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Danko Jones

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How Rock 'n' Roll Is Starbucks Coffee?

Posted: 11/30/2012 5:00 pm

Boredom on tour can be the undoing of many a band. Temptations are always abound in the world of rock 'n' roll and it's easy to be drawn to them like flies to a pile of shit. I've seen with my own eyes how it's eaten people up only to spit them out. Surprisingly, the Internet's done much to stave off these inevitable ends by turning backstages into Internet cafes, where mirrors and blow have been replaced by laptops in rows.

Our band started pre-Internet, pre-WiFi, and although I've gone on record more than once to smugly state I'm straight-edge, almost like a triathlete competing in an iron man competition, it hasn't been without temptation. One boredom-filled night, after a show during a long tour, two friends gave me a personal presentation on the benefits of taking speed that almost had my hands cupped ready to receive. They spoke of the increased energy, concentration and libido, but even when they nearly had me over to their dark side they couldn't help but disclose the negative effects when it wore off -- the depression, the anxiety, the unending slumber. It was just enough for me to balk last minute.

Besides, I've got other vices tailing me.

As a book hoarder and neat freak, my fantasies are probably different than most. I'm constantly replaying sequences in my head where I finally find time to read the stacks of books next to my bed in peace. Although I relish downtime, my schedule is too full and I'm too hyperactive to summon stillness at a moment's notice. Maybe it's because in the last few years I have fallen to an addiction -- I've become a coffee drinker.

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  • Thin Mint Frappuccino

    Another drink that borrows its name and flavor from the Girl Scout Cookie repertoire is this creation, which, according to commenter Julie Adkins is made by blending the Tazo Green Tea Crème Frappuccino with chocolate syrup and java chips. According to her, it’s "heaven in a cup." We imagine adding a pump of peppermint syrup wouldn’t hurt the combination either. <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/best-fruit-and-vegetable-combinations-juice-diets-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>Best Fruit and Vegetable Combinations for Juice Diets</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/powerbooktrance/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/TerryJohnston</strong></a>

  • Snickers Frappuccino

    "We do know a lot of these drinks and more," noted Annalise, a commenter and a self-described Starbucks barista. "Try a Snickers Frappuccino: Java Chip Frappuccino with two pumps of toffee nut and a caramel drizzle on top. It tastes just like a Snickers." <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/americas-best-dive-bars-slideshow-16?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>America's Best Dive Bars</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34283477@N02/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/AlexOslo</strong></a>

  • Banana Cream Pie Frappuccino

    According to an anonymous The Daily Meal commenter, "At our store (licensed), my favorite drink is a Vanilla Bean [Crme Frappuccino] with vanilla [and] hazelnut [syrups], whipped cream, and a whole banana. But I am prepared to pay the $6 for a grande and I dont call it out or refer to it as a Banana Cream Pie, which is what it tastes like and the nickname it has acquired." <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/best-hot-chocolate-buy-and-worst-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>Best (and Worst) Hot Chocolate to Buy</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/heykellieee/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/heykellieee</strong></a>

  • Apple Juice Orange Blossom

    This combination of Tazo Orange Blossom Tea steeped in steamed apple juice (with no water), is what one anonymous The Daily Meal commenter calls "a perfect tasty tea alternative for us non-coffee drinkers." <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/check-out-starbucks-shipping-container?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>Check Out This Starbucks in a Shipping Container</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lobsterstew/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/Helga's Lobster Stew</strong></a>

  • The Grasshopper Frappuccino

    Recommended by another The Daily Meal commenter who identified themselves as a barista, the Grasshopper Frappuccino consists of a Mocha Frappuccino blended with java chips and peppermint syrup. "It tastes like mint chip ice cream and is a personal favorite. <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/10-coolest-wineries-visit-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>10 Coolest Wineries to Visit</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabrielap93/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/GabrielaP93</strong></a>

  • The Dirty Hippy

    Prefer your Dirty Chai Tea Latte with soy milk instead of regular milk? According to one barista commenter, thats called a Dirty Hippy. <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/reviewing-starbucks-new-blonde-roast?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>Reviewing Starbucks New Blond Roast</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vmiramontes/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/vmiramontes</strong></a>

  • Marble Mocha Macchiato

    Says an anonymous barista commenter, "The Marble Mocha Macchiato is a twist on the signature Caramel Macchiato. White mocha on the bottom with no whip, shot on the top and mocha drizzle." <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/best-athlete-drink-endorsement-ads-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>Best Athlete Drink Endorsement Ads</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/powerbooktrance/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/TerryJohnston</strong></a>

