Though my passion, when it comes to coffee shops, is for trendy, independent cafes with a unique character and good quality coffee, Starbucks is still always comforting to me. As a teenager I was absolutely obsessed with it. Growing up in Israel, we had (and still have) no Starbucks. The chain had visited Israel briefly, but it didn’t catch. At the time, the local coffee scene wasn’t ready for it. Coffee shops were almost indistinguishable from restaurants – they were sit down places with full meals served, and the coffee was pretty straight forward rather than having different flavors and modalities. Starbucks couldn’t adjust, and so it failed miserably and vanished quite quickly. When all this was going on, I was probably too young to drink coffee. However, by the time I started drinking coffee I had a problem with what was available in Israel. I loved Frappuccinos, and as I was lactose intolerant and in Israel they were fixed and came out of slushy-like machines, I could barely ever get a Frappuccino. On one of my first trips to Europe as a young coffee drinker, I discovered the soy Frappuccino at a local Starbucks. I started trying the different flavors (back then the Caramel was my favorite), and couldn’t have enough of it. Whenever I traveled I often had at least two Frapps per day, and would plan my trip according to the nearest Starbucks. I also loved the fact that they had muffins, which were too very rare at the time in Israel, and especially blueberry muffins, Which were basically unheard of, as there were no Blueberries in Israel either. It was such a bad addiction, that my mom, who knew how much I loved these muffins, used to bring me a couple of them packed in a greasy brown Starbucks bag as a gift from Europe.
Time went by, I grew up and developed a slightly more sophisticated taste. I had lived in both Europe and the states, and also Israel has developed and the coffee culture has become quite broad (and though no Starbucks yet, it still caters to all my needs). I stopped visiting Starbucks so frequently and started looking for more interesting, less generic, coffee shops with better coffee and better pastries. When I lived in New York, I used to visit it from time to time, as it was right across the street from one of the studios I used to dance in, and it was a good place to go if I had half an hour and was in need for a quick fix. I would usually get a Frappuccino, the espresso one, preferably with almond milk. Of course from time to time I would get a latte or a muffin, and I will confess to trying quite a few of their holiday addition drinks.
At this point you might be wondering why am I telling you all this? Well, since I had left New York, about a year ago, I hadn’t gone into a Starbucks. Till today, that is. Today was the longest day ever, I had been returning from Edinburgh to Tel-Aviv. This meant that I took the train from Edinburgh to London (for about 5 hours), had to amuse myself for a couple of hours in the city, then commuted to Stansted airport (about an hour and a half from the city center), took a midnight flight to Istanbul, had a two-hour layover at the airport, and then caught a flight to Tel-Aviv. The entire operation took 24 hours. It also meant two visits to two different Starbucks. One at Stansted airport in London and one at the Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.
As I arrived to Stansted airport quite late, and as it is a pretty small airport as is, there weren’t many options. I was looking for a light vegan snack, when I saw Starbucks had a vegan pistachio bar. This turned out to be quite a delight! With dark chocolate and some green pistachio cream, and a very nice texture, I found this a perfect snack, which I will probably want to try even when I’m not stuck in an airport after being on the road for 12 hours. In Istanbul I had no idea what I would find. It was 6:30am, and 4:30am in UK time, and obviously I was exhausted by then. There were quite a few coffee shops, or coffee bars, at least, but I had no idea whether they would have non-dairy milk. I decided to check if Starbucks had it, and they had soy milk! I was so delighted, I decided I will order an espresso Frappuccino instead of regular coffee. It was real good, slightly stronger and more bitter than the European or the American Starbucks (but in a good way). The selection of savory and sweet snacks was quite interesting and very local, there were many Börek forms, and some things I couldn’t really identify. All pastries seemed like moist pies as well as creamy cakes, and then they served some bagels. I ended up not having anything to eat (though I later spotted at a different local café a vegan muffin, which looked good). Anyway, I enjoyed my Frapp quite a lot, and was so happy with the fact that Starbucks was there for me, that I just had to share.
Have a great week!