Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ask no questions

I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend just gone in Madrid, ostensibly for a mate's birthday but basically to eat and drink a lot for a couple of days. It led, this morning, to the odd experience of waking up in another country but going to work in London in the afternoon.

Anyway, one of the many pleasures of Spain is the ability to get a decent coffee just about anywhere. In a country that has so many bars and caf├ęs, you don't want to get a rep for making bad coffee. I've therefore had a decent cup everywhere from an underground station to the airport, and pretty much everybody makes real coffee at home - I've never been offered instant coffee in a Spaniard's house.

I was pretty unpleasantly surprised, then, to find that the only place I could get a coffee at Madrid's Barajas Airport this morning, once I'd gone through security at least, was a branch of Starbuck's. Now Barajas is a long airport. I walked the length of it, twice, but unless I wanted to sit down in a 'proper' restaurant, the only other option was a machine. Hobson's choice, as far as I'm concerned - I don't like Starbucks as a company and I really don't like coffee dispensed from machines.

Starbucks are a company that are not easy to like. They paid Corporation Tax for the first time in four years in the UK in 2013 only after adverse publicity and a drop in sales following the subsequent public backlash.Their branches are absolutely bloody everywhere. By far the worst thing, though, is that I think the coffee's just no bloody good. I simply don't like it and it means the other stuff becomes impossible to forgive.

But, hell. It's got to be better than a machine, right? So, reluctantly, I joined the queue. I do remember liking the cinammon roll thingy they do, so that and a coffee would have to do for a breakfast. Such sweet pastry delights are a rare treat for me these days. One snag, though. As the bloke in front of me ordered his drink, he was asked his name. This was a new, fresh hell that I'd forgotten about with this lot. I absolutely hate this gimmick - I'm there for a coffee, not to make friends with a corporate monolith. Were I a regular at Starbuck's I'd want to give ever-more ridiculous names; Zaphod. Ivanhoe. Jebediah. Moon Unit. Daphne. You get the idea.

Anyway, that was the final straw. I wasn't buying a coffee and going through the idiotic false intimacy of having them call out my name rather than just making sure the right coffee gets to the right person. Other coffee vendors manage this perfectly well without this folly. So I just took the cinnamon thingy, which you can buy without the name crap, and went and bought a coffee for half the price from a machine that wanted nothing more than coinage from me. It was blithely indifferent to my name or anything else as it dispensed what turned out to be a reasonably drinkable cup, for an instant.

And you know what? The bloody cinnamon thingy was dry.