MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

A Passion For Coffee

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Photo: C-More Awesomeness/Flickr

My love of coffee developed when I first went to work as head of marketing for the four stores of a small coffee company named Starbucks. That was in 1982. I didn’t truly discover coffee’s magic, however, until one year later on a business trip to Italy. That visit was the seed of what blossomed into today’s Starbucks Coffee Company.

Early one day in Milan, I was strolling from my hotel to a trade show when I popped into a small coffee bar. “Buon giorno!” an older, thin man behind the counter greeted me, as if I were a regular. Moving gracefully and with precision, he seemed to be doing a delicate dance as he ground coffee beans, steamed milk, pulled shots of espresso, made cappuccinos, and chatted with customers standing side by side at the coffee bar. Everyone in the tiny shop seemed to know each other, and I sensed that I was witnessing a daily ritual.

“Espresso?” he asked me.

I nodded and watched as he repeated the ritual for me, looking up to smile as the espresso machine hissed and whirred with purpose. This is not his job, I thought, it’s his passion.

For a tall guy who grew up playing football in the schoolyards of Brooklyn, being handed a tiny white porcelain demitasse filled with dark coffee crafted just for me by a gracious Italian gentleman called a barista was nothing less than transcendent.

This was so much more than a coffee break; this was theater. An experience in and of itself.

After the espresso’s rich flavors had warmed me, I thanked the barista and cashier and continued toward the trade show exhibit hall, stopping along the way at more coffee bars. There seemed to be at least one on every block! Inside, there was always a similar scene: a skilled barista or two behind a bar creating espressos, cappuccinos—and other drinks I had yet to taste—for people who seemed more like friends than customers. In every bar I felt the hum of community and a sense that, over a demitasse of espresso, life slowed down.

The blend of craftsmanship and human connection, combined with the warm aroma and energizing flavors of fresh coffee, struck an emotional chord. My mind raced. It was as if I envisioned my own future and the future of Starbucks, which at the time sold only whole-bean and ground coffee in bags for home consumption.

~Howard Schultz

Written by MattAndJojang

October 16, 2011 at 10:38 am

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