We live in a city where a 20 minute walk can include two Stumptowns, two Baristas, and Water Avenue Coffee. We are absolutely spoiled. So it's easy to forget that Starbucks is actually an amazing place as long as you don't surround it with anything better.

When you're traveling outside of a handful of cities that care about coffee (or even in one of those cites but you're stuck in an airport or convention center), Starbucks is a godsend. It serves AVERAGELY bad coffee. I have nothing good to say about the coffee at Starbucks except that it's better than coffee that's worse. It's better than McCafe where the kid has to press "override: no liquid sugar" if you order it black. It's better than hotel/gas station/museum cafe/diner coffee.

Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine you had two cups of coffee, one from Starbucks, one from your favorite shop. Now imagine somebody took away that second cup. The first one seems so much better, right?

Now imagine you're in an airport and your options are that cup or something from Coffee People. It's starting to seem great isn't it?

Independent coffee shops aren't necessarily better. I ordered an Americano at a coffee shop in Texas and the woman looked visibly shaken. "Oh, I think I know what that is," she said, pulling herself together. After she pulled the espresso shot, she tapped the grounds into the cup with it and handed the whole thing to me. "No, I'm sorry. I ordered an Americano. Not a Garbage Drink."

I'd love to support mom & pop operations, but frequently mom & pop have no clue how to make coffee. They're just a retired couple who uses Illy pre-ground beans and also sell gelato, bubble tea, key chains, and are a post office branch.

Next time you see somebody walk into a Starbucks when you know something better is right around the corner, remember they're not bad people. They just don't know better. They're probably from a town where their choice is Starbucks or Garbage Drink.