Coffee, Yogurt, and a Bathroom

I HAVE A FRIEND in Brooklyn who is a complete coffee snob. (You know who you are.) She grinds her own beans each morning – I say life’s too short for that – and disdains Starbucks. It’s not just that she says their coffee tastes ‘burnt.’ It’s too corporate, too military-industrial complex for her. So she buys her French roast at old-school mom and pop stores like Caputo’s and D’Amico’s, and when it’s a sit-down situation, there are any number of quirky, individualistic places to go.

But that’s in Brooklyn. Since leaving the Big Town for the Hamptons, three hours due east, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for Starbucks. When you’re on the road a lot, as I have been, coffee, wi-fi, and a bathroom all in one place (wi-fi in the bathroom!) are major draws. And when you know you can get a Greek yogurt with honey, and vanilla powder to sprinkle in that coffee, and a comfy chair and somebody’s leftover copy of the New York Times, well, that’s utter heaven.

The first time I ceased to take Starbucks for granted was in London a few years ago. I had just emerged from the Underground (subway) on my way to the public baths (swimming pool) on Ironmonger Row, with no clue where I was. I was standing at the edge of a busy roundabout (traffic circle), badly in need of a place to sit down and consult my map. Also, since I was staying with an English friend who started each day with a bracing cup of tea, I was badly in need of some good strong coffee. As the traffic hurtled by, and I stood there dazedly looking in all the wrong directions, my eye caught sight of the familiar green logo, shining like a beacon. Never was I so glad to overpay for a cup of coffee.

More recently, I’ve become a regular at the Starbucks location off Exit 70 of the Long Island Expressway. It’s exactly an hour from my new home to points west,  just when I’m in need of a pit stop.

And, charmless and ’80s-ish though the universal Starbucks decor is, and annoying as the middle-of-the-road music they’re constantly pushing may be (at least they keep it low), in my otherwise sophisticated village of East Hampton, there’s – believe it or not – no other comfortable coffee shop for women of a certain age to congregate after the gym. So Starbucks it was the other morning for me and my friend Roz, especially as she’d heard they were giving a free cup of coffee in exchange for taste-testing their new Via brand of instant. (Full disclosure, per the FTC’s new guidelines for bloggers: Starbucks is NOT giving me any free coffee to write this laudatory post.)

We were chatting over our decaf, getting to know each other, when I mentioned (too loudly) the name of another new local acquaintance, prompting a third woman, who was wearing big dangly earrings, to glance up and join the conversation (I later found out she’s a well-known artist). A fourth woman, seated nearby, looked on smiling. She was waiting for a friend, and when that friend arrived, she turned out to be someone Roz knew. They hugged, and soon the five of us were introducing ourselves and having a communal chat about art, books, families, real estate, and what a pity it is that there’s no more atmospheric place to gather for a cup of coffee, and how we ought to organize some kind of get-together somewhere so we can all meet up through the winter on a regular basis.

I don’t know if that will ever come to pass, but if it does, it will probably be at Starbucks.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in HAMPTONS, LONG ISLAND, MISCELLANEOUS, ROAD TRIPS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Coffee, Yogurt, and a Bathroom

  1. Amanda Washburn says:

    C’mon Cara, what about The Golden Pear in EH? Support local business, do the right thing.

  2. cara says:

    hi Amanda, yes, I know the Golden Pear (there are several, in East Hampton, Sag Harbor and elsewhere in the Hamptons). I was going to mention it in my post, but unfortunately, I don’t like the place at all. There’s no comfortable seating: it’s long and narrow and the tables are only for two in front, or in a claustrophobic, windowless hall in back. You couldn’t gather with 5 or 6 people anywhere. Besides, the help is surly in my experience, the coffee is unremarkable, and the baked goods are overpriced and dry. So I thought it better NOT to mention it at all. Still, thanks for bringing it up. The Golden Pear exists, and it is locally owned, and I wish I liked the place better, but I find Starbucks pleasanter, sadly.

  3. Struggler says:

    I know Starbucks gets a bad press sometimes, but I like it there too. As you say, when you’re on the road and one pops up unexpectedly, it’s so nice to get your favorite drink (chai latte for me, thanks) and hang out for a little while.
    I’d guess you were pretty lucky to stumble across one in London – I don’t believe they’re quite on every corner… yet :)

  4. Amanda Washburn says:

    I am sorry that you feel that way. And I find it so frustrating that EH has made it so easy for chain stores to dominate the village. It’s really heartbreaking.

    There used to be some cute coffee shops in Sag Harbor, but I know at least one of them that has closed.

  5. Nancy says:

    Okay I am a coffee snob but here I am in Berlin and there’s great, cheap coffee places on almost every street and yet the tourists still go to Starbucks.

    There used to be at least three good coffee places in Sag Harbor but they seem to be gone and replaced by Golden Pear and I agree with your characterization.

    Great post! Witty and personal and descriptive!

  6. You are speaking my language! I was on the way back to Virginia from Nashville recently, and I thought I might die if I didn’t get my Starbucks fix. ;) Stopping by from Julia’s party. :)

  7. Artie says:

    Witty. So true. I’m hosting a giveaway at my blog of genuine Cross Bottles valued at $175. It ends Monday, so hurry over. I think you’ll love them!

  8. Aah Starbucks! In London you can (or could for a few years) walk from one end of town to the other and never risk being more than an arms length coffee from their coffee shops. That was the Starbucks overload moment for me. Then again I’ve been places and thought “Starbucks are like the police – never around when you need them”. But the wake-up moment came on a recent trip to Belgium – land of great cafes and coffee – the first advertising board as you leave the plane informs you that you are only 3 minutes from the new airport Starbucks. The relentless march of corporate globalisation…

  9. cara says:

    hi Jane, I laughed at your equation of Starbucks with the police. They both come in handy at times!

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