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food / travel

Italian Coffee, Full Circle: Starbucks Marks Five Years In Italy

It has been five years since Starbucks first opened in Milan, where the company's CEO first got the idea that the world wanted quality coffee. Today they set their sights not on retreat but expansion. The path ahead in this mecca for "caffé" for the Seattle-based coffee shop is a rosy one.

A photograph of customers and staff inside of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan

October 3, 2019: Customers line up to order drinks at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan

Mychelle Vincent/ZUMA
Nicola Grolla

MILAN — It's been five years since Starbucks' debut in Italy, and there is still a line to enter the Reserve Roastery. Inside the former Post Office building in Milan, the brand is celebrating an important anniversary, which tastes like 100% Arabica coffee, and a bet won: they have managed to sell coffee to Italians. Not just any coffee, but a flat white.

This is perhaps the greatest achievement in the company's partnership with the Percassi Group, which is responsible for developing a network that will reach 37 or 38 stores by the end of the year (the next eagerly awaited stop: Naples).

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In the meantime, to celebrate, a rich schedule of events has kicked off (until Oct. 1st). On the program are tastings, workshops, blues concerts and events during Milan Fashion Week. It's all organized to give an idea of the connection achieved between Italy and the American brand.

A look inside the stores

Entrepreneur Howard Schultz conceived of his coffee store after a 1983 trip to Milan and Northern Italy, forever linking the destiny of Starbucks to the country. The entrepreneur was fascinated by the atmosphere of Italian coffee bars, with their cappuccinos, pastries and baristas, which he later recreated with Starbucks.

The chain's arrival and success in Italy was by no means a given. Indeed, many wondered whether there was any point in serving repurposed Italian coffee to Italians. But the naysayers have been proven wrong.

The company's Roastery spreads across 2,300 square meters dedicated to coffee, starting from the roasting process, which supplies products to EMEA market stores.

Thanks to welcoming locations and quality products, we have gained the trust of Italian customers.

Surrounding this is an increasingly extensive network of retail outlets. The latest is found in Bari, adorned by dedicated artwork inspired by the sea (look also to the Giglio in Florence and the mosaic in Rome), built "with humility and made available to consumers. Thanks to welcoming locations and quality products, we have gained the trust of customers, both Italians and foreigners visiting our country. Today, our locations are recognized meeting points," says Vincenzo Catrambone, general manager of Starbucks Italy, who oversees the food retail network.

So much so that in Italy, Starbucks decided to launch Oleato last February, a coffee-based drink with emulsified extra virgin olive oil. "The response has been remarkable, thanks in particular to the quality of Partanna oil. This, in addition to filling us with pride, has allowed the Italian branch to gain the trust of Seattle and pursue important work in food offering innovation, from expanding the breakfast menu to introducing sandwiches with quality products for lunch breaks, which has received positive feedback in terms of both the production process and product presentation," says Catrambone.

Photograph of the inside of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan, where the counter tops are made of marble

In a nod to the marble countertops featured in espresso bars across Milan, all of the bars in the Roastery are marble and warm to the touch.

Starbucks Partners/Facebook

Afternoon at Starbuck's 

Remaining steadfast are the iconic Frappuccino (with this year's autumn menu presentation celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Pumpkin Spice Latte version), the giant "Venti" takeaway cappuccino for the most dedicated customers, a sweet and savory selection which presents a taste of America with muffins, doughnuts, cakes and more.

Also, an offering that captivates Italian audiences as much as the products and hospitality: why not spend an afternoon on their laptop at Starbucks? Traditionally, Italians will get a coffee and drink it at the store's counter, spending a maximum of 10 minutes at the store – and that's pushing it.

But spending hours with free Wi-Fi, comfortable armchairs, cozy corners and a steaming cup of coffee? That's an almost vocational experience around the world. "From the very first day, in fact, we adopted a pricing policy slightly higher than traditional bars. It's a strategic choice because we offer a service that prioritizes customer comfort. Our locations are not just places for consumption but for socializing; there's no rush to leave your seat when you're finished," says Catrambone.

The quality of the offering has aligned with a renewed interest in the world of coffee: "In general, in recent years, the standard of coffee shops has greatly improved. Certainly, Starbucks' approach played a role, but the trend was already underway. An example is the current proliferation of specialty coffee and its popularity with the public. Today's consumer is willing to spend a little more and experiment rather than save by quickly drinking an espresso, perhaps standing at the counter," concludes Catrambone.

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Migrant Lives

A Train Journey With Bengal Migrants Looking For A Living Far Away

Finding a seat on the Karmabhoomi Express is close to impossible. A closer look at why so many migrant workers travel on it, and out of Bengal, offers a grim picture.

image of a train

The Karmabhoomi Express runs from Kamakhya to Mumbai in a 3 day journey.

India Rail Info
Joydeep Sarkar

WEST BENGAL — Welcome aboard the 22512 Kamakhya-LTT Karmabhoomi Express — a metaphor, if any, of the acuteness of Bengal’s unemployment problem.

It is 10.28 pm at north Bengal’s Alipurduar Junction and the crowd has swollen to its peak. This is when the Karmabhoomi Express appears at the station. It is bound for Mumbai. Finding a seat on it is close to impossible. It is always chock full and there are always hundreds struggling to get a spot in the unreserved general compartment.

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