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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Food Stumptown to Abandon Clover Coffee Makers

Posted by Alison Hallett on Wed, Mar 26 at 12:06 PM

Looks like Food Dude broke this last week, and now it’s popped up in the Times:

HOWARD D. SCHULTZ, the chief executive of Starbucks, dropped a bombshell last week at the annual shareholders meeting when he announced that as part of an effort to concentrate on making better coffee, the corporation had bought the Coffee Equipment Company of Seattle, maker of the Clover coffee brewer.

Coffee drinkers were buzzing. Clovers are $11,000 machines that brew one cup at a time and have become essential equipment at some of the country’s top independent cafes. How could the company now be the exclusive property of a giant corporation? In protest, Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Ore., one of Clover’s earliest champions, said it had decided to stop using Clover machines.

This decision is, at least initially, flummoxing. This move hardly seems to threaten Stumptown: As the article goes on to illustrate, coffee may be improved by brewing it in a Clover, but bad coffee is still bad coffee. After sampling a number of Starbucks blends brewed in a Clover, the author concludes:

If none of the coffees made a favorable impression… it seemed that the problem lay less with the Clover, or the quality of the beans, than with the roast.

And Stumptown still roasts better coffee than Starbucks, and if the Clover really does make the best possible cup of coffee, what does Stumptown gain from essentially taking a step backward? An Oregonian article sheds a bit more light on the issue:

“We’ve never purchased parts or service from Starbucks in the past, and we’re not going to start now,” said Matt Lounsbury, Stumptown’s director of operations, who said the company’s two stores with Clovers would stop using them by Friday.

So it’s not just about the machines themselves, but also maintenance and repairs, and an unwillingness to negotiate with the evil empire. Fair enough, I suppose. According to the O, the Stumptown locations that use the Clovers will revert back to French pressing their coffee.


Ah yes, the evil empire. The same evil empire that made "fair trade" a household phrase, and was among the first companies in the nation to offer benefits to same sex couples. How evil of them.

Yes, "evil empire" is a bit over the top. If it wasn't for Starbucks, most people would have no clue about coffee and specialty coffee drinks beyond Folgers. The only reason places like Stumptown exist is because people were looking for a better product once Starbucks' quality and service levels started dropping below acceptable levels. But they DID create the market demand here for quality coffee products.

They really aren't all that evil but I'd try to differentiate my business from theirs too by switching machines. I mean, I'd hate for someone to think that the same machine makes the same coffee and buying the machines from your competitor doesn't make much sense either. Smart move for both of them really.

Uh, actually, if you do some research, GLV, you'll find that Starbucks kicked and screamed all the way to "Fair Trade." Activism, a lot of pressure and threats of boycotts made the evil empire get on board with that whole Fair Trade thing.

They really do treat their employees well, or they did when I worked there, and if I have lingering resentment against said empire it is only because I was fired. For stealing. Which I did. A lot. I have several boxes of Passion tea circa 2002 if anyone is interested.

I dumped stumptown after the umpteenth elitist attitude shone through. To some people coffee isn't the end-all-be-all, we just need a fix with no tude.

I'll take burnt 'bucks coffee with their guaranteed smile everytime over snotty baristas with flowery foam, every time.

Stumptown is not all that. I guess I'll get the recommended Guatemalan coffee via Clover at one of the Starbucks in Seattle this weekend. Stumptown baristas can be shit snobs. Some are nice. Boo fucking hoo, Stumptown.

I buy coffee to taste coffee. Do you buy coffee to be treated like a friendly cousin or uncle by the staff? If you like to be treated with respect- try a VIP massage parlor.

I buy/drink coffee for the caffeine. Fuck the taste (because coffee does taste like shit)or the snobby attitude. 7-11 rules in the caffeinated dept.

I buy/drink coffee for the caffeine. Fuck the taste (because coffee does taste like shit)or the snobby attitude. 7-11 rules in the caffeinated dept.

I hate Starbucks customer service. There's a 3-step process for interacting with customers: "connect, respond, discover." The barista who says she likes your shirt, and wants to know where you got it? That's steps one and three. They get graded on that shit, or at least they did when I worked there. It creeps me out.

Vivace coffee is way better. Their baristas are way nicer.

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