American-Sized Coffee — My Guiltiest Pleasure

A short essay on my love-hate relationship with Starbucks

Mitchell Peterson
7 min readJul 21, 2022

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Photo by Gema Saputera on Unsplash

I have a confession; I like Starbucks. But it’s more than a little embarrassing for me to be anywhere — especially abroad — strutting down the street holding a Big-Gulp-sized supercharged caffeine beverage. I try to cover that world-famous logo with my hand and fight the urge to explain to everyone I pass that I am not drinking a triple-shot caramel macchiato with whip cream, it’s just a simple latte.

There’s no need to be embarrassed. It is just coffee. And who the hell cares if I’m drinking some extra sugar whipped peppermint mocha frappuccino hot mess of a beverage. I can drink whatever the hell I want. But I just can’t help but think, “what would my uncles say?”

The answer: “That’s a great-looking amaretto vanilla frappe with extra foam and chocolate sprinkles, tough guy.”

I’m only ordering a coffee with some milk but stepping foot in yet another Starbucks and seeing that green mermaid bitch looking at me brings existential dread.

There’s an inner rural Michigander in me that fights those urges and thinks I should forever simply drink my whiskey straight, my coffee black, and avoid all those fruity umbrella drinks and order a cold beer.

But I fight through it, especially when it comes to coffee because I need an epically large one. European espressos just don’t warm the soul like a twenty-four-ounce belly hug of perfectly brewed java. After all, I’ve been drinking it by the gallon for two decades.

My brothers and I were crushing pot after pot of coffee before middle school, took full thermoses on the bus, and we didn’t even think twice about it. If we went to our grandmother’s, there’d always be a drip pot of Folgers as my massive family came in and out and my grandfather, when he stopped working, perched on the edge of the kitchen island with a mug and a Marlboro.

Pop into our childhood home in the late morning during summer break and you’d find an eleven, nine, and seven-year-old reading comics and chipping away at their third pot of strong coffee. We didn’t have soda in the house, but our mother bought decent Starbucks or Caribou Coffee beans, french vanilla creamer…

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Mitchell Peterson

Freelance writer on my ninth year outside of the US, currently in Prague reading, teaching, and writing on politics, economics, and travel … IG: @mitchellglenn