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Posted at 11:06 AM ET, 01/18/2011

Trenta? Starbucks, are you going through a midlife crisis?

By Alexandra Petri

starbuckstedwarrenap.jpg (Image via Trent Warren/AP)

Starbucks, do we need to talk?

After twenty apparently happy years together, I think it's only fair to take you aside and note that you are behaving erratically. Ever since you changed the logo, I've been worried. Radical changes in appearance at your age? They're supposed to be a sign.

And now you're rolling out supersized things -- a 31-ounce Trenta size, which is 16 ml larger than a human stomach at rest.

Where to begin with Trenta?

It sounds like a terrible name for a small car. It sounds like one of those hip gender-free monikers for kids. "Jayden, meet Trenta." It sounds like a place that you would guess a World War II-ending summit had taken place if you were running out of time on your AP World History exam.

And 31 ounces? The human soul is only supposed to weigh 21 grams. You could fit maybe forty souls in that thing, or sixty Hollywood souls.

They aren't even serving hot beverages in it. I feel like, generally speaking, this is a sign that your coffee container is too large. "It's too large for it to be kept hot," they explain. Yeah, well, if you drink coffee in that size, the same will be true of you.

But this has been brewing since 2007. I remember that leaked memo from your chairman, Howard Schultz, lamenting that "the romance and theatre" had been lost and customers lacked an "intimate experience with the barista."

"One of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past," he added. "Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee."

We understand your worries, but this is ridiculous! Now look at you! Changes to appearance! Changes to diet! Next you'll buy a sports car, take up transcendental meditation, and leave us for someone younger!

Look, I know you feel threatened by McDonalds. It's doing all the things you used to do, but cheaper, and with a taste less like cauterized rubber. But the answer is not to try to become McDonalds. This is threatening to turn into a caffeine-fueled Freaky Friday.

Starbucks, we liked you the way you were. You humiliated us. You forced us to order drinks that sounded like the names of contestants on Ru Paul's Drag Race: "I'll have a Mocha Trenta Latte With Whip." You foisted the New York Times on us. But we enjoyed it. You knew when to stop. Don't go changing to try to please us. We are, by and large, idiots. The things that please us are terrible. We are the people who have actually gone to see the Yogi Bear movie in theaters. Overall, we are worse at eating than cats, who will stop eating when they are full because they place a premium on being able to walk around afterward without suddenly falling over from coronary disease.

Don't abandon who you are!

Trenta? It's just too much!

By Alexandra Petri  | January 18, 2011; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  Big Deals, Epic Failures, Petri  | Tags:  America, coffee, religion  
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Comments

"Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee."

One reason that some people say that is that it is entirely accurate.

Posted by: AlexRemington | January 18, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I never did get the hype about Starbucks. Their coffee is entirely too acidic and bitter. I think it was always more of a status thing: "I stopped by Starbucks, look at my cup" sort of thing.

Posted by: CalmTruth | January 18, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

What Starbucks [sic - Can I buy a punctuation mark, please, Pat?] is really saying here is: "We've decided that we need to offer a large size cup for cold beverages... which we, like every other purveyor, will fill with mostly ice and very little actual beverage. We're giving it a pretentious name, so you'll think you're buying something very chic, but in reality it's no different from the Big Gulp you could get across the street at the 7-11... except that it's smaller, and we'll charge you about three times as much for it. Boy, are you consumers suckers!"

Posted by: nan_lynn | January 18, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Going into Starbucks makes me realize how much I love my local coffee shop.

Posted by: tbantug | January 18, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

The product sizes at Starbucks are a mystery to me.

Trenta (which means "30" in Italian) is a 31 oz drink. Venti ("20" in Italian) is a 24 oz drink. Grande ("large" in Italian) is a medium sized drink. And "Tall" (which sounds like it ought to be a large drink) is in fact a small drink!

Posted by: Auslander1 | January 18, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I, and others, can honestly say that we've never understand anything relating to Starbucks. It's coffees are horribly, offensively over-priced--and they taste terrible. Starbucks' coffee tastes like it was burnt, and left on some fire for too long. Its cashiers--come on, real world, they're cashiers; there is no great science to making a derned cup of coffee--have never had a personal "relationship" with anyone, anywhere, at any time, at any shop, on any level. They're cashiers--serving over-priced, burnt-tasting, terrible coffee. Thoss stale little pastries in the glass cases are also over-priced, and often sterile-tasting. The stores are also offensively over-saturated and duplicitous. No one--absolutely no one on the planet--needs a Starbucks in their Safeway. No one. And no one needs a Starbucks in their Safeway--and then another one fifty yards away in the same shopping center. And no one needs one every other block in New York City--or any other city. The entire Starbucks thing is a sham, a ruse, a rip-off, and one huge P.T. Barnum flim-flam operation. And when a company changes its logo for no apparent reason, it's time to strike up the funeral march. By the way, Dunkin' Donuts and 7-11 make far more affordable, better-tasting coffee than Starbucks--and they've been doing it for years.

Posted by: thefrontpage | January 18, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Hate em if you want to, but they completely revolutionized the coffee industry.

Posted by: ozpunk | January 18, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"the romance and theatre" had been lost and customers lacked an "intimate experience with the barista." SO true! I would go back to starbucks if I could find a barista that cared enough. Every one I go to these days, when ordering a simple non-fat latte, hands me a product I wouldn't even give my dog. Your employees just don't care anymore, all they want are benefits.

