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> Starbucks!, Whats wrong with it?
Kitty
post Sep 20 2007, 01:03 AM
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I've recently decided that, at some point during my life, I want to open a coffee shop. The only good coffee shops around here are.... well.... Starbucks. My brother wanted to go to some coffee shop with his friends one day and looked in a Zagat and, guess what was there? "Top coffee shops: Starbucks, Caribou" (caribou is west-coast only, methinks....) So, I eventually want to open up a coffee shop, but I want it to be a GOOD coffee shop.... and I need to figure out what makes coffee shops 'good'. Or, what makes them bad, so that I know what to avoid.

So, granted, starbucks does make some pretty good drinks.... But there's also a bad vibe I get from people when I say the word "Starbucks". So, whats wrong with the company? Is it the company or their drinks?


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Izzy
post Sep 20 2007, 01:42 AM
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I think there's little to nothing wrong with the drinks, except maybe that it's pretty expensive for coffee. But you can never go wrong with caramel froppuccinos, so whatever you do, make A LOT of those. And then send them all to me... ph34r.gif


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elphaba2
post Sep 20 2007, 02:06 AM
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Personally, I don't consider the stuff I get at Starbucks to be coffee--the few times I've ever gotten straight black coffee there, it was nasty and acidic and burnt-tasting. That's because most of the blends they use are from African and Asian coffee beans, which are "stronger". Personally, I prefer coffee from Latin America! It is tasty and rich and does not taste like somebody screwed up with the coffeemaker. Colombian coffee is basically brown cocaine to me.

What Starbucks does--and does well--is all of that espresso drink nonsense. It is tasty and full of calories! However, if you are opening your very own poor small business, those drinks are expensive and inefficient--you have to buy the special milk-whipper and syrup-dispenser-thingies and big industrial steel things that do things, and so on. You also have to train employees to do that, which is time-consuming and money-dissolving.

If I had the time, I would take pictures of my three mainstay coffee places around my town and put little arrows to all the good things (making ice cubes for the iced coffee OUT OF COFFEE so they don't melt and dilute your tasty goodness, playing music that is chill, unpretentious and cheerful, painting walls yellow, being friendly and courteous and LOCAL) and the bad things (the owner's son's poetry zine for free with every pastry on Wednesdays, the annoying server who always forgets that I don't like milk in my coffee). But Starbucks is not a good yardstick at all for someone wanting to develop their own eventual little shop, unless you went to Seattle fifteen years ago.


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Daria
post Sep 20 2007, 07:38 AM
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There is SO much wrong with Starbucks... Where to begin?
I will start with this. It is a link to a Space Hijackers page about their East End Knees up in Whitechapel, East London, earlier this year. We were protesting against the seventh Starbucks opening in the one borough, when it is full of independant cafés and bistros with lots of character.
The Starbucks company subsidise their coffee shops to enable them to get a foot in the door- obviously, most new businesses need to make a profit when they first start up to be able to continue. Not Starbucks.
They discourage their workers from forming unions.
They underpay their workers.
They blocked Ethiopian coffee farmers from trademarking ablend of coffee- a move that denied the farmers an anual income of approx. £47 million a year.

I'm not going to go into how long they train their baristas for, but it may account for why their coffee tastes disgusting.

I'll stop pointing out what is wrong with them now, and focus on what makes a GOOD coffee shop.
Firstly, good coffee. The baristas should be trained properly, know that you should NEVER boil the milk when foaming it, ad most of all- know how to clean the coffee machine and how to know when it is the right temperature for use. Make them taste the drinks they are making, and tatste what it should be like: they should get to know how the frother sounds when the milk is ready without just using a thermometer, how much froth to put on a cappucino, how to pour a latte so you get at least four bands of colour, and how to make the perfect mocha.
Home-made cakes and freshly baked pastries- in one café I worked, one my co-workers made the most amazing cakes you could ever imagine. Not only will the produce be original and different from that you'll find in other coffee shops, it will be locally produced and you can ensure the ingredients and method used to make them.
Delightful and well paid staff- your baristas will more than likely be lovely if you pay them properly. Not sure what wages are like in America, but paying everyone the same hourly wage is a good idea. You don't get discrepancies between staff because one gets paid more than the other. Also, paying someone who is under the age to get minimum wage, minimum wage, shows that you aren't just taking the piss and that the work they do is appreciated.


