In the meantime, Starbucks under Schultz mutated into an operation of 2,000-plus stores. To San Franciscans, the coffee-as-image attitude is evidence that Seattleites aren’t as discriminating about good coffee as they are.
In San Francisco proper, Starbucks has 67 stores to Peet’s 10 and local chain Martha & Brothers’ five, and all 67 seem to be thriving.
So what does the way Seattle obsesses about good coffee and the way the Bay Area takes it for granted say about those two places?
To quote Baldwin: “It’s a question of experience and maturity, if you put it into human terms, the younger athlete, let’s say, is much more aggressive about asserting himself because he has something to prove. In the ’70s, there were just a handful of decent restaurants in Seattle, and no one came to Seattle to eat or shop or see what was going on, the way they came to San Francisco. Seattle today has nothing to apologize for in terms of good restaurants or good hotels or architecture or any one of a dozen attributes. But it still doesn’t have the generations of confidence that San Francisco has.”
America owes a great debt to both towns for forcing coffee vendors all over to serve a better cup of joe. And it isnt news that the most famous coffee shop in the world is Starbucks.
But there is still room for improvement everywhere, according to Baldwin. “Instead of Seattle and San Francisco duking it out for head of the coffee culture,” he says, “let’s rejoice that the coffee around both places is a hell of a lot better than it is in nearly all the rest of the country.”