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Residents split on Starbucks announcement

Take our poll: Will you drink Starbucks in Costa Rica?

Like an inevitable tide of manicured sitting arrangements and dark-roasted espresso shots lapping at the nation’s cultural shores, Starbucks announced its first Costa Rica location this May.

The coffee-roasting mega-chain has some 15,000 stores across the globe and already buys millions of kilos of coffee from Costa Rica as well as other Central American countries. The announcement prompted strong reactions on The Tico Times website and Facebook page.

“Absolutely not. No frickin’ way. Disgusting,” wrote Jim Procter in response to a Tico Times Facebook query: “Will you drink Starbucks coffee in Costa Rica?”

Sylvia Mullen-Cooper followed with: “Absolutely! Love, love, love Starbucks!”

Michele Wilkins wrote: “Costa Rica has the best coffee in their country already! No way would I buy Starbucks there.”

On The Tico Times website, a Starbucks announcement drummed up two pages of discussion in the comments section.

“Here’s an idea,” wrote Phil Duncan. “Why don’t you support the coffee shops that already exist in Costa Rica? Starbucks just might run the mom-and-pop coffee shops out of business, just like Wal-Mart did to mom-and-pop grocery stores. I didn’t move to Costa Rica to see the American franchise giants take over and charge outrageous prices, even more so than in the U.S.”

Pascale Wust commented: “I am so excited and I know many people who are as well. I have tried every single brand of coffee here and have not found one decent one yet. They do not seem to be able to make a dark roast. Even the espresso is weak. I have people bring me back bags of Starbucks beans from the U.S. and Canada. I have no problem paying for coffee, even if it’s $5 a cup.”

Folks, it seems, take their coffee shops pretty seriously.

Other comments touched on the price and quality of Starbucks coffee versus homegrown and roasted coffee. One commenter wondered why they would pay a premium for coffee produced in Costa Rica, exported for roasting and imported back into the country.

Starbucks would not comment yet on the prices that patrons will find in its future store. The location of the outlet hasn’t been disclosed, but is rumored by people in the Costa Rican coffee industry to be slated for a spot in Avenida Escazú commercial center in the western San José suburb of Escazú.

A Starbucks spokeswoman did confirm, though, that any coffee bought from Costa Rica by Starbucks would be roasted in the United States before being shipped back here for sale as a percentage of one of the company’s regional blends.

Out on the streets and in the cafés of downtown San José, news of Starbucks’ Costa Rica touchdown elicited less-impassioned reactions.

Marta Elena Cervantes and Miriam Céspedes chatted over cups of coffee in Azafrán, a café on the east side of the Plaza de la Cultura Wednesday afternoon. Cervantes, who lives in England, drinks about five cups of coffee a day. She likes it strong and had never heard of Starbucks before.

“In the U.S., I visit Starbucks maybe twice a week,” said Céspedes, who lives in Florida. “It’s a little pricey. I guess here it might be a little cheaper.”

“I’m always surprised at how many people go to Starbucks in the U.S.,” she added. “If I’m going someplace I always see people walking around with their Starbucks cups.”

María Gutiérrez bought a cappuccino from Café 1820, also near the plaza, with her friend Cindy Uvasel. Both said they have tried Starbucks coffee in the past.

“I’m totally indifferent about them coming here,” Gutiérrez said. “There’s plenty of places to get coffee here. I think Starbucks is about the experience you have with that brand, going to their coffee shop and being in that environment.”

Uvasel said she doesn’t particularly care for Starbucks coffee unless she orders it iced.

Erick Young, manager of The Coffee Square, a café across the street from downtown San José’s court buildings, said he’s not worried about Starbucks cutting into his business.

“It’s good when a business like Starbucks, a business that big, enters here,” Young said, “because you can see the good ideas they bring, and it can make you put in more effort to provide a better service. I know the coffee we serve here is good-quality coffee. Competition is good. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

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