Morning Coffee for the vegan social phobe

25 Jun

Starbucks vs. Saint Louis Bread Co.

After my 5 a.m. bike ride to the YMCA for a 30 minute workout, I’m faced with the biggest decision that I will face all day: should I pedal to Starbucks or to St. Louis Bread Co. for coffee? Some people must make daily decisions that could make or break multi-million dollar corporations. My charmed life leaves me to figure out where the hell I’m going to lounge around for the next hour and a half.

I’m currently sitting in Breadco (It may be called Panera Bread in your neighborhood. We call it simply Bread Co.–pronounced  Breadco–so that’s what I’ll call it from here on), but today I’m going to figure out why I sometimes ride right into a pole trying to make up my mind.

First, some may wonder why I’m up so early and why I don’t just go home and drink coffee. Here’s why:

  • It’s in these early hours my day is planned in solitude; I create to-do lists that stretch the length of a whole wheat baguette.
  • It’s a reward for getting up so damn early to exercise.
  • The floors, tables, and the shitter (I read that this is a popular term for the toilet in the UK, hee hee) will not be as clean again all day.
  • It’s also a great time–when is there not a great time–to read, write, or to just think.

I don’t go for the food (if you want to call a blueberry scone food–I don’t). At this hour, at this time of day, it’s all about the coffee and solitude. So here goes, it’s a vegan social phobe-slanted comparison of coffee in the early hours of Starbucks and Breadco.

Coffee Quality (Breadco wins)

People have strong opinions about Starbucks coffee. Some say it’s too bitter. Some love it and say they’re addicted to it.  I like it, but I shovel all kinds of crap in there to sweeten it up (Truvia) and change the taste (vanilla bean powder). Breadco always offers four kinds of coffee: light roast, dark roast, decaf, and hazelnut. It never changes and it tastes just as good as Starbucks. I usual do a special blend combo since it’s self-serve (see “refills” below). They also post signs alerting customers on what time it was brewed. That information isn’t available at Starbucks. They tie in taste but the nod goes to Breadco because of their posted brew times.

Paper or ceramic (Breadco wins)

Disposable paper cups suck. They should always be recycled, but many end up in landfills (and I’m not claiming to be perfect here; I sometimes throw away these cups). Though Starbucks sells all kinds of traditional coffee mugs and leak-proof travel cups, whey serve all of their drinks in disposable cups. They’ll fill up your own mug if you remember to bring it, but for walk-in customers who may even prefer a real coffee cup, I don’t even see that option. At Breadco I drink from a mug.

Refills (Breadco wins)

Breadco kicks ass in this category in two ways: 1) they offer a bottomless cup of coffee and 2) it’s self-serve. With social phobes the latter is important because I don’t want to go back up and interact with the staff any more than I have to. At Starbucks I’m forced to drag my ass back to the counter and order all over again. I have a registered Starbucks card, so refills are free, but they make it difficult for me.

Atmosphere (Breadco wins)

Starbucks sells the music they play so it changes all the time. Sometimes they play it louder than necessary. Breadco plays classical music all the time at lower, consistent levels. Breadco is much larger. Social phobes like nooks and crannies, privacy. When I pick a spot in Starbucks, there’s a decent chance that someone will come along and sick a little too close for comfort. Interior decor is too close to call; both are nice. When you sit outside at Starbucks you must listen to the constant stream of lame drink orders from the nearby drive-thru (Yeah, good morning, I’ll take a Double Ristretto Venti Nonfat Organic Chocolate Brownie Frappuccino Extra Hot with Foam and Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, please).

Restrooms (Starbucks wins)

Both are clean with no noticeable stench, but Starbucks offers privacy with a single person restroom with a lock. Breadco scores points for their paper towel machine (though air dryers are better for the environment). One pump on their dispenser gives you a good length of towel, three pumps and you have towel lingering at your ankles. At Starbucks, you have to give it the machine gun pump action to get five inches of towel. I took points away from Breadco because their toilet is too loud and powerful. It startles me even though I’m expecting it.

Cater to vegans (Starbucks wins)

Starbucks offer soy milk, Breadco does not. If I count overall menu, Breadco does much better because they have much more on their menu. Starbucks offers tons of sugar-filled pastries that I won’t touch.

Internet access (Starbucks wins)

Starbucks will offer free wi-fi to all in July. It’s already free for me because of I’m a registered cardholder. It’s consistently on and fast. Breadco has free access as well, but you can’t always depend on it working.

