Who doesn’t love Christmas at Starbucks?

Seriously, is there a better time of the year in a Starbucks store? For those of us in Japan, a close second is Sakura season, but I just love Christmas at Starbucks. With all the red flowing around the store, the staff are excited about the season too!
One thing that I really love are the Christmas tree ornaments that are sold every year. I have been collecting them for a long time and as we were decorating our tree today, my husband declared “this isn’t a Christmas tree, it’s a green Starbucks tree!” cuz I made him take off some of those boring round balls so that my Starbucks ornaments could be seen more prominently
I took a few pictures of some of my favorite one’s- new and old!
Please enjoy and leave a comment about which one you like, or even better, if you have a favorite of your own, send us a link. I loved to see it!
Have a wonderful holiday season!

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Halloween book party and tasting party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning my son and I went to our neighborhood Starbucks for a Halloween and Tasting party. Several times a year the Okubo Starbucks has a get together  where the staff entertain the children for an hour with a different theme, during that time the parents can enjoy a tasting party.  The party is limited to 10 kids and then some of the parents join the tasting party. My husband is too embarrassed to join so he always sits in the corner reading or playing something on his phone.

Today is the day was the Halloween party. All of the kids dressed up as well as some of the staff. They read a story to the kids, do a craft, and play a few games. Then at the end they all get some milk to drink! Which is my son’s favorite part.  

The kids at the end of the Halloween party!My son usually is all smiles but he could see his dad at a corner table playing Angry Birds and he wanted to do it too!

While the kids enjoyed their activities, the parents tried their hand at using a coffee press, tasted and enjoyed food pairing with a pumpkin tart and this years anniversary blend.

Pumpkin tart and Anniversary blend

Next we tried using the ceramic hand driper. It was interesting to taste the difference between the coffee even though it was the same beans. I tried. For the last few years I have been interested in how to pour the perfect hand drip coffee. I was lucky today as everyone at the coffee tasting knew me as someone who knows a lot about coffee so they assumed that ment I can make a good cup of coffee.

I wonder if I was closing my eye praying for good tasting coffee?

We poured Autumn Blend and paired it with a chestnut roll.  Now I know why Autumn blend sold out so fast. It is a really nice coffee and easy to drink.  On top of it we got some coffee to take home and a hand made card!

The partners at the Okubo store made these yesterday!

It was a really nice hour at Starbucks this morning. We can’t go to the next one at Christmas since we are going back to America for Christmas but I am looking forward to the next one!

10th Anniversary canisters

This morning another Starbucks bloger in Tokyo posted on twitter a picture of the new 15 year anniversary canisters. That reminded me of the 10 year cans that I have at home. She asked for pictures and/or a blog. So here it is.
The cans are made from tin and came with cookies inside. If I remember correctly the cookies were not that great, but I didn’t buy it for the cookies so I am sure my husband ate them for me. Only the small can has printing on it refereing to the anniversary, but the cans were sold at the same time. I wondered why at that time and still do.
We still use these cans on a daily bases. They are on our kitchen counter and we keep a variety of stuff in them.
I hope you like this blast from the past!

Awaji Island Starbucks

Hi everyone! It has been a long time since I have had time to sit down and write. I am busy finishing my Masters in Education so my blog has had to take a back, back, BACK burner until I finish around the middle of October. BUT I have a few little bit of time this morning so I wanted to share with you a cool Starbucks that my family and I went to at the end of August.

In the past few years, Starbucks Japan has been opening stores at rest areas through-out Japan. A little more than a year ago they opened one on the island just outside of Japan. To get there you have to cross the worlds longest suspension bridge. We make this trip a couple of times a year to visit my father-in-laws home town. This is a very large rest area and has an amazing amount of traffic. When we got out of the car and walked toward the Starbucks my husband complained “Look! There are people lined up out the door.”

