Jittery Does It: Starbucks Stops P.M. Decaf

By Jolyon Helterman | Chowder |

After a delightful lunch at the local mid-tier sushi joint (Symphony Sushi, over at 45 Gainsborough), Chowder stopped in at one of several local Starbucks coffee shops for a little pick-me-up. Actually, a substantial pick-me-up, in the form of an Iced Grande Ice-to-the-Top Quad (which, for those not schooled in the ways of ‘Buckssprech, simply means four shots of espresso over lots of ice in a medium cup).

Chowder’s lunch date, however, was having none of it. “That would keep me up all night!” she predicted, before asking the cashier, with an achingly non-Starbucksian brogue, for “a small decaf.”

When the barista shook her head, Chowder imagined for a brief moment that, much the way the French shower disdain upon non-Francophone tourists, our order taker was not-so-subtly registering annoyance with this blatant affront to the local vernacular (after all, when in Rome…). Would we be forced to translate on the fly? “Euh, comment dit-on, ‘un Tall, Room-for-Milk Decaf, s’il vous pla├«t?’”

But the truth, it turns out, was much more surreal. “We don’t brew decaf in the afternoons anymore,” she deadpanned. Say what?

“Starting today, we only offer decaf coffee in the mornings, to save money. But you can get a Grande Decaf Americano all day!” (For those playing at home, that’s three shots of decaf espresso, diluted with hot water, the way a full-strength-espresso-fearing American might take it.) Which is what she ordered. For only $2 more than the decaf coffee she’d wanted!

Walking back to the office, with our fancy cups of caffeine in hand, it seemed sorta backward: Wouldn’t they sell more decaf in the afternoon, when the insomnia-fearing set would have switched from stimulant to non-?

A call to the company and to several local Starbucks outposts revealed a wide array of interpretations of this new policy. According to Starbucks Customer Service, their new nationwide mandate to eliminate afternoon decaf is an effort to “eliminate waste,” since company policy states that coffee must be dumped out every half-hour and rebrewed. Nathan Legault, who works at the 1 Federal Street location, informed Chowder that “High-volume-drip stores,” which are generally in Downtown Boston, are still serving decaf in the afternoon, but that most places aren’t supposed to.

One dodgy barista, at 240 Washington Street, clearly divining the impending expos├ę and scandal, shrieked “It is not true!” before abruptly hanging up on us. (These are some nervewracking times, indeed.)

And so it goes. What’s next: no vodka-tonics served after 6 p.m.?

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/blog/2009/01/29/jittery-does-it-starbucks-stops-pm-decaf/