The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Kyle in Context


Coffee shops are everywhere. Within that espresso, latte or cappuccino is modern society’s solution for late nights; they are a break from the chaos of our jobs and a forum for small talk.

As a loather of small talk and a fan of coffee, I went to a Starbucks for a few hours one afternoon to take in its culture, its people and its customs.

As I write this column, sitting in a comfortable arm chair and listening to the Starbucks “Mo-Town” collection, I feel a sense of community with the different people with different drinks, brought together for their daily boost.

The menu at Starbucks covers every kind of interest, whether you’re a soccer mom who drinks a venti chai latte, a teenage girl who orders a passion iced tea lemonade or an adult with braces who orders something as awkward as an adult with braces; there’s something for everyone.

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Drinking my go-to iced grande vanilla latte (I attempt to get a drink with a rhyming name every time I go to Starbucks) and sitting atop my leather throne, I eavesdrop on a table of moms talking about their children and other local chatter.

The coffee shop dates back to the French enlightenment when philosophers would meet and discuss their ideas and other beliefs. A typical Potomac soccer mom talking smack about the PTA is quite a shift from Voltaire’s opinions on natural rights.

I am slightly appalled at this transition. Coffee used to be the drink of choice among scholars and philosophers in the golden age of European deism. Now it is about bingeing on copious amounts of caffeine so moms can survive shuttling their sons and daughters throughout Potomac, so teens can stay awake all through the night or so the chef can survive a double shift.

I do, however, respect the hipster who does homework or reads an issue of some underground music magazine. At least the hipster is staying true to the roots of the coffee shop by using it as a place to explore individuality.

Speaking of hipsters, Starbucks has garnished the reputation of being a hot spot for contemporary subculture. By going alone and avoiding any human contact, with their Buddy Holly glasses and skinny jeans hidden behind an Apple computer, they have transformed Starbucks into an antisocial dungeon of sorts.

The decoration of Starbucks has a palette of neutral earth tone colors that are anything but primary and posters on the wall that are straight out of the mind of a director from a silent German impressionist movie. The baseline of the soundtrack, however, kept me comfortable. After all, it was Starbucks that brought relaxing soundtracks to the restaurant industry.

While the decoration of Starbucks reminded me more of the dark ages than the European enlightenment, the furniture has always been my favorite part of the experience. By offering lounge chairs and ceramic tables, the visitor feels a sense of comfort.

It’s that sense of home where you might as well have just gone downstairs, brewed some coffee and drank it while reading the morning paper. By making its customers feel that sense of home, the people who might have only stopped by for a coffee stay for prolonged periods and order a few more shots of espresso.

This is ingenious. People do their homework at Starbucks because it’s cooler than their homes, Dunkin’ Donuts or Panera Bread. The free Wi-Fi and delicious refreshments help too.

As I depart from my tenure in my chair and close up my Macbook as it starts to power down, I am confronted with the blinding light from the sun. While Starbucks is cool and has an original thing going for it, its Seattle based founders didn’t anticipate how the coffee and dreary colors would affect my eyes.

I feel like I am the Nosferatu of German impressionist lore, waking up from his slumber and now basking in the real world. Starbucks is a fine establishment, but it is secluded from everything else. Starbucks: the hipster hibernation.

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Kyle in Context