  • Cookies & Cream Frappuccino

    Per a commenter, this is a White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino blended with java chips and a dash of peppermint syrup. <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/9-things-really-annoy-your-bartender-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>9 Things That Make Your Bartender Really Mad</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vek/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/kevinspencer</strong></a>

  • Cinnamon Roll Frappuccino

    According commenter and Starbucks barista, Jonathan, this combination of Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino and cinnamon dolce syrup tastes just like the popular breakfast pastry. <em>More on The Daily Meal:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/how-find-americas-hidden-bars-slideshow-0?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>How to Find America's "Hidden" Bars</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bakaotaku/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/animaster</strong></a>

  • Bootleg Brulée

    Per a commenter, this creation involves adding "two shots to any white mocha, and add toffee nut [syrup] and caramel drizzle." <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/ultimate-guide-starbucks-secret-menu-slideshow-0?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=more%2Bstarbucks%2Bsecret%2Bmenu%2Bdrinks" target="_hplink"><strong>Click Here to see More Drinks on Starbucks' "Secret Menu"</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dancingpapa2007/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/TomenoNaoki</strong></a>


Most people use coffee to wake up in the morning but I've never needed much stimulus to arise. Every morning I jump out of bed like someone just screamed "fire" in a crowded theatre so I guess I've been naturally endowed with an extra shot of verve. When we first started touring, I remember watching JC, our bass player, treat coffee drinking not as routine, but ritual. It fascinated me, but I couldn't understand what the big deal was. Close friends would regale me with long-winded descriptions of its virtues, but my idea of coffee was loading up a tasteless black drink with sugar in order to do an overnight drive after a gig. This all turned when, on a day of boredom, I drank an extra large cup of coffee for kicks. Not being used to the liquid, my body reacted with shaky hands, accelerated heartbeat and a general urge to uber-multitask. In other words, I finally found out what all the fuss was about.

When I told my friends I'd caved they excitedly began schooling me on the world of java. I learned that instant coffee is the equivalent to toilet bowl licking. I learned to decrease my sugar intake and simply enjoy the flavour of the bean. I learned about augmented drinks like lattes, Americanos and espresso macchiatos. But most importantly, I learned that there is a hierarchy among franchised coffee marts.

When on the road and away from superb local Toronto coffee businesses like Lettieri and Bulldog, Starbucks can sometimes be that default acquaintance needed to simmer the burn while on tour. Tour enough and you'll find yourself in the middle of nowhere a lot of the time. It's not the best coffee, but Starbucks is the best consolation when you're in the middle of nowhere.

Still, drinking Starbucks coffee doesn't come without its share of conditions and compromises.

Starbucks' mandate to gentrify the world through coffee and snacks has now expanded into the world of music with their Hear Music label and general promotion of what I consider "soft music." I've never comprehended the accepted pairing of easy listening music with a drink that contains caffeine, the most common psychoactive drug in the world. My idea of music that partners well with coffee would be Jay Reatard, Turbonegro, Motorhead or Slayer, not Colbie Caillat, Bon Iver or Barbara Streisand. But what do I know? The effects of heavy coffee drinking usually send me sending out one word email replies or running-on-the-spot -- not meditating, scrapbooking or taking nature hikes.

On second thought, it's an ingenious marketing move when you think about it -- sell music that lulls one to sleep then slip a $5 coffee drink under their noses to wake them up.

All this gentle music probably isn't being directed at me anyway. Whether you know it or not, the Starbucks menu caters more to sweet teeth than to dark roast drinkers like myself. You want to talk about Supersizing Me? How about the 40 different Frappuccinos they have for sale? Everything from Peppermint Mocha Frappuccinos to Mocha Coconut Frappuccinos to Double Chocolately Chip Frappuccinos. When it gets cold you can switch to Salted Caramel Mocha and Pumpkin Spice Lattes, each with a shot of flavored syrup that can give any meal at a Waffle House a run for its money. These are drinks for adults who eat breakfast cereal for dinner and consider Flintstone vitamins healthy candy substitutes.

Sweet comfort drinks accompanied with a generous helping of whipped cream have quietly come to define Starbucks. The soft, sweet-tempered music sold adjacent only help to accentuate the fluff. Both hold the company's mandate -- to soothe and placate while the world outside burns to a cinder in a shitstorm.

Give me a dark roast and a middle finger any day.

There's still hope, though. Starbucks recently started selling Ramones CDs alongside its Lillith Fair-friendly roster. Some punk police have called out The Ramones and whistled this as punk rock's end, but I think it's Starbucks that may have realized some of us like it dark, hot, and fast.

Watch Danko Jones' "Sugar Chocolate"

 

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