Starbucks (Circular Quay)

Coffee: 8/20
Whole experience (cafe + coffee): 18/40
Bean: Starbucks house espresso blend

Friday: 5PM on a Fridayafternoon down near the Quay. Where do you go if you need a quick pick me up? Sadly this is the question I ran into today. While there are a plethora of coffee shops open during the day in this area, come clock off time those which are open are few and far between (yes a beer is the temping option, but not always the best wake up drug).

I spied on my scope around the Quay Starbucks. Now I’ve got nothing against Starbucks (I even worked there for a while in my younger days) , but as any coffee nerd, I will always be wary of the coffee house, which takes away control of the grind, pour and heating of milk away from the barista.

The Starbucks here, unsurprisingly, which is more a tourist mecca then an office worker go to. Nice thing about this for me is that the typical customer here lounging about on the furniture has one or two cameras in hand (first time I don’t look out of place taking photos inside a coffee shop!).

The vibe of the place is instantly recognisable as a Starbucks, it’s just that ‘could be anywhere American-western feel’, which some people just love, which I don’t mind, but it’s so not Australian.

I go up to the counter and order a single (should have said solo sorry Starbucks employee) espresso macchiato. The staff, like any Starbucks, are the friendly sort, questioning why I was getting a coffee when I could get a frappuccino and asking whether I want to try one (they are Christmas flavours at present), I declined.

The coffee was produced with robotic speed (that’s because it’s all done by computers and robots with a little employee magic in between), while I wait at the designated pick up spot. Robotic coffee machines are used here because in theory they can make every shot perfect, in reality this is questionable (it’s a way to save on staff costs).

First sad point, the macchiato which is produced comes in a paper cup, even though I asked for sit in (which is sad, as I know they use to have small espresso cups). It’s a nice take away option, but why do cafes not trust their customers to not steal their mugs?

Second sad point, even just taking a look at it, on the more technical side, you can tell there is a little too much foam proportionally to the milk to the espresso shot.

Taste and smell wise. The aroma of this coffee was not to shabby there was a strong caramel like smell coming from this small drink with hints of some sort of cocoa, promising!

Taste wise, and this may shock some, it was not too bad. It sat reasonably well in the mouth and the caramel/ cocoa aroma carried though to the flavour experience. This coffee, like salty macca’s fries, almost encourages the up-sell. Drinking this coffee I thought a bit of chocolate or caramel would really add to the experience (and decrease the impact of the super acidic taste, which I will just get to).

Major issues with the coffee, is the acidity levels, much like I got stuck into Toby’s Estate for being neutral, this coffee’s acidity is though the roof. I think it’s an issue with the unchangeable grind. Such acidity also stays on, with you well after your drink has finished in a unpleasant and strong after taste.

The café experience, I should note here, was rather disappointing, while there were nice Christmas carols playing large chairs and what not, the shop was quite dirty with take away cups lying about, and bins overflowing full.

Over all, what can I say other then that Starbucks does Starbucks well. You don’t come here for coffee magic, experimentation or quality, however Starbucks does not disappoint as a place to go. It is what it is, a good rest stop between busy places, a place to come and sit without feeling pressure to move on, a place to go when other places close, a place of robotic consistency between Sydney, Hong Kong or New York.

I knew going in Starbucks the café was never going to get anywhere near the Toby’s Estates, Villa Nero’s or Varabar’s of this world, but I’m not going to be a total snob and be happy in getting poor quality either.

1. Coffee score
Style (presentation): 4/10
Experience (taste and what not): 4/10
Coffee total: 8/20

2. Cafe score
Style (what’s it feel like): A Starbucks
Cool?: 4/10
Service: 5/10
Cafe: 9/20

Whole experience (coffee + cafe): 17/40

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