I dropped by the Starbucks headquarters this morning. It's located at 2401 Utah Avenue South, Seattle, Washington, 98134. I know that I have a few readers curious about going inside, and what there is to see. My visit to the headquarters today was inspired by the new Starbucks (limited time) beverages, the Smoked Butterscotch Latte and Citrus Green Tea Latte, both launching on February 16, 2016. Today was a little different than usual. Starbucks offered me the chance to learn how to make my own drink! So I arrived at the headquarters (which is often called the Starbucks Support Center, or the "SSC") at about 10:00 AM on this grey Seattle day:
One of the first things I did was visit the Starbucks Coffee Gear store. You'll find it on the 8th floor of the Starbucks Support Center. It is open to the public. It's the place where you can buy unusual fun Starbucks items like coasters, child-sized green aprons, mouse pads, pens, hoodies and shirts, tote bags, key chains, and much more. One thing just to mention is that off and on, I receive emails from people who essentially write me something like, "How can I order those Starbucks key chains?". I suppose people email me because they think there's more to the story. As I always mention, there are just two ways to shop at the Starbucks Coffee Gear store. The first is to go in person, Monday through Friday, normal business hours. Anyone can do this: if you're a partner shopping in person, be sure to tell the person ringing you up that you're a partner so you can get your employee discount. If you're a customer like me, this is your only option for shopping at the Starbucks Coffee Gear store. If you are a partner (meaning you work for Starbucks), you have the option of using the online site. Over the years, I've had numerous people contact me and tell me that a visit to the Starbucks Coffee Gear store was scheduled into a family vacation to Seattle!
One of the first things you see as you walk into the actual headquarters is the Starbucks Mission Statement. It is a beautiful thing:
By the way, in order to proceed actually into the headquarters, you will need an escort who works there or, you need to have a badge and be a headquarters employee (or a badged contractor).
Once inside the the headquarters, I headed to Coffee Workshop Nine, which is designed as a coffee training workshop for partners (Starbucks calls their employees 'partners').
My trainer for the morning was Chad Moore, a super nice partner who has been with Starbucks since May 1998. I've known Chad since before this blog. I was glad to see him and so glad he was going to be my latte trainer. The whole experience was fun! It's funny but Chad and Erin (my official escort into the building) were surprised that I didn't know how to steam milk. I said that I love coffee. Black coffee. I don't order a lot of espresso beverages in comparison. I don't have an espresso machine at home. I have the four fundamentals of a great cup of coffee memorized. I can rock a French press. I love my Sowden Softbrew. I can make a pour over. But steaming milk is foreign to me.
At one point I nearly ended up with splattered milk all over me. It was like milk spray. It took more than one try to get good foam on a Flat White. That is not easy! I had one round of foam that looked like soap bubbles. Meanwhile, as I was trying to think about the foam, I kept wanting to look at the temperature because I know I want my drink at 140 degrees. It was too much to both look at the temperature and the milk. Having Chad standing right behind me telling me what do helped enormously. I would need a lot more training to be a barista! I better not quit that day job of mine!
In a Facebook group, I got a lot of questions about this experience: One person wanted to know if I got to keep the apron as a souvenir. Sadly, no. I had to return the apron when I was done. I would have loved my own black apron. One person was confused why or how I was even doing this. I could think of a lot of dynamics that play into this trip, but overwhelming, there's just one simple reason: I have this blog. You could, arguably, just call it "blogger outreach." Starbucks reaches out to various media sites (big or small) in various ways. If you're Refinery29, you get a pretty big exclusive look at the new drinks! Of course, the fact that I'm right in Seattle, helps enormously. Makes it easy for me to stop by! So in sum, just call it "blogger outreach." I got lots of compliments on my flat white! Keep in mind, that was after a few tries and with Chad Moore, an 18-year partner, hovering over me!
After the training on how to make a latte and flat white, we (Erin and I) headed to the Starbucks Honor Wall. I had hoped to find the name of a downtown Seattle ASM, who wears a military spouse apron. At the Starbucks Honor Wall, each military veteran (anyone who has served) and military spouse gets a little round plaque with his or her name on it. Starbucks has a commitment to hire at least 10,000 military veterans (or spouses) by 2018. It is an incredible sight to see. I feel strongly about the Honor Wall. Every military spouse experiences the rockiness of being moved at a whim with his or her spouse, the unpredictable times that person might be home, and the worry of danger to the active duty military person, and much more. Every veteran, whether he or she signed up for a four-year commitment or served 20 years, signed up with a promise to protect or defend, and the unknown future of whether peace, conflict, or war, and again, much more.
If you do get inside the Starbucks headquarters (reminder, you'll need an escort), I recommend visiting the Starbucks Honor Wall.
There is an area of the Starbucks Support Center that has framed, historic Starbucks cards, including prototype cards:
Actually, I didn't get the chance to see the framed cards this trip into the SSC, but it is definitely worth a look, should you have the chance. I have a small collection of Starbucks cards, but there are so many that it's overwhelming to collect. I'm sure there are a few Starbucks cards at the registers right now that I need to add to my collection! If you want to send me a card, find me via the contact form on this site. (Just kidding!)
Also, if you're inside the Starbucks headquarters, the Brand Days 2011 Wall of Cups, is well worth a visit:
In 2011, during the time of festivities for the 40th Anniversary of Starbucks, there was a special tour called "Brand Days." Starbucks used part of their parking garage structure to create a walking tour - kind of like a museum - of the story of the Starbucks brand. The tour featured things like store design from international markets, social media images, concepts of Starbucks sirens that were rejected, and much more. This tour was intended to inspire partners. It was created by Starbucks for partners. Trust me, I felt enormously privileged that I got to do the tour. (I was in a small group of other select customers).
At the end of the tour, there were a bunch of cups with Sharpie pens. Partners were asked to sign a cup. Signing the cup was symbolic of the partner's pledge and commitment to the brand. By the way, I did not sign a cup, since I'm not a partner. That is the short version of the Brand Days Wall of Cups. (This is also an older photo from an earlier trip to the SSC):
I hope you enjoyed this special peek into the Starbucks Support Center!