older folks.  But was I any different as a teenager?  There was one older man who came into Steamboat Fried Chicken with a pair of shoes.  I was the assigned manager and I would follow orders or protocol or some authority.  He came without a nickel to his name except for the pair of shoes.  He placed the shoes on the counter in front of me, asking if I would consider taking the shoes in exchange for a chicken dinner.  I said no.  What kind of a monster was I?  I could have simply taken his shoes, paid for his chicken dinner, kept the shoes as some kind of lucky pair. He would have been fed, and my soul would have been fed.  Does that sound quirky?  Too Chicken Soul type of smarmy ethics? Sometimes smarmy is all you can hope for.

The other tactic that coffee bars pull is that they play music that they know would offend an older audience.  If the content of the songs doesn't work, they'll raise the volume.  Loud!  I mean so loud you'd think you were in a nightclub.  It is terrible.  It is deliberate. It's all non-verbal stuff.  When you go to the counter and order beverages, they're all smiles and happy as pie, bending over backwards to serve you.  But when you go rogue with laptop, well, that's just pure evil.  You're not to use their shop as your work shop.  


Starbucks has the worst music.  And if you get a manager who doesn't really like people or their collective noise or the silence from a lack of noise, then he just might ratchet up the volume to deafening levels.  And the selections they play are so over-the-top politically correct that they torture the listener with the hopes of pulling you down into the depths of despair.  I referred once to their music that it was like listening to Tracy Chapman on Quaaludes.

Starbucks is the best in this regard.

Coffee Bean is pretty good, except for a few stores.

Peet's has only a few.

McDonald's, though not a strict barista does serve coffee and does have W-Fi.  But no power.  Something happened to their coffee.  When they started serving the Arabica Bean, McDonald's customers were stunned by how good it was and how fresh it could taste.  Today, or maybe at certain stores, their coffee has dramatically declined.