First few paragraphs:
In 50 states and 49 countries, the experience is the same: a placid sense of place, air suffused with the rich aromatics of fresh-brewed espresso. Customers dollop cream and sprinkle brown sugar into their drinks on their way out the door, or they stay — paging through books or talking softly while they sip, serenaded by piped-in Paul McCartney and Norah Jones. Behind the counter, green-clad baristas grind beans and steam milk, smiling as they take orders in a made-up language.
What other corporate entity but Starbucks offers such a defined experience? It's one Temple University professor Bryant Simon immersed himself in countless times over the past few years — he spent 12 to 14 hours each week observing the human traffic in more than 425 Starbucks locations in nine countries. His curiosity having been piqued by the company's breathtaking popularity, he sensed that the way we buy coffee said something deeper about ourselves.
I first interviewed Simon for another story in 2007. At the time, he'd already been at work on his book about the coffee colossus for a couple years. Now that book, Everything But the Coffee: Learning About America from Starbucks (University of California Press), has finally been published.