Posted by: rpetitti | January 18, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Eat, America, Eat. We're not fat enough yet.

Posted by: theFieldMarshall | January 18, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

The only thing Sawbucks "revolutionalized" was the crass commercialization of ripping off people by selling over-priced, terrible-tasting, rip-off crappy coffee. That's about it.

Posted by: thefrontpage | January 18, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Agree w/ Frontpage. Within a 2 mile radius of my home there are 6 Starbucks outlets (including 2 in Safeway stores).

The idea started out ok, it was novel and cool, now it's just overdone.

Posted by: BEEPEE | January 18, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

You're supposed to split it with a friend until the recession ends, morons.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 18, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I went to the doctor with a bad case of trenta. My doctor said mylanta but I said no ... trenta.

Posted by: pejochum | January 18, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Where's your patriotism, people? They are taking the original idea of espresso, a tiny demitasse cup of perfect coffee, and turning it into the American Dream, a bucket-sized guzzle o' swill. They ought to put Old Glory on the new size cup.

I just read where there are now "American Sushi" restaurants in Japan, serving giant portions of endangered species with lots of extra mayo.

It makes ya proud, don't it?

Posted by: info53 | January 18, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Starbucks is a real estate company that sells coffee and pastries, you fools. That much has been obvious for 15 years. Their leases are the key. Not their products.

Back when I worked at MCI (before WorldCom, before Verizon), I suggested the idea that MCI and Starbucks partner on *giving away* free internet access. It was shot down as being ridiculous.

Ah, the business world: a good idea ahead of its time is -- a bad idea.

Posted by: TechConsultant | January 18, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I like Starbucks' lattes and the passion and black iced teas. I really, really loved their original cinnamon flavored syrup, but when they switched to the cinnamon dolce it took a few years until I got another coffee drink.

Posted by: Aloe9678 | January 18, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Starbucks has one very important redeeming feature, at least where I live. They always have clean, functioning restrooms. The problem with Starbucks is that it is a decent pitstop that's trying to be a terrific destination.

Posted by: di89 | January 18, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

"...lacked an intimate experience with the barista."

Oh, PU-LEEEZE! Are we supposed to be copulating with the baristas, or what?

"Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter..."

Amen. Starbuck's was a good thing in the beginning, providing an alternative to mediocre brown swill and a startling variety of coffees. But inevitably as it has grown into The Great American Coffee Monster, devouring everything in its path, it seems the stores have become monotonously uniform and devoid of personality.

And yes, "Auslander", I agree with the silliness of names of the coffee sizes, which bear no relation to anything and seem to have been chosen for their trendyness. (Besides, no one speaks I-talian anyway, right?)

As to the recent "trenta" being too big to keep hot (well, just too big, IMHO) my gf, who sometimes goes to Starbuck's en route to work as it is closer than our usual haunt, has had to repeatedly browbeat the automaton at the coffee machine into giving her HOT coffee, not lukewarm. One day she made her point by casually plunging her finger into the cup, stating flatly, "This is not hot." The poor barista nearly fainted. Somewhere I have a copy of Starbuck's "A Passion for Coffee" which I believe states that coffee should be made at 175 deg. F, but of course that was before clumsy people discovered that they could get huge lawsuit payouts if they spilled it on themselves.

To be fair, much of this is probably difficult to avoid when a small niche business becomes a corporate monster.

My gf and I usually have Saturday breakfast at a small coffee shop/restaurant (Tony's in Bellingham, WA) which is the very opposite of what Starbuck's has become. The staff have individual personalities and seem to enjoy working there, the coffee is hot (well, usually) and the excellent baked goods look like they came out of a bakery, not a factory. And the boss actually works in the kitchen.

Posted by: oldbrownhat | January 18, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Judging by the taste of its coffee, Starbucks appears to have gradually shifted to using more robusta coffee beans, instead of arabica beans, during the past 10 years. Robusta beans are cheaper to purchase, thus yielding higher profits.

Hint, if you buy ordinary coffee labeled as 100% Arabica beans, and brew it using filtered or bottled spring water, you can make a better tasting cup of coffee in your own drip coffee-maker at home than any of the chains sell.

Posted by: armyofone | January 18, 2011 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Starbucks and bottled water - they are the basis of cool. Look at me, everybody - I went to Starbucks and after the Bank hit me for overdraft it cost merely $35.00..

Posted by: nanonano1 | January 18, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow, a lot of people moaning about 'overpriced, terrible tasting coffee', huh?
How about Pizza Hut, Burger King, and any of the million other chains you have there over the pond?

Their job is to provide something in mass which is rarely to be found elsewhere - whilst making a profit and contributing economically and socially (i.e. global charity/awareness which I know Starbucks is proud of).

If you want great tasting coffee; get a plane ticket to Italy and befriend a barista. If you want readily available coffee on-the-go, Starbucks will suffice.

As for the Trenta issue - it's just meeting demand. I mean, you don't HAVE TO get it just because it's there...it's just an option for those who want it. I'm confident Starbucks Corporation have done their extensive market research and paid out millions to come up with this solution. It's easy to laugh off these new additions with a humorous blog (or, at least, one that tries to be) - but the reality is that this product is clearly not for you.

To those of you who demand the Trenta; my tiny stomach and I envy you!

Posted by: guitarist7 | January 19, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

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