Starbucks Wars

Spilling the Beans on Chiswick’s Caffeine Kings

Does Chiswick's cafe society come at too high a price?

There has been much discussion recently about Chiswick’s coffee shops, in particular the seeming desire for Starbucks to take over high road and it’s supply of caffeine. The recent acquisition of the two Coffee Republic outlets has sparked indignant outrage from certain local residents who feel that the American giant Starbucks is not playing fairly. However, Starbucks makes no bones about their policy to ‘cluster’ their coffee houses with the aim to put the local man out of business, in-fact their tactics are so well known they have been the butt of jokes in such illustrious productions like the Simpsons and Austin Powers!

Chiswick is certainly not the first place where residents are opposed to Starbucks, in Primrose Hill, locals successfully rejected plans for Starbucks to open in their ‘village’, they too have high rents and they too wanted to support their local traders. In fact the anti-Starbucks brigade stretches far and wide and has even prompted people to start websites on the subject.

There are four main players in the Coffee House arena, Starbucks being the biggest with Coffee Republic, Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee being its competitors. Caffe Nero recently made a failed bid to buy out the struggling Coffee Republic chain but didn’t have funds – Starbucks did and so bought a total of 14 Coffee Republic sites, two of which are on our High Road. This will bring the number of Starbucks in Chiswick to four.

Another issue raised has been the ethics surrounding coffee trading practices. Coffee is produced in some of the world’s poorest nations, Ethiopia amongst them. Residents are concerned that that farmers get a fair price for their coffee and can make sure of this by demanding Fair Traid coffee, Oxfam approved brand that is sold in Starbucks amongst others.

On the subject of coffee trading ethics, Cliff Burrows Managing director of Starbucks UK said in a letter to The Observer “Starbucks is committed to improving the lives of coffee growers. We want to be highly regarded not only for the quality of our coffee but for championing practices that produce social, environmental and economic benefits for coffee growers.

In addition to having Fair Trade coffee available for UK customers, Starbucks pays on average $1.20 per pound for coffee. We are not interested in buying poor-quality coffee or coffee priced at a level that will not support the sustainability of the industry. Also, we collaborate with Oxfam America, CEPCO (Oaxacan State Coffee Producers Network) and the Ford Foundation to increase the supply of high-quality fair trade coffee.”

Love them or hate them it certainly looks like Starbucks is here to stay.

February 13, 2003

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