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Illy vs. Starbucks

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March 1, 2010 Coffee, Food & Drink 8 Comments

Ever wondered why you cannot find Starbucks in Italy? Or whether Starbucks’ coffee can hold its own on a real Roman cappuccino? Then read on. The opinions diverge on whether Italian coffee needs new inspiration because “it is not what it once was”, or whether America simply has an “overroasting” issue concerning their coffee. Coffee Clash?

Italy is where it all began for Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schulz, who established Starbucks in Seattle after a revelatory trip to Italy in 1983. But the circle has yet to come to a full close. While rumors circulated in 1998 that the company was going to test waters in Italy when expanding to the European market, Italians are still waiting for the famed American coffeehouse to make an appearance. Not all of them are waiting with joyous anticipation, though: Andrea Illy, CEO of Illycaffe – considered Italy’s top-quality roaster of espresso – was not worried by Howard Schulz’ assessment that the Italian coffee culture needs new inspiration because it is “not what it once was”. From The New Yorker:


l lady morning coffee rome Illy vs. Starbucks

A lady with her morning coffee in Rome


… (Andrea) Illy criticized Starbucks, observing that what works in America may not work in Italy. Americans, he claimed, liked everything “big,” including their coffee, while Italians prefer the experience of savoring a small “burst of flavor.” America, he continued, had an “overroasting culture,” which is why, he claimed, they use so much milk and syrup. Illy ended by saying that the world contained espresso drinkers and “other people,” and that Italians were the espresso drinkers, while Americans were the “other people”. (Read more at The New Yorker.)

It seems that Starbucks’ has since decided to tread lightly on Italian soil, or not at all. Innovation Zen’s analysis of the matter:

Starbucks’ decision to not enter the Italian market could be strategically correct. The Italian people would be reluctant to abandon their traditions, and the risks of an eventual failure out weight by far the possible rewards of succeeding. The image about the espresso experience is a corner stone of Starbucks’ business model, and they are not risking to damage it.

Tell us, do you want to see Starbucks in Italy? I am ambivalent on the issue, in the sense that I prefer Italy’s coffee (of course!), but think that Starbucks may have the edge on the cake- and dessertfront.

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Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mario says:

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

    I’m Italian and I got once a starbuck coffee in NY. i said “it’s evrywhere let’s try it”.
    i taste it and I spit it on the ground. The quality of the coffee it’s really poor. The first thing that i said to my friend is :”Wow this guy is a geniuns. He is millionare selling hot water!
    I think that there is no culture of coffee (and food in general) in Nord America like in Germany.

    • peter says:

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 16

      You really have poor taste…i have been to italy for a few weeks and have to say….italians don t know how to make a good cup of coffee….

  2. Pete says:

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 12

    I’m visîting Rome right now and would love a Starbucks somewhere. The espresso is nice but I want more than just some tiny B. S. cup that is way over priced! Not that Starbucks isn’t overpriced but you can at least get rid of your thirst. Even when ordering a cafe americano it comes in such a pathetic size I can hardly stand it. Frankly Mario I don’t care about the taste as long as it is filling and delivers enough caffeine to keep me going in the ever ongoing crowds around Rome.

  3. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    [...] authentically Italians and served delicious fare. Still, I thought it was unusual that I didn’t see a single Starbucks in Rome, given that the American coffee chain is omnipresent in other European [...]

  4. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    [...] authentically Italians and served delicious fare. Still, I thought it was unusual that I didn’t see a single Starbucks in Rome, given that the American coffee chain is omnipresent in other European [...]

  5. Joseph Atanasio says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    Starbucks is in the milk business

  6. Tony says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Starbuck is a joke and lot of agressive marketing inserted into mentality or jewish multi level marketing and cross connections with the buddies and like alwys monopoly.
    I have 11 years living in new york, but originally from a neighboor country to italy. Whenever traveling to italy was amazed by coffee also greece. Its a whole different game.

  7. Max says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    I am Italian and, even if I respect other people’s opinion and taste, I do avoid carefully Starbucks and similar American coffee chain.
    Comparing that coffee to what we are able to find in Italy just does not make any sense: we are talking about two totally different worlds, culture and taste.
    Bottom line: no, I don’t want to see any Statbucks polluting my country.

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