A nice touch would be to use fair-trade tea and coffee (if not organic), and sell it for the price of a regular coffee. Fair-trade tea and coffee is usually sold for the same price as non fair-trade in a lot of places, but it isn't well advertised and people just don't know it is there.

Lastly, your coffee shop needs to have a cool interior. 'Starbucks chic' and their prints on the walls next to their funky sofas seems pretty cool, until you go into more than one and you realise they are ALL like that. The same boring music, too. Your interior needs to be interesting, it needs to be comfortable, it needs to be welcoming (as do your staff). You could have paintings by local artists on the walls, an MP3 player attached to the soundsystem so the music isn't just on a loop and you can decide what plays, and furniture that is comfortable and doesn't make you feel as though you are in a rush.

*shrugs* just some suggestions laugh.gif I worked in two cafés since I was 13 and had my first weekend job. I learnt how not to do things in one of them, and learnt what really works working in the other (we even all went on a barista course which really opens your eyes as to how good coffee should be made).
I hope this helps, and that you'll think more about that Starbucks next time you want a take-out coffee.


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Sir Psycho Sexy
post Sep 20 2007, 12:27 PM
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Gah! Starbucks!

I'll echo Daria on a few things, good coffee, competent staff (and pay them well enough to not leave), tasty snacks (cakes, sandwiches etc.) and unless you're actually considering going into competition with Starbucks, stay away from the orange-mocha-frappucino bullsh1t, how can cold coffee be nice anyway?

Edit: Oh yeah, squashy sofas that are actually as comfy as they look.


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post Sep 20 2007, 01:19 PM
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I personally think that a good coffee shop depends not only on what the coffee shop sells and the atmosphere there but also the people that frequent it. I mean if there are a million people there that are snobby and too well-to-do to be civil that good people, like ourselves, cannot possibly hope to be impressed by the product. Also it helps to have the people behind the counter know what the hell they are doing! God only knows how many times I have gone to my local coffee shop (where I used to work) and had to tell the dumb-ass behind the counter how to make the drink I ordered as well as the drink before and after mine.

A few good examples would be to read the online comic: Questionable Content and to watch the foamy animations that pertain as well. There are some amazing ideas within those two that you should be able to just about own the world, if you so chose to use them.

A good name helps bring new patrons in, but what keeps them there is what you offer once they cross the threshold.


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Daria
post Sep 20 2007, 03:45 PM
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I've just thought of something else: little personal touches.
The latter café I worked in (the awesome one) was called The Dancing Goat. For takeaway orders, we had little blue stickers with the Café's sign (a leaping goat) silhouetted in it and the name around the outside.
Also, if someone ordered a half slice of cake/ half sandwich for a child, we would go out of our way to make it. Sensible things, understanding that children don't usually like salad dressings, and selling proper juices instead of cheap fizzy drinks are also ways of showing that you aren't just another café. It also makes everyone who enters the door feel unique and appreciated.

Edit: ironic that I feel this passionately about the subject, yet I can't drink non-decaff, and I hate tea. And the public. And working with them.


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elphaba2
post Sep 20 2007, 05:40 PM
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But also understand that you don't have to be the funkiest funky coffee shop ever. Sometimes places like that are grating. I love a place that's on 14th street somewhere in the boring west side in between two giant office buildings that are squashing it in half, which sells ordinary, unspecial things and coffee that is probably Maxwell House or something but made by a guy who really knows how to brew the best coffee. It is a tiny place with orange walls and posters of costa rica and an ordinary coffeemaker and a hot plate on which he will make you eggs if you ask. Cheap and nice and very very small. As in "it can only fit two people plus the guy behind the counter" small, but is surrounded by walk-up brownstones on the stairs of which you can sit and eat eggs & coffee. What everyone's getting at is the importance of environment. Most small businesses are so great because the people who are running them really need money to make their businesses survive, and so they are more creative (necessity is the mother of the amazing $1 hot-espresso-and-cinnamon-cream drink at the Peekskill Coffee House) and generally nicer.

It is also good to be nice to the community. Stick a mike up there sometimes. Let people come in with mix CDs to play. Display their fliers and artwork profusely (and not just stuffy artwork like paintings by some guy who can paint a bush in 4.6 seconds). Let kids draw on the sidewalk in front of your place! Free advertising! Know (or learn) how to speak a language that some of your customers also speak (for my town's place = spanish, for the place in peekskill = norweigian cause this couple came in every day for a year without any english, for the Black Cow in the next town over = hipster).