When we got into the store there was a lot of staff so the line moved very quickly. We assumed at first that there would be no room to sit but after a few minutes of observations, it seemed that most people were getting their coffee and eats “to-go” and we found a table for all 5 of us easily. To my pleasant surprise, there were two partners that had been transferred to that store from the store near my house. I hadn’t seen them in a long time and even my son was happy to see them! Starbucks is really just like a family! Doesn’t matter how long you haven’t seen them, they still remember your name, your kids name and your drink order! That is true love!!

While there is only seating for about 30 or so, it was never full while we were there. So if you want to spend time sitting and enjoying the view, there will be room inside as well outside! There isn’t a lot of merchandise but that is to be expected of such a small store.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of one of Kansai’s busy stores. I hope after I finish my masters I can start taking you on tours of the different store in the Kansai area! It will be fun to compare the atmosphere at each store!

See you all real soon!

What does your Starbucks look like on a Sunday afternoon?

I’m sitting here with my son waiting for a friend and her husband. That means we need four seats. When we got here we could only get two seats, then we moved to a seat where three could sit. Finally we got a seat were we all can sit. That gave me a look at people hanging out.
Some people are studing English, some are just reading novels
a couple of high school kids have their books open but not much studing is being done. Outside, an insurance lady is working her sales magic.
Even though I always say it, I am always amazed at how Japanese people use this “third place” If I didnt have a three old in tow, I might just order another cup or maybe two and just stay for a few hours. How about you?

What does coffee of the day mean to you!

OK, this has been slowly making me mad and mader each and everyday. During the work week, I take my tumbler to my usual Starbucks in the morning and get a grande coffee of the day. Now, I love my coffee but am always in a hurry so I choose to get a “Coffee of the day” since it takes less time. At first (first several months) this was ok, but it seems lately that every day they are offering the same coffee, Pike Place blend or Bali. I have understood that Starbucks Japan is looking to make their PPB stock pile smaller which is why were ever you go, they are serving it, but come on, at least change one of the coffee’s everyday, or at least offer coffee based on the time of day. Except for PPB, I like them all, but each coffee has a time of day that it is best to drink them. I wish more stores would think far when choosing what to make for the coffee of the day and not what coffee they have too much of.

Starbucks cup art!

Have you ever been having a bad day, or even a day that was just not going as you would like? Sure you have. Then have you ever been to a Starbucks on days like that? Sure you have. For me, those types of days might mean I got to Starbucks more than once. Then, on one of those days when you get your drink have you ever been surprised to find that someone behind the bar has taken an extra few seconds to draw a smile, write “Have a nice day” or something even more creative? Maybe or maybe not, but if you have you can attest to how that simple and small gesture can make your bad day go away in the drop of a hat. That is why I love Starbucks. It isn’t just about the coffee. Coffee is the just medium that lets you connect with wonderful people!

To me a Starbucks cup is art in itself. I want to blow up this picture and put it in a frame somewhere in our house, but my husband just laughs at my love for Starbucks art!

Yesterday my family went to our neighborhood Starbucks for our late morning break before continuing on about our day. Our son brought with him a Pokemon ball. Lucky for him the Barista behind the bar really likes to draw on the cups! This gave me an idea for this pictorial of some of the cups that I have gotten over the past few months that really made me smile! My son get’s most of the Starbucks love lately, but that is always great since it makes him smile to see something on his cup.

If you like this series I will look in my hard drives for some more cuz I know I have a ton from over the last 13 years here in Japan. Happy coffee hunting my friends!

Why I love my Starbucks Japan

I haven’t been writing lately. Sorry about that folks! I have been busy traveling from Japan to my family’s farm in the wonderful rural area in the state of Oregon! The only problem with living that far out in the middle of no where is that it takes about 30 minutes to reach a true Starbucks, none of these grocery store Starbucks stands for me.

When I go home I spend a lot of my time shopping. I always have a big list of things that I want to get and bring back for myself as well as my family. That gives me a oppertunity to visit a variety of Starbucks. This time it really hit me, there is a lack of connection between the partners and customers in most of these stores. I guess you might say “they don’t know you”, there is nothing to start a conversation with and so on. And you might be correct if I was going to any other coffee company. But I expect more with my Starbucks.

