Based in emerging communities of political and cultural disenchantment, coffeehouses of the 1960s were islands of sanctuary and resistance that provided a space for exchanging ideas, fantasies and propositions, challenging old notions and confronting new ones.
These new American espresso cafés paralleled a seismic shift in worldly visions that defined the 1970s and the great social and political upsurge that was happening then. Not only did they begin popping up in cities along the Pacific and North Atlantic coasts, but also in university towns throughout the country as shifting populations, anointed by the bean, brought the love affair with the new coffee culture they had discovered in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York.
The coffeehouse movement of the 1970s was the absolute antithesis of the fast-food franchised world that had grown so rapidly in post-war America. But a decade on, things began to change as the political upsurge of the '70s became more quiescent in the '80s. Young professionals moved back into the cities, abandoning the suburbs. And suddenly leases for storefront properties began to mount. Once property became expensive, the independent cafés that were located in many urban neighbourhoods found themselves in trouble. The almost communal atmosphere that could be maintained when rents were cheap now became subject to the laws of economics. Some cafés survived this difficult process, others didn't.
Between the end of the war in Vietnam and the beginning of the conflagration in Iraq, the United States still had a captivating pull on millions of dewy-eyed youths around the world who craved the Technicolor dream they saw unfold on the giant screens of their local cinemas. If some felt that to eat a McDonalds hamburger or drink a Starbucks latte was to vicariously taste the delights of a globalised future, that subliminal message had been transmitted to them in a million different ways through TV, music and films, created and packaged to sell and promote the good life a fantasy America could offer.
In 1996 Starbucks opened its first location outside North America in Japan and two years later took over 65 shops in the United Kingdom. As of 2012, Starbucks had over 17,000 stores in North America and countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Central and South America. In 2013, the company was estimated to be worth over 32 billion dollars.