A Starbucks found in Rio
  • A Starbucks found in Rio
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Warning: the following may make you feel the full weight of the modern guy/gal's addiction to well-produced, low-cost goods consumed en masse. (Yes, Starbucks.)

Our last night of holiday travel, we were in Ipanema and decided to get a coffee. We'd heard there was a Starbucks in Rio since 2008, and felt compelled (read: coerced) by the Green Mermaid to consume massive amounts of latte.

I don't know where to begin with the irony here. Drinking coffee from an American mega-brand in Brazil is like getting excited to see a "Two-Buck Chuck" Merlot in a grotto in Tuscany...or buying U.S. snow from Eskimos. In fact, the shop was selling a Brasil Blend grown in north Brazil, packaged in Seattle, then sent back to Rio de Janeiro to be sold in the exclusive Barra District in the Zona Sul of Rio.

And I loved it. I was buzzing. This was our first encounter with Starbucks – or any mega-corporate café – in six months. Six months! The sizes were the same: tall, grande, vente. No trenta "bladder killer."

Even so, the standard sizes in Latin America look far smaller than "tall." Brasileiros usually measure their drinks by the milliliter – something specific, scientific and honest. But it was so pleasant to be insatiable again.

As a rainstorm coalesced and began dumping Lagoa, we sipped our lattes and listened to the evening mall entertainment: a Brazilian pianist named Glaucio Christelo was playing rock songs on a baby grand, Nordstrom-guy style – except he was urban-hipster playing Green Day, Coldplay, U2 and Nirvana. He even had mall groupies and a DVD/CD.

We finished our cups. I saved mine as a kind of un-souvenir. Then I spilled residual chocolate syrup on the bedsheets at the Golden Tulip Inn, and became frightfully embarrassed about how deeply the claws of North American superconsumption still remain fastened to my limbic system.

Now I need a trenta.

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