Organic Consumers Association

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Protest Starbucks

Starbucks, Coffee, and Your Health: Bucking The Starbucks Experience

Some call Starbucks a channel for industrial revolution; others say it is the epitome of corporate imperialism. Others blame it for America's obesity crisis. But for most of the 34 million people who visit their cafés every week, Starbucks simply serves good, convenient, and by most standards, overpriced coffee.

But there is more to Starbucks than the drinks with the fancy names - it sells, as its posters claim, the Starbucks Experience. It sells a modern, youthful ambiance that makes the average coffee drinker feel cool, funky, and perhaps even intellectual. It is this feeling that has helped it spread to 10,000 locations worldwide and earned it $6.4 billion in global sales last year.

From coffee bean to coffee empire

Starbucks began as a small business put up in 1971 by two Seattle schoolteachers and a writer. They sold coffee beans and equipment from a small store in Pike Place Market, first buying coffee beans from American dealer Peet's, then eventually importing straight from coffee growers. It was only in 1987 that they started selling espresso and coffee, when they bought and rebranded the II Giornale coffee shops then owned by entrepreneur Howard Schultz. Schultz would later become Starbucks CEO and keep his position until 2005.

A period of rapid expansion followed, with franchises being opened in Vancouver and Illinois within the same year. By 1992 it had 165 outlets, and from 1996 to 1998 it expanded outside of North America by opening in Tokyo and buying out the 60-store Seattle Coffee Company in the UK. It has since grown into the world's largest coffee chain, and its unmistakable green logo now marks practically every corner in the world's major cities.

The brand we love to hate

Starbucks has also become a cultural symbol, representing everything from yuppie culture to globalization, and raising social issues from labor ethics to animal rights. With global presence comes constant global scrutiny. It is the brand we love to hate. And as question upon question is piled upon the company's integrity and the quality of its drinks, a cup of Starbucks coffee has come to mean more than a caffeine fix.

What's in a cup?

If your daily routine includes swinging by Starbucks for a quick latte, you may be well on your way to diabetes, obesity, or both. A grande café mocha with breve sends 580 calories and 40 grams of fat down your system. The recommended calorie intake is about 2,000, which means that one cup has roughly the same calories as a full meal, without the nutritional value. In fact, according to News Target, Starbucks' drinks can hardly be called coffee - coffee-flavored sugar is more like it. The coffee itself is not bad, but with all the sugar, cream, and other heavy add-ons that go into each cup, you might as well have ordered ice cream.

In the list provided by Healthy Weight Forum, only four of the drinks ”“ mostly cappuccinos with low-fat milk options ”“ have less than 200 calories. The rest are within the 300 to 500 range. Even their tiny pastry slices pack a mean dose: the popular carrot cake has 600 calories, and the low-fat muffins have 360. A simple muffin-and-coffee breakfast can carry over 1,000 calories ”“ the rough equivalent of lunch and supper combined.

PART 2 : Not-so-light drinks
PART 3 : Unfair labor
PART 4 : The better part of the pie

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