Historian Studies Starbucks Cultural Impact

Bryant Simon, a Temple University historian, spends his days at Starbucks in the name of scholarly research.

A cup of coffee is just a drink. But a frappuccino is an experience. So believes Bryant Simon, a historian who is searching for the meaning of modern life amid the round tables and comfy sofas of Starbucks coffee shops. Simon, who teaches at Philadelphia’s Temple University, thinks that by spending time at Starbucks — observing the teenage couples and solitary laptop-users, the hurried office workers and busy baristas — he can learn what it means to live and consume in the age of globalization. “What are we drinking, and what does it say about who we are?” Simon asked during a recent research trip to London.

His research has taken him to 300 Starbucks in six countries for a caffeine-fueled opus titled “Consuming Starbucks” that’s due for publication in 2008. He is one of several academics studying a type of 21st century cafe culture — Italian coffee in an American package — that has spread rapidly around the world.

I was part of a longish blogoswarm a couple years ago over coffee and its relation to academe, wherein various professors discussed their addiction to the magic bean. This guy, though, has managed to make a career of it.




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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    I heartily volunteer to write a paper that studies the cultural effect of baseball on society. Of course I would need to spend the next few summers at every baseball park in America, but by God I am willing to make that sacrifice in the name of research!

  2. akdfjo says:

    I heartily volunteer to write a paper that studies the cultural effect of baseball on society

    Mike, you may want to take look at back issues of Nine: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture published by the University of Nebraska Press.

    Baseball Studies is a pretty established discipline of academic inquiry.