While we were in Oregon, I used my Starbucks Japan original Sakura tumbler every time I went for my daily hit of coffee. Not once did any partner take a couple extra seconds to look at what they where pouring the wonderful Starbucks coffee into. That made me feel like a walking wallet. And more importantly longing to get back to my Starbucks in Japan. When I returned to Japan we went to a Starbucks in Kobe. I have never been to that store but used my new tumbler from America. The first comment I got was from the 20 something girl behind the register. Then she showed it to another partner, in the end all of the partners had gathered to look at the different tumbler from America. Extreme? Maybe. Passion about their work? Yes, definitely!  How could you not feel great about that experience? I will be going back to that store the next time I get coffee in Kobe!

What is my point? I have been reading Howard Schultzs’ new book “Onward”. He talks a lot about a company culture that has lost touch with the customers. I can see improvements from the last time I was in America, but from a customer standpoint, that first experience is so important. Starbucks Co. has a lot to learn from their little brother Starbucks Japan Ltd. and maybe even other Starbucks from around the world. Japan has perfected the meaning of “customer service”. When ever I go to from my daily fix of Starbucks, I end up feeling connected not only to my coffee but also to the people who make it so wonderful.

As always, please leave your comments! I would love to hear about your experiences in Starbucks from around the world as well as in your own country! Have a wonderful coffee day friends!

Origami personal drip Starbucks coffee

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The other day I was fliping through my co-op shopping flyer. For those of you outside Japan that is a grocery store chain that also has home delievery. I saw they had two types of Starbucks coffee avaliable from that week so I had to order it. When it came this week I was super excited to share it with fellow Starbucks and all around coffee nut Kevin.
Starbucks has an instant coffee but has yet to get into these personal drip type products available and very popular in Japan. You just pour water slowly over the top into the coffee pouch and there you have it, a perfect cup of coffee.
As for the taste, just as good as any Starbucks coffee you make at home. Maybe better that the VIA but not as good as getting it at a Starbucks store. Cost? It comes five to a box and was about ¥400 or about $4.50. I will look for it in the grocery store next week and let you know where you can get it!
Have a great day!

Customer satisfaction

This morning my family and I left the house early so we could get to Osaka for an early morning appointment. Not knowing if there would be a traffic jam due to construction on the highway we stopped at a Starbucks before we got on the freeway. Boy was that a mistake!

This Starbucks is the same Starbucks that I lost track of time last week with my good friend. It is the same Starbucks I use to go to before finding “my” favorite store in Okubo. This is why I am still miffed that this happened. It is normally a good store but for some reason something wasn’t working right this morning. This is actually a popular store in our area since they have a wonderful outside sitting area that gets some wonderful morning sun, as well tons of inside seating.

This is what happened. I went into the store instead of using the drive through since I wanted to use my tumbler. There was only one person at the register, this person was also wearing a headset for the drive-through. The third person was fussing around in the back ground with coffee and other food items but wasn’t filling orders. There were several people in line as well as several cars outside.

When it was my turn to order, I ordered my coffee and a juice for my son. From the beginning to the end this Starbucks partner re-asked me my order a total of 5 times. Each time repeating it incorrectly. Finally, the Batista behind the bar came over and put my order into the register for me. For what ever reason he couldn’t get it right. And how did that make me, the customer feel? Like my order doesn’t matter to the company.  Especially since his apology was robotic like at best.

Customer service is one of my main criteria for determining if I will be returning to a certain store any time soon. At best, the partner behind the register should make you feel pretty darn good for choosing to come in that day. At worse it should there should at least be quick Hello and coffee with a smile. After all I just chose to spend almost 500 yen for coffee. Part of that cost I figure is for quality service which is why I choose Starbucks over other places.

The question of the day is will I be going back to that store any time soon? Yes, I will give them a second chance.

I am interested in what things you find most important when being served coffee? Leave your thoughts!

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