I Spent 10 Days Without Starbucks and Lived to Tell About It

Part 5 of the reExperience Starbucks Project with Becky Carroll

Brazil has no Starbucks. But no worries, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and Brazilians love to drink the stuff. Surely I would be able to find some good brew during my 10 day vacation to see my stepdaughter and family in Curitiba.

And, of course, I did. Coffee is on virtually on every street corner in Brazil, just not in the form of a Starbucks. Coffee in Brazil is usually part of a small store or cafe, where you can walk up to a bar or counter and order a cup. Almost always there are a couple seats close to the bar where you can sit down and enjoy your coffee, and sometimes there is a cafe attached.

This is a picture of Brioche, a small bakery and cafe across the street from where we stayed in the Batel district of Curitiba. Very convenient and also very different from a Starbucks.

There are no menu boards hanging over the bar. There are no macchiatos, or a dozen different syrups from which to choose. You can order an espresso coffee (with or without milk), a cappuccino (with or without cream on top), or a latte. Usually there is just small or large sizes. That’s what they’re called, small or large.

Getting your coffee to go is very foreign to Brazilians. It stretched the limits of my limited Portuguese to get the bartenders to understand I wanted to take it with me, which only happened a couple of times. That’s because Brazilians usually sit down to enjoy their coffee with a pastry or some pão de queijo (cheese bread).

We spent three days on the coast in the picturesque resort village of Bombinhas. Not to worry. Right across the street there was this small bakery/market/cafe with excellent coffee (pictured below).

At this place, they put a little chocolate in their cappuccinos. The cream on top did not come from a spray can and was yummy. My wife and I looked foward to the walk across the cobblestone street each morning to sit and relax with our fresh pastry and cappuccino. We sat out on the patio that you see pictured above.

This is the first Starbucks we saw upon our return to the States (pictured below). It is at Houston Intercontinental Airport. My wife and I relaxed there during our three-hour layover.

This Starbucks had a strange, corporate feel to it. Granted it was in an airport and not representative of a typical Starbucks. But it made me appreciate the personality of each individual neighborhood cafe we visited in Brazil.

Because Starbucks has so successfully permeated American society, it’s hard to find a coffee shop with personality anymore. And let’s be honest, Starbucks stores really do lack individual personality. That’s just part of the sacrifice of becoming a large company.

As Howard Schultz rebuilds the Starbucks experience this year, I would encourage him to take a trip to Brazil, or Italy, or visit some of the independent coffee shops throughout the USA. As McDonald’s increasingly tries to be more like Starbucks, it’s important for Starbucks to look less like McDonald’s. That means gaining some individuality and avoiding the corporate, fast food look.

I’m back in Waco now, and have already fallen back into my Starbucks routine. And it makes me a little sad. Because I learned that, yes, there is life without Starbucks, and I miss it.


The reExperience Starbucks Project is a combined effort of Becky Carrroll at Customers Rock!, The Marketing Spot and the blogging community. Howard Schultz has promised to revive the Starbucks customer experience and we want to help.

Here’s Becky Carroll’s fifth installment Re-Experiencing Starbucks: Update 5 – MyStarbucksIdea. What’s the goal of Starbucks’ new social media website? Was it just a copy of of Dell’s Ideastorm?

Read my first 4.5 posts:

Part 1 – A Letter to Howard Schultz at Starbucks

Part 2 – reExperiencing Starbucks: A Double Shot

Part 3 – reExperience Starbucks #3: Are The Baristas Better?

Part 4 – reExperience Starbuck #4 – Let’s Get Involved

Part 4.5 – Midweek Starbucks reExperience Update – 2008 Shareholder Meeting

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