Friday, November 11, 2005

State College Starbucks Rises Up To The Challenge

Fair Trade Blend
The Starbucks challenge [::] is now in 26 states in USA, 12 countries across the world. As many as 164 challenges have been taken and 145 bloggers participating [ feed]. Read more about the challenge and regular updates on what action Starbucks is taking on the issue, on Green LA girl's blog.

As for my part, I would give the State College Starbucks (located at the corner of Burrowes st. and College ave.) a good grade. I took the challenge three times this past week, including one this afternoon. The first time the barista (who probably was new) blurted out the list of blends they were brewing at that time. But another barista behind him quickly intervened. "But we can make a French pressed cup for you if you want", he said. So the new barista asked me which blend I wanted and I showed him the Cafe Estima blend, which BTW they had been displaying prominently for a few weeks now. The sad part was they didn't have the French presses in the store at that time. They had some meeting of some sorts and all the French presses were taken to make some coffee at the meeting. So after about 10 minutes of wait the barista graciously offered me a free coupon for any drink I wanted and a cup of regular coffee, which I gleefully accepted.

The second time, I was with a group of friends. One of them never goes to Starbucks but we had dragged him along. He drinks nothing but fair trade. I told him about the challenge and he agreed to try it with me. So we both asked for fair trade coffee. This time there was NO PROBLEM at all. The barista told us that she'll have to make a French pressed cup and it would take four minutes (just as they are supposed to according to Starbucks memo). Few minutes later we had steaming cups of fair trade served at our table.

Fair Trade BlendThe third time, the store was really crowded. Initially I was inclined NOT to ask for fair trade coffee. There was only one barista working the espresso machine, another one at the register and a third one was taking orders down the line. But by the time she came to me, another barista showed up at the register. So I decided to go for fair trade. The barista asked me if I wanted the beans or coffee to drink. I said I wanted a tall cup to go. There was no problem, she asked me to wait till she makes the French pressed cup. Then she went around the store looking for the coffee bag. I had spotted it while I was standing in the line. They are not displaying the cafe estima blend anymore. It has been replaced by "Christmas Blend"... holiday season is here! She came back to me and said they don't have the fair trade blend in the store. Apparently the barista was looking for the actual "Fair Trade blend" Starbucks' only certified coffee until recently. I picked up the bag of Cafe Estima and showed her the fair trade label. "Oh! You want the Estima blend", she goes. I got my coffee five minutes later.

Estima BlendI dunno if any other challengers have faced this confusion. Starbucks online store says that they have only ONE fair trade certified coffee [link], the Fair Trade blend. The online store does NOT say that Cafe Estima blend is fair trade certified. I guess many people don't know about fair trade label and there is more confusion because of the actual "Fair Trade blend". As far as I am concerned it doesn't matter. As long as it has the fair trade label, any coffee is OK. Is there something Starbucks can do about it? May be tell their employees about the label and what it means. In general as the awareness about fair trade grows this problem will go away on its own.

From the latest posts by Green LA girl, it seems that the message from Starbucks memo hasn't trickled down to a lot of its stores. But here in Nittany Lion country it seems like they got it right away and they are following it to the word. Good job! Starbucks State College. If Cindy from Starbucks is reading this, please give the people in this store a pat on the back, so that I can continue to have great service and nice fair trade coffee!

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Siel said...

Hey Transmogrified! Great to see you challenging again :) I think it's really useful to rechallenge stores -- interesting how each time, it was a lil different.

I hear ya with the confusion between the old Fair Trade Blend and the fair-trade certified Cafe Estima. As of now, it seems most baristas are aware that the old FT Blend's been phased out, but have no idea that Cafe Estima sort of replaced it as Starbucks' new fair trade certified blend. Cindy's aware of the problem, as well as the outdated info on the website. Nothing, so far, has really been done about it though. I'm not sure whether it's because the people who know the problem haven't done anything to remedy it, or because Starbucks has become so bureaucratic as to drag out even a simple webpage update for a long long time...

Glad that State College gets a glowing review from you :) In my opinion though, Starbucks still needs to make sure all the baristas -- including all the ones at State College -- know what fair trade is, and that a fair trade certified blend is indeed avaliable in store. Something I think you agree with :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Transmogrified,

Thank you for giving kudos to our store partners. The partners in our stores get alot of critism and heat, but very few people acknowledge the good things. I believe change occurs when you reward positive behavior. I know not all the baristas have learned that Cafe Estima is Starbucks new Fair Trade. The coffee has only been in the stores less than two months. So please go easy on them. They will catch on as we continue to communicate with them.

Again, thank you for recognizing their efforts. Endless negative feedback can be very discouraging to any of we are all human beings doing the best we can.

I will personally reach out to your store with a "thank you."


Transmogrifier said...

Hi Cindy! Good to see your comment and I appreciate the way Starbucks is postively engaged on this issue instead of ignoring it. Starbucks has the ability to make a big difference to the fair trade movement because of it's size.

Siel said...

Oh c'mon now -- I'm not saying give the baristas a hard time. I'm just pointing out that Starbucks' policy says they'll serve fair trade certified coffee upon request, not that they'll serve fair trade certified coffee upon request if you specifically are able to point out the one brand of Starbucks coffee that IS fair trade certified, but is no longer identified as such by name (the old fair trade blend was called Fair Trade Blend).

May I point out that the baristas already know the holiday coffee blends very, very well -- and those haven't been out for two weeks, much less two months --

Anonymous said...


The Christmas and Holiday blends are available every season at Starbucks. These coffees are not new to the stores or the baristas.