What can we really say about Dr. Evil's coffee empire? You know the drill. At least the coffee is pretty good and the lighting’s not too bright. A branch in downtown Amherst is below average for the Starbucks chain, in terms of both atmosphere and attitude. There, the signature Starbucks furniture, mellowed-out lamps, and (increasing amounts of) overpriced coffee paraphernalia for sale don't quite cut it. A branch in downtown Northampton was once a franchise of the Boston-based Coffee Connection, the original Frappuccino pioneer, before the whole chain was acquired by Starbucks in the mid-1990s. The Northampton branch fares better, both in terms of looks and popularity.
Though it has become fashionable to hate Starbucks, it's also where many, if not most, downtown Northamptonites seem to go for coffee - even in a city with lots of other great choices. But so go the contradictions of a chain America. Amherst residents somehow seem to be holding their local-coffeeshop ground more strongly. But in Northampton, Starbucks is one of the most comfortable places in town to flip open a laptop and get to work. It also happens to be an active singles scene. And in spite of itself, it's also undeniably one of America's great social-class melting pots. We do agree with the common complaint that Starbucks' beans are over-roasted, resulting in a burnt flavor, but we still think the coffee tastes well above average.
We recommend that you stick to the Coffee of the Day, as they call it (we just call it coffee)-rather than wasting five dollars and five hundred calories on some ridiculous Italian-sounding concoction that's basically just milk, hot or cold, liberally adulterated with sugary syrup. And get your pastry and bagels elsewhere, as Starbucks' are underwhelming. But come for a decent cup of coffee, especially if it's a cup of coffee to go. And ask for it in a normal way: "One medium coffee, please." Doesn't that feel good? So fight the good fight and steadfastly refuse to use their preposterous faux-Italian nomenclature for the cup sizes. Nonviolent protest, grande into medium, swords into plowshares.