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September 2010


"It - it belongs in our family," said Button-Bright, beginning to eat and speaking between bites. "This umbrella has been in our family years, an' years, an' years. But it was tucked away up in our attic an' no one ever used it 'cause it wasn't pretty."

"Don't blame 'em much," remarked Cap'n Bill, gazing at it curiously. "It's a pretty old-lookin' bumbershoot." - L. Frank Baum, Sky Island (1912)

Bumbershoot. n. An umbrella. [Alteration of (UMB)RELLA and (PARA)CHUTE.] first known use c. 1896.

Seattle's international arts and music festival isn't as old as Sky Island (written by Baum 12 years after his most famous work, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), but it has been a Starbucks tradition since we opened our first store. In fact, Starbucks and Bumbershoot both got started in 1971. Bumbershoot has come a long way since country musician Sheb Wooley's appearance and (thankfully) that first "Miss Hot Pants Contest," when it was known as Festival '71. (It didn't adapt the Bumbershoot moniker until 2 years later.)

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On the Road to Find Cat Stevens and Ray LaMontagne

My first exposure to Cat Stevens was through my father’s vinyl record collection. He seemed to switch back and forth between two of Stevens’ best: Tea for the Tillerman (1970) and Teaser and the Firecat (1971). While much of my dad’s collection was a hard sell to me at a young age (Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Jethro Tull; Arlo Guthrie), Cat immediately struck a chord. Even the cartoon artwork drawn by Cat himself was fascinating.

It would be a few more years until I saw Hal Ashby’s seminal black comedy, Harold and Maude, which firmly cemented Cat’s music in my psyche. The soundtrack made fine use of his songs – “Where Do the Children Play?”, “On the Road to Find Out,” “Miles from Nowhere,” and “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” – songs forever etched and now quite synonymous with that film.

I’ve found that a lot of the music my parents listened to (and that by default I was exposed to as a kid) returns later on in life. What you may have reviled as a child or a teenager is often fully embraced as an adult – either as full-on nostalgia or perhaps you’re simply old enough to get and appreciate it now. Yes, it happened to me with Jethro Tull. And while my father’s tales of Ian Anderson, frontman and former ballet dancer, playing flute on one leg for an entire show or crossing the Fillmore stage in three leaps was somewhat lost on me as a child, I can now say that the magic of those moments he described ... still evade me. Had to be there, I guess. But Jethro Tull’s music does indeed resonate and makes me quite happy now. Emerson, Lake & Palmer? Um, not so much.

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Fall is Catching Up with Me

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin

After a long, care-free summer with sunny days, lots of dinners enjoyed on the patio and plenty of outdoor activities, fall is rapidly catching up with me.

My best friend loves the fall season, so every year I love the conversation that comes about where I try to convince her to enjoy summer just a little longer – before giving up and deciding that I too must retire my white jeans and go back to busier schedules and chillier weather.

Besides my annual fall chat there are many other small moments that remind me fall is coming. Here are my favorite signs fall is here:

- The weekend you go back to the store and find it full of backpacks and pencils.
- The first time you see someone wearing boots and know that means you can start too.
- Enjoying my first Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin.

What are your favorite signs fall is coming?

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Espresso Roast – At the Core of It All

It has been nearly five years since I joined the coffee department. And while I have many great memories, my favorite one has to be the everyday connection I make with my team around the espresso machine.

Now this is not just any espresso machine – this is the two-group La Marzocco® espresso machine that sits in our tasting room. The original 1971 Starbucks logo hangs on the wall, a reminder of our heritage as a coffee company.

In the beginning these connections were made in the morning, before the day’s work began. The first person to arrive at work was the designated barista. They would “dial in” the machine to ensure the espresso shots were perfect. Espresso Roast filled the hopper of the Astoria® grinder, the oils on the beans glistening as an indication of the magic that was about to unfold.

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Robert Plant: The Joy of Rocking

As a lad, Robert Plant was steered toward a career in accounting. Think of that. One of the consummate rock stars from a golden age when Jagger, Daltrey and Mercury reigned over coliseums could have settled into a life recording numbers into a balance sheet.

Bookkeeping is a noble profession, certainly, but Plant was cut out for recording numbers of another stripe. The golden god who prowled stadium stages and hit those unearthly notes was put on this planet to wake late in the afternoon, drink Chateau Lafite ‘til he’d had his fill and wear eye-catching finery that perhaps wouldn’t age so well. (When an interviewer from the Brit magazine Mojo asked him some time back to address a photo of himself from his Led Zeppelin heyday, he dryly replied: “I think he looks like a great guy, but I’m a bit worried about his wardrobe.”)