Coffee places that sell whatever they think people will buy with their coffee generally do well. The place down the street from my school sold watermelon on a 94 degree day for 90 cents a slice and they sold ten watermelon's worth by the end of the day. There's a place I sometimes go to that sells ordinary burned CDs of local musicians for 2-4 dollars and they sell a lot of them!

Wow we are all so passionate about coffee shops. Another common Matazonian link!


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-TheKasbah-
post Sep 20 2007, 07:24 PM
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I was just reading through comments and a lot of bands were mentioned, I think you should put up a big handmade/computer made banner asking local bands to give you a CD they made and play it so that people can look forward to listening to local music that is fresh to them and they won't hear over played on the radio.


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Spacehappy
post Sep 21 2007, 02:55 PM
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Heya Kitty,

First off I won’t go into the evils/good of Starbucks but I’ll tell you what I found out working the in the very first cyber café in Cardiff. First off comfy chairs and small enclosed areas, the large comfy leather sofas get in large groups of mates to sit around and chat. The small comfy enclosed areas get the business types in that want to talk privately without being overheard.

Food – What you going to sell, most people want finger foods, things they can eat with there hands while drinking there coffee, muffins, cookies and sandwich’s, pre packed over time will save you so much money, there is not much profit in it, but saves you and your staff so much time if your not preparing it, also you have very little waste.

Drink – Get a really good signature coffee for your café right from the start, something that’s unique to your café (most coffee dealers will make you these by sitting down with you and doing lots and lots of taste tests). Supply soft drinks and juices if you can buy your own machine to make the juices and even the smoothies.

Small touches supply free papers, books even make a loyalty card buy 10 coffees get a coffee free ect (they really do work).

I found that combination works really well, even to a point that the café I drink in outsells the Starbucks down the road and they have a lot of what I just said.
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Mata
post Sep 23 2007, 05:23 PM
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QUOTE (Spacehappy @ Sep 21 2007, 03:55 PM) *
most coffee dealers will make you these by sitting down with you and doing lots and lots of taste tests

Hahaha! Now I've got an image of Kitty pulsing slightly after too much caffeine!

More seriously - get a good hot chocolate. For some reason, coffee shops often do really bad hot chocolate that's way more bitter than shop-bought stuff. Perhaps coffee drinkers like bitter things, but if you're buying hot choc in a coffee shop then you're probably not a coffee drinker anyway!

Which leads me onto the next point - do a reasonable selection of teas and non-coffee drinks. They usually don't have big machines, so they're easy to stock, and it gives non-coffee drinkers an option too.

Spacehappy is right - get something that sets your shop apart, special blends, extra caffeine, weird shaped sugar lumps... Always have something for customers to remember you by.


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post Sep 23 2007, 05:48 PM
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Good Hot chocolate is a must. Also check out your competition. Don't just assume that you have something new, check the others out.

My favourite coffee shop is called Cafe Americano in Woking. It is a franchise but there are only a handful in the country I think. They have 30 odd syrup flavours which can be blended with coffee, chocolate, cold milk, warm milk or just fizzy water. They make their bagels fresh on site. They make warm cinnamon buns. They have large leather sofas. They call steamers, moos and flavour them ("I'll have one cheeky moo (almond flavoured) and one silly old moo (chocolate and almond) they make their smoothies with fresh fruit. Need I go on?
We had a Star *ucks open about 6 months ago. if anything I think MORE people are going to Americano now just to spite Dr Evil!


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Kitty
post Sep 24 2007, 08:31 AM
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QUOTE (Mata @ Sep 23 2007, 01:23 PM) *
QUOTE (Spacehappy @ Sep 21 2007, 03:55 PM) *
most coffee dealers will make you these by sitting down with you and doing lots and lots of taste tests

Hahaha! Now I've got an image of Kitty pulsing slightly after too much caffeine!

My body doesn't do so well with caffine, I would be pretty jittery and please don't make me hold anything! It'll shake right out of my hands!!!

QUOTE (Mata @ Sep 23 2007, 01:23 PM) *
More seriously - get a good hot chocolate. For some reason, coffee shops often do really bad hot chocolate
I have noticed this! I can't get a good cup of hot chocolate ANYWHERE. Starbucks' chocolate tastes burnt and grainy, there's a little coffee shop down the street from me that.... I don't know what they do.... it's not pleasant.

