A Brief History of Coffee in America

Posted on September 6, 2011

Pour your heart into it. By Howard Schultz

As someone who spent the better part of his young adult life as a leftist hippy, Starbucks represented the enemy. It was a soul crushing multinational corporation that homogenized culture and ran small businesses out of businesses. Since then I’ve softened my stance. I always support the locally owned coffee business but after ‘Pour Your Heart Into It’ by Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.

The coffee scene used to be very different. It used to be that you would get served a tepid and bland cup of drip coffee. The cups of coffee that are used in gas stations today are even markedly better now because American companies refused to import dark roast coffee. Can you imagine a life without dark roast?

Enter Howard Schultz, a salesman for a Swedish coffee company who visited Seattle on a whim. There he tasted dark roast drip coffee and espresso drinks for the first time at Starbucks (which then had a measly 5 stores). And he was hooked. He knew what he was going to do with his life.

After failing to purchase Starbucks, he founded his own coffee company, Il Giornale, which did okay for a number of years until the owners of Starbucks retired. Then he merged the two companies and the rest is history. Here are some of the things that are swirling around in my mind:

-If it weren’t for Starbucks, the odds are good that there wouldn’t be any locally owned coffee shops in the US. Heck I may have never had a latte in my life.

-Starbucks was the first company to give health benefits to part time workers.

-Schultz many times went for the clearly superior product even when it meant sacrificing profitability.

-Starbucks is a symbol of the best kind of American capitalism. One where a guy brings a quality product to a willing public, sells it with a conscience and makes a whole mess of money.

One of the central themes of this book is the transition from a startup to a fully managed company. The hardest decision that Schultz makes is to give up responsibility to solid managers. You can watch Starbucks grow from a guy with a dream to it’s IPO.

Take it from someone who used to have a ‘Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks’ bumper sticker. Let them tell their side of the story. I still get my coffee from the local guy. If you’re a budding entrepreneur or a cynical manager who is getting tired of the business, ‘Pour Your Heart Into It’ may just be the book you need to give you a kick in the pants.

Like this book review? I’ve got a whole lot more. Here you go!


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