Plant’s newest project, Band of Joy, is currently available at Starbucks. Its predecessor, Raising Sand, was a counter-intuitive collaboration with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss that wound up being the big winner at the 2009 GRAMMY® Awards. Like that the platinum-selling Raising Sand, Band of Joy is an Americana-flavored triumph marked by artistry and intelligence.

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John Lennon: A Time to Remember

Seventy years after his birth (on October 9, 1940) and nearly 30 years after his passing, John Lennon shines on as a musical and cultural icon.

The reissue of our Lennon Opus Collection, Remember roughly coincides with the arrival in theaters of Nowhere Boy, a John-as-teen biopic that’s earning strong advance notice, and a star-studded tribute concert at New York’s Beacon Theater. All this activity celebrates a man whose impact transcends his art. That’s quite an accomplishment given that Beatlemania remains the pop craze to eclipse all pop crazes.

Certainly much of Lennon’s towering standing three full decades after his murder rests on the powerful music he created as a Beatle and solo artist (the portion of his career that Remember chronicles). But the force of his personality and reach of his worldview took him to another level.

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Cheese Makes Everything Better

As one of many “foodies” on the Starbucks Food Team, I am constantly on the lookout for fun, food-related events to explore. A little while back I attended the annual Cheese-a-Topia event hosted by the American Cheese Society.

To say that I am a lover of cheese is an understatement. Stepping into the Cheese-a-Topia ballroom was like walking into a giant slice of heaven. The room was filled with a cheesy aroma. Dozens of tables all around the room were mounded with heaps of cheese in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Each table represented a specific type of cheese, such as Gouda or Cheddar – two of my personal favorites. Over 1,400 cheeses were at the event, but I managed to taste only about 20 before I hit sensory overload.

What I adore most about cheese is how it perks up anything you eat with it. Take our Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches – I love the way the Parmesan cheese perks up the egg frittata and creates the savory, fluffy essence of the sandwich. In my favorite Artisan Sandwich, a tasty slice of Gouda offers a creamy contrast to the crispy bacon – a delight to my taste buds.

Each of our breakfast sandwiches features a different kind of cheese, so there’s an option for almost every cheese lover. And, just like the American Cheese Society competition, the cheeses in our breakfast sandwiches are all sourced from our very own country. Now that’s a delicious cheesy breakfast you can sink your teeth into!

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Wake Up! with John Legend & The Roots

Wake Up! with John Legend & The Roots

Summer 2008. A time of high-stakes election campaigns beginning to gear up. There was a sense of imminent change in American national politics on the horizon, and an infusion of optimism that grew over the long months and swept up younger generations in record numbers. The country soon followed with the same optimism. Singer-songwriter John Legend included.

Legend connected the dots, drawing parallels between this newfangled sense of change and the cultural and societal shifts of the civil rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s.

And so the concept of Wake Up! was born. Further inspiration came in his recruitment of the seminal and always progressive hip-hop band, the Roots, to weigh in on the project. Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and the Roots proved to be perfect foils, sharing the same affinity for vintage soul, reggae, hip-hop, gospel and funk music, and the record was put down in Philadelphia and New York in a series of sessions that lasted nearly two years.

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Ah, Paris!

Ah, Paris! Celebrating French Roast

What a beautiful city. I just came back from a long weekend there, and I’m already planning my next trip. Lucky for me, it’s only a train ride away.

There is something magical about Paris. I can’t say what I love the most about the city. Is it the architecture? Perhaps it’s the beautiful sweeping vistas along the boulevards? I do love visiting the stores where the merchants elevate the display of their wares to an art form unrivalled by nearly anything in the Louvre. And whether I see the Eiffel Tower looming over the Champs de Mars or poking out from behind a building, I am still amazed by both its gracefulness and its strength.

There are few places in the world where food and wine are so celebrated. Even the simple, typical breakfast here – a baguette with jam and creamy, unsalted French butter – presents itself as a luxury when the ingredients are of such a high calibre. The butterfat content of the French butter is higher than many other places, and this makes it extra smooth and creamy. So a little goes a long way. And with a great cup of coffee, it’s a perfect way to start the day.

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