QUOTE (Mata @ Sep 23 2007, 01:23 PM) *
get something that sets your shop apart, special blends, extra caffeine, weird shaped sugar lumps... Always have something for customers to remember you by.


And pretty colours everywhere! Just make it look like an acid trip tongue.gif

I am definitely going to have some sort of a theme that isn't a typical coffee shop type atmosphere, still haven't really figured out what I'd like to do yet.

Faerieryn- I am definitely a fan of having lots of flavors to add (though it makes me mad when coffee shops have lots of flavored syrups but don't have them LISTED anywhere. The baristas's take their lovely old time repeting all the flavors to you and the customers behind you get very unhappy with you...)
I really like the idea of giving drinks silly names! Thats fun tongue.gif


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Kitty
post Oct 4 2007, 10:58 AM
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Their carafes (for their milk and half an half) annoy the hell out of me. I'm sure there is some trick to them, but I can never get more than a tiny stream of milk to come out of one of those damn things. Definitely doing something different than those damn things when I have my own shop biggrin.gif

Also, I've noticed that starbucks isn't really about having people sit down. I mean, they as a company want their shops to be a 'home away from home' but, most of them don't offer to serve drinks in actual mugs, so you get handed this silly paper cup every time that makes you feel like "Oh well I've got my drink to go...." so you leave


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Mata
post Oct 4 2007, 01:02 PM
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That's the McDonald's method coming into play. What they do is try to make the place as minimally inviting as possible - just enough to look okay, but not inviting enough that you want to stay there for any long period of time. They've already got your money, so why keep the customers sitting around the place?


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Kitty
post Oct 4 2007, 01:42 PM
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I still find it strange.... In all the training manuals and such they give us they generally say that they want to create a warm inviting atmosphere so people can have a home-away-from-home (they have a silly phrase for it like 'third place' or something) so it still seems very odd that they'd set that kind of atmosphere.

Another interesting thing about Starbucks.... I had a customer come into my old job (chocolate shop) and he started talking to me about starbucks and how he knows the people that started it. Apparently it was a bet between two marketing majors (married) that the wife couldn't create a coffee company that would work. So, she set out to create this company based generally on marketing. They buy the cheapest crappiest beans possible and try to roast them well and generally try to take the cheap way around things while promoting their drinks with good marketing.

I don't know how I'm going to market my shop. I don't want to be Starbucks and create a corporation, I don't want more than one shop, but I DO want to open a shop that will stay busy. I already know that I want to have two kinds of seating. An open seating area where you can sit and talk to people or at least look around and see what is going on, but I also want an area where people can sit by themselves and not be distracted. I'll have power outlets by all seating so people are welcome to come in and sit on their laptops and work, and I'll be offering wifi (free, hopefully). I've also been thinking about colors, I don't necessarily want to do the coffee house look with warm colors, I'm thinking about a french blue, because its a nice color, its calming, it's not something that'll be too bright or distracting but its also not typically a 'coffee shop' color.

I think thats as far as I've gotten so far. I really want to learn to roast my own beans and make my own pastries. I don't think I'll go into buying pastries from companies, though if there are people locally that bake things in their home and would like to sell them at my shop I think that would be neat. I generally don't like any bought cakes or anything because most that I've tried are way too sweet.

Oddly enough I am working at a starbucks and hopefully I'll learn some useful things. (What to do and what NOT to do. Baby changing stations in the bathroom for instance. They don't have any at any starbucks i've been to) So far I've learned that there are MANY things to clean, and thats generally it. We have done a coffee tasting and I can't say I'm great at tasting coffee (yet) and hopefully I'll learn how to steam milk (or how to NOT steam milk tongue.gif ) But we'll see how it goes....

I don't know why I haven't thought of this till just now, but I think that my coffee shop should serve liquor. Not straight, but you should be able to order spiked coffee. The only problem with this is that minors would be all over that, and I'd have to be careful about that. That and liquor licenses aren't easy to procure.

The thing is, someone could buy an alcoholic beverage and no one would be able to tell if said person handed it to a minor and the minor started to drink it, because it would look like a normal coffee drink. So, there could be color-coded cups for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages buuuutt then would that cause a problem with people not wanting to be advertising that they're drinking spiked coffee?


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Sir Psycho Sexy
post Oct 4 2007, 09:55 PM
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QUOTE (Kitty @ Oct 4 2007, 02:42 PM) *
The thing is, someone could buy an alcoholic beverage and no one would be able to tell if said person handed it to a minor and the minor started to drink it, because it would look like a normal coffee drink. So, there could be color-coded cups for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages buuuutt then would that cause a problem with people not wanting to be advertising that they're drinking spiked coffee?


