Most of the croissants that you can get at American coffee shops are large, soft things that are buttery tasting but bear little resemblance to the ultra-flaky croissants you’ll find at French cafes and bakeries. The soft pastries are mass produced and inexpensive, while the French style pastries tend to be made by hand by artisans and they come in smaller sizes with a higher price tag. Starbucks has been stocking an acceptable American-style croissant for years, but they are aiming to improve their offerings in the future.
Last year, Starbucks acquired San Francisco bakery chain La Boulange, which has been turning out deliciously authentic pastries since the first one opened 1999. The acquisition of the bakery came after a meeting with the owner turned into a conversation about was that Starbucks pastries could stand out from the crowd. La Boulange was already raising the bar on bulk-baked pastries by producing artisan quality goods in the San Francisco plant. Starbucks ended up purchasing the whole business for $100 million.
The plan now is to use the San Francisco plant as a headquarters, not only to churn out pastries for the West coast, but to use as a model for other facilities across the country. Starbucks aims to have their products produced close to their stores so that they arrive as fresh as possible, and the key with this new venture – in the words of Nicolas Bernardi, the French-born manager of La Boulange’s marketing and product development, “to see if the managers are the kind who ‘want to grow and learn’ or the kind who are content to just ‘vomit products.’” so that every pastry that makes it to a Starbucks store will be as good as the ones headed to La Boulange locations.
New York has the most iconic logo of any state: I ♥ NY. It is known around the world – and it is also often copied by fans who love it’s short, sweet message, which was created by created by Milton Glaser in the mid-1970s. New York is also very diligent about following up on instances of trademark infringement when people are caught using their trademarked logo, and that includes asking a New York City coffee shop to stop using a version of it on their merchandise.
The owner of Everyman Espresso has “I <coffee cup> NY” inked on his fingers (pictured above) and this found its way onto the merchandise inside the East Village coffee shop over the years. The state asked them to cease and desist – and the shop shelved their merchandise in order to comply with the state’s request. Customers, however, are less eager to see the state’s side of things and have launched social media campaigns to bring back the cup logo, saying that there is no way that the red cup featured on the coffee shop’s merchandise could be confused with the heart in the state’s logo. It remains to be seen whether the logo will make it back into circulation.
When you go into a coffee shop, typically you buy your drink and then take a seat to relax and enjoy it. You might take out your computer, iPad or other device to do a little bit of work while you’re there, too, if the cafe has wifi. This pattern is the the same at just about every coffee shop there is, no matter where you are. Unless you happen to be at Slow Times, a café in Wiesbaden, Germany, where they charge you for the time spent in the cafe instead of for the coffee.
Founder Daria Volkova feels that this is a better way to monetize the cafe instead of charging for coffee, since the time inside is really what people are after most of the time. It’s not too expensive, either. It costs €2.00 (about $2.50) to enter and that covers the first 30 minutes of your visit. After that, you are charged €0.05 (about $.06) per minute for the rest of your stay. They don’t have a full, elaborate coffee bar pumping out Frappuccinos, but they do serve coffee and that coffee is completely free while you’re there. There is also WiFi that you can use while you do your work.
The concept sounds like it would make this a great place to get some work done and it’s an interesting option for cafe owners who feel like people are monopolizing their tables without buying enough (or any drinks at all, as I’ve seen at Starbucks a time or two). You don’t get all the coffee options, of course, but still a very interesting concept. They’re on Facebook for more information
What makes a coffee shop the “best” is definitely a subjective matter. To some, they’re all about the coffee and don’t mind tiny spaces with standing room only. To others, they want a place where they can sit down and relax for a while with their freshly poured cup, but don’t mind if it wasn’t roasted within the hour on-site. USA Today recently tried to put together a list that everyone can agree on and named America’s Best Coffee Shops. The list features a mix of cozy and sophisticated (ok – mostly “cozy” with an emphasis on artisanal roasters), and has a little bit of something for everyone. Of course, these shops are pretty much only in big cities, but you can still order some of their coffee online and go for your own coffee shop experience at home.
1. Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia
2. Gimme! Coffee, New York
3. Barista, Portland, Ore.
4. Courier Coffee Roasters, Portland, Ore.
5. Café Grumpy, New York City
6. Lamill Coffee Boutique, Los Angeles
7. Stumptown, Various Locations
8. Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco
9. Joe the Art of Coffee, New York and Philadelphia
10. Intelligentsia, Various Locations
11. Commonplace Coffee Co. House and Roasters, Pittsburgh
12. Milstead & Co., Seattle
13. Everyman Espresso, New York City
14. Peregrine Espresso, Washington, D.C.
15. Artifact Coffee, Baltimore=