drink rant Starbucks

Thumbs down to Starbucks’ Green Tea Frapp in the US!

As a follow-up to my entry about Starbucks in Japan, today during my lunch break I went to the nearest Starbucks (not hard to find–there’s one on nearly every block here in San Francisco) and ordered the Green Tea Frappucino to take back with me to the hot dog stand.

Sigh, needless to say, I was sorely disappointed. I was expecting there to be a difference, yes, but I wasn’t expecting such a horrible misrepresentation of green tea.

The main complaint I have is that this “green tea” frappucino does not even taste like green tea. I took the first sip and thought that it tasted like a melon drink instead–did they perhaps mistake the name of the drink and mean to call it “Melon Tea Frappucino” instead?

I couldn’t stand to finish the drink and had to throw it out, despite the fact that I paid $3.30 for it. The small-size Japanese Green Tea Frappucino is smaller, costs more, yet tastes much better. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll take the Japanese Frappucino over the American one anyday.

Oh, but that’s only for the Green Tea Frappucinos. I still like the other drinks that Starbucks provides here in the US, i.e., Double Chocolate Chip Frappucino and the usual espresso drinks. But you can’t win ’em all, can you?

Japan Starbucks

One last look at Starbucks in Japan…

I decided to order one last thing from Starbucks in Japan–something I could only get in Japan.

This is the Coffee Jelly Frappucino; a mix of coffee, grass jelly (? actually, not too sure of the English translation of this jelly; let’s just say, it’s not fruit jelly), and cream.

Light coffee taste, and slurping up the jelly pieces made me crave bubble tea.

Japan Starbucks

Starbucks in Japan

I’m on a rampage to “discover” the differences in taste/style/portions of American food companies in Japan.

So, today, I went by Starbucks. I faintly remember from two years ago that the experience in a Japanese Starbucks is different from an American one. There’s still the ambience of relaxing, but it’s quite different–for one, the prevalence of free wireless is not so common in Japanese Starbucks. Actually, the Japanese rely more on Internet access via their cell phones rather than through laptops.

I ordered myself a green tea frappucino–yes, green tea has become one of my favorite flavors of Japan, by the way. The small size was incredibly small–could probably pass as the kid’s size in the US! That makes me sad.

The frappuccino was creamy, had the taste of authentic green tea. I felt satisfied after drinking this.

I guess when I get back to the US, I will order the green tea frappucino there and compare afterwards.

observation Starbucks

Starbucks and the bathroom.

While sitting in Starbucks today, I was smart enough to sit near the bathrooms for easy access. What I didn’t know at the beginning was that the bathrooms are locked and people have to enter a code into the keypad in order to unlock it.

After awhile, I became amused and distracted, watching oblivious customers go to the bathroom, struggle with the doors, and then turn around in defeat and ask the baristas for the combination. Every time the baristas replied, they always sounded rather agitated, as I’m sure they get that question millions of times during the day.

“Excuse me, what is the combination to the bathroom?”

“Sigh. It’s (insert the numbers here).”

Some customers were “smart” to just wait in line behind someone who was already in there. I was even smarter by taking down the combination in advance so I wouldn’t have to approach the baristas later and ask them for the umpteenth time.

It was just amusing to me to watch how people would react.

drink Starbucks

Starbucks re-training employees.

Well, what can I say? It’s about time, in many ways. I was completely unaware of how automated everything was at Starbucks until my friend and I were discussing our barista experiences at local cafes….and she mentioned how, despite our working at lesser-known places, we were probably “more qualified” to make espressos and espresso drinks than most people who have only had barista experience at Starbucks.

Anyway, after finding out about the processes at Starbucks, I felt a little less excited about going to a Starbucks store. Learning to use a manual espresso machine has really helped me appreciate the art of espresso-making more; and it has helped me understand what people mean when they say that Starbucks has become a “fast-food chain”. Even when I went in for an interview at Starbucks a few weeks ago, the manager who interviewed me asked me about my barista experience, and I mentioned using the manual machines. He in turn responded, “Oh, we don’t do any of that around here; all we do is push buttons.”

Anyway, needless to say, I was not hired at Starbucks (more or less due to my limited availability). It’s not that I am glad that I was not hired; I still like going to Starbucks. But, it’s good to see that the CEO/Founder has made some effort to try to get employees to understand the art of coffee once again. Maybe some customers don’t care, but I know I do. I’m not sure if Starbucks can really go back to being a “neighborhood cafe”, but it can at least try to do so.