When I was a post doc at BU in the nineties, I used to go to a cafe on Commonwealth Ave just down the street from my office on Cummington Street. I don’t remember the name of the place but I do remember getting a cappuccino that looked something like this:Now, I usually get something that looks like this: Instead of a light delicate layer of milk with a touch of foam floating on rich espresso, I get a lump of dry foam sitting on super acidic burnt quasi-espresso. How did this unfortunate circumstance occur? I’m not sure but I think it was because of Starbucks. Scaling up massively means you get what the average customer wants, or Starbucks thinks they want. This then sets a standard and other cafes have to follow suit because of consumer expectations. Also, making a real cappuccino takes training and a lot of practice and there is no way Starbucks could train enough baristas. Now, I’m not an anti-Starbucks person by any means. I think it is nice that there is always a fairly nice space with free wifi on every corner but I do miss getting a real cappuccino. I believe there is a real business opportunity out there for cafes to start offering better espresso drinks.
2 thoughts on “The demise of the American cappuccino”
This sort of issue I saw coming and even predicted long ago.
I remember when a starbucks took over the corner (sortuh rundown) restaurant/cafe across from McDonald’s on 18th and Columbia rd nw.
They made a very nice environment, especially compared to McDonald’s—which has maximum flourescent lights, etc.—which seems intentionally created to get you to leave fast. (mcdonald’s is going down, but they also own chipotle i hear. This aesthetic is probably due to applied research on behavioral economics from Wharton and Duke—how to maximize junk food and terrible environments to help move the Piketty (r,g) dynamic along its path. (Piketty interestingly says (alot of) mathematical economics is trivial math actually, which seems obvious).
But, the piped in pseudo reggae/pop-rock music in Starbucks was so aggravating the space was unusable. (There is actually 1 starbucks in Gtn and 1 McDonald’s in Glenmont where you could get away from the piped in noise).
One of my early books (published under the pseudonym O Spengler) used the Rene Thom theory of cultural morphogenesis/catastrophe theory/b c goodwin/leh trainor/e c zeeman to predict the decline of the west; later it was made into a film, ‘the decline of western civilization’. (on youtube , first part was about germs—anthony fauci discussed germs recently on CSPAM—he has a new york accent and says he was on good terms with the bushes.)
The decline of Cappucino follows from the theorem.
I see also GFR Ellis and J Silk say in Nature that physics is also losing contact with reality, and Lee Smolin and the great philosopher R Unger have a book on the subject as well. (Smolin seems to have rediscovered time; Unger has always known philosophy and law departments at HU are eternal verities).
I think a Manhattan style project for cappucino would be in order. (I personally drink tea).
(the other place before Starbucks—-one of the only all night ones in that area, across from Safeway on col rd got shut down for some allegations about something called illegal activity)
I think people just don’t care. If they did. you would see more places catering to their tastes.