Two things about that, firstly, if someone over age is buying alcohol for someone under age (in the UK at least) it's them that's actually commiting the crime. Also, they don't have to be drastically different colour mugs, different shade of blue or have different colour spots, or stripes or whatever, it's not for everyone else to know, just so the staff can check.

On the marketing front, the best way is word of mouth, it also helps to be off the beaten track, but not so much so that it's an effort for people to get to you.


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post Oct 5 2007, 02:33 AM
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Their coffee is stale and usually burnt. Their drinks tend to have too much flavor added to compensate for the bad coffee. Let's put it this way, they are as McDonald's is to good burgers. They mass market things and, as with most things, that lowers quality control so they produce an inferior product compared to smaller non-chain coffee places.

We had a coffee shop here, Emma Joe's, which folded due to reasons beyond anybody's control. They did exceptional business, were fairtrade and had fantastic drinks. Their coffee was fresh, roasted to near perfection and they had specialty drinks that weren't masked with large amounts of flavors and sweetness. You could taste the smooth and sweet coffee over the flavors and added items. Yeah - sweet coffee - due to Starbuck's and cheap canned coffee people don't realize coffee shouldn't be bitter.

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Kitty
post Oct 11 2007, 01:30 PM
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All of their coffee is arabica, apparently, its just all roasted differently. I know arabica is supposodly the 'best', but other coffees have different flavors and special things about them that I think Starbucks is missing out on. All of starbucks coffee is also roasted really dark, they claim that it gets the best flavor out of it, I disagree....

I just emailed a local company around here that has been in business for a long while roasting coffee, asking them if they offer apprenticeships. biggrin.gif Roasting coffee in house, anyone?


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post Oct 11 2007, 03:34 PM
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QUOTE (Kitty @ Oct 11 2007, 09:30 AM) *
All of their coffee is arabica, apparently, its just all roasted differently. I know arabica is supposodly the 'best', but other coffees have different flavors and special things about them that I think Starbucks is missing out on. All of starbucks coffee is also roasted really dark, they claim that it gets the best flavor out of it, I disagree....

I just emailed a local company around here that has been in business for a long while roasting coffee, asking them if they offer apprenticeships. biggrin.gif Roasting coffee in house, anyone?


Actually, the 'best' coffee is Kopi Luwak, an Indonesian coffee where the beans first must pass through the digestive system of a specific primate. I'd love to try it, but last I remember it costs about $4 per 8oz cup, and I highly doubt too many places serve it. And to ship it to me....that'd be nuts.

/informative? spam


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mooooooooooopo
post Oct 11 2007, 05:31 PM
Post #21


: P>
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You can buy Weasel Coffee on FireBox or similar sites. It might get you close to the experience - it's been through the digestive system of a furry musetelid from Vietnam.


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Sir Psycho Sexy
post Oct 11 2007, 05:40 PM
Post #22


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QUOTE (trunks_girl26 @ Oct 11 2007, 04:34 PM) *
Actually, the 'best' coffee is Kopi Luwak, an Indonesian coffee where the beans first must pass through the digestive system of a specific primate.


There's a similar coffee, that's passed through the digestive system of a weasel. It tastes kinda weird...

Edit: I swear moop's wasn't there when I started writing mine...


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trunks_girl26
post Oct 11 2007, 05:53 PM
Post #23


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QUOTE (moop @ Oct 11 2007, 01:31 PM) *
You can buy Weasel Coffee on FireBox or similar sites. It might get you close to the experience - it's been through the digestive system of a furry musetelid from Vietnam.


I have heard of the weasel coffee, and will eventually (as in when I have the money >.> ) order it, try it, and give a full report happy.gif, but I'd heard of monkey-poo coffee on one of the sciencey channels and ever since, I've wanted to get some- if only to say I've had the best cup of coffee in the world. And it was once monkey-poo ^___^


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Mata
post Oct 11 2007, 11:24 PM
Post #24


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I've had tea that was picked by monkeys - a present from Jonman, also purchased on Firebox. It was okay, but didn't taste particularly simian.


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Kitty
post Oct 12 2007, 04:55 PM
Post #25


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I'm not sure how enthused the general public will be about partially digested coffee.... :\


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