Staff (Breadco wins)

The employees are friendly in both places, but at Starbucks job training seems to include an extra dose of cheer. For a social phobe, that’s not a good thing. Starbucks loses for being too chatty. Although Breadco won this category they do employ one particular young fellow who talks loud, laughs loud, and is always doing one or the other without pause. Single handedly, this guy almost cost them this category. I’m hoping this is a summer job for him and he’ll be heading off to college in August.

Hours (Starbucks wins)

Starbucks open up at 5:30 Monday through Friday. Breadco opens at 6:00, so if I’m out extra early I only have one choice.

AND THE WINNER IS…BREADCO

Wow, I’m surprised. It wasn’t even that close. Breadco took five out of eight categories, including the most important: atmosphere and refills.

3 Responses to “Morning Coffee for the vegan social phobe”

  1. Bonnie from Georgia USA July 30, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    This southern girl from the land of fresh peaches picked at sunrise really loved this. I too love to the see the world come alive in the morning. In my case it’s feed trucks, hay haulers and John Deere tractors, but I love it.
    I’m the social butterly that has seen 46 of the 50 states, lived in Mexico 4 months for each of 4 years, love to visit Canada… Am both a bioligist and clinical lab scientist.
    But I came back to the “the big house” as we say in the south. To homemade biscuits and butter made fresh. The good ‘ole organic way.( Not good for me, so I indulge the butter only infrequently.) The house is an old single story plantation home built in 1798. It has remained, along with all the acreage, in an unbroken chain of family ownership. From the pioneer who cut and cleared the first pines and dealt with the Creek Indians prior to the treaty of 1832, through slavery and the Civil War, to the retired full bird army colonel who now cares for all the antiques that are original to the house. I live in a William Faulkner Universe.
    I can sing myself on the land of my father and his fathers just as Walt Whitman wrote in “I Sing Myself.”
    Oddly, you describe yourself as being like most of my lifelong friends. Deb, the CPA stays locked away with a calculator. You can’t hardly drag her our except for short vacations to the Georgia Coastal Islands and canoe trips down the beautiful Flint River. We do love to canoe- and abhor kayaks – the wussies.
    Molly will not touch milk, will fight you over our fresh eggs, will not enter a public place unless you go in first. The Colonel has become a complete hermit. However the yards and gardens are his joy and wanderering there among them alone, at sunrise when the dew is still alight, prepares my mind to be the redneck CEO of this family agricultural corporation. I just call it the farm. I do love “cawfee”. We do not say coffee here.
    This is a place dancing with the history of spirits that seem to seep into my pores at night as I fall asleep. It is a magic place. We own a special little piece of American pioneer history and it will never fall on my watch. Miss Bonnie is at the helm.
    Ya’ll ought to come see us sometime. The weather however is not being politely temperate. The heat is a beast. You would however have to deal with an extrovert, a hermit, and lots of farm life.
    I must add we are all very eccentric in the rural south. We work at perfecting the art. It is highly valued and greatly appraised. The closest neighbor, Miss Lena has her son pull her on her rocking chair with the large lawn mower trailer so she can” get out some.” Some may say that is simply crazy. I say it’s just as sweet as it can be. It’s precious. A son dutifully fulling his aging mother’s wishes in her older and less clear-minded years. He secures her very safely for the ride. We love to see them going up and down the road together. No particular destination, no particular reason for the travel. Simply love. Love in it’s purest state, aged to purity by time. I can think of nothing better to see in my life.
    Please don’t confuse the democratic liberal south with those crazy Atlantans. You simply must judge us on our own character here. We may see things a little differently in our views of the world – even if it does look crazy, it always has a heart somewhere.
    Take good care of yourself, and keep being the wonderful person you are… Open to the world with your fullness of heart. That is a rare thing. Give yourself the labels of your choosing honey, but you are simply special beyond words.
    Miss Bonnie

    • fightn4it July 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

      Wow Miss Bonnie, thanks for that. You truly have me wanting to reread “The Sound and the Fury.” You have a way with words. Try to stay cool down there, okay?

  2. Bonnie from Georgia USA July 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    Dear, you must read “Collected Stories of William of Faulkner” to get the gist. None of his other printed works speak the truth of our lives. Do not miss ” The Tall Men”, ” Turn About” nor ” Spotted Horses”.
    I can already sense your younger-than-me urbanite spirit surging foward into a successful life of truth, creativity and goodness to mankind. Do continue. I also cuss, so do not apologize for your writing style. I think of cussing much as I do the American flag. I fold the words up inside with respect then unfold and fly them with glory on special occasions. I find to this to be quite effective.
    May the world be good to you today.

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