No, I have not lost all sensations in my taste buds.......
Having spent two weeks in and around Shanghai (business), I was extremely grateful for the presence of this coffee chain. Hotel coffee at breakfast was from a superauto machine, so was confined to a sweetened espresso, to keep the caffeine headaches at bay. Starbucks were in abundance, with "Costa" usually a few doors away. While the coffee was nothing special, it was consistent. The shops were in prominent locations, easy to access, clean, and had the menu in English. The staff spoke English, and provided very good service. Patronage was high, and their flavoured tea drinks very popular.
Unfortunately, I did not get to visit the following, as I had little free time:
My colleague (who had also spent over a month in the USA late last year), insisted upon visiting the store on a daily basis. He found them most consistent in the States, and able to cater to his kids as well. I did not challenge this, as after the numerous lunches and dinners, coffee became a necessity. The continual toasts during a meal, can lead to an excess consumption of the favoured beverage. Luckily (for me) it tended to be Australian red wine. The rice wine some favour is an acquired taste, and requires copious amounts of coffee the next day. Needless to say, we were grateful for their presence in China. The best part of the experience was the lack of your typical egotistical (read: scruffy, arrogant, unshaven etc..) barista.
In QLD, the local Starbucks are in good locations and are well patronized by the tourists. The power of the brand is formidable, but they never understood our market, and how quickly it evolves. They still have a lot of potential to grow in other countries, so the Aussie derision towards the brand should be assessed accordingly.
On my return, I was at the Sydney domestic Terminal (T2) at breakfast. I went looking for a coffee and was spoiled for choice. Every shop seemed to have a LM machine. I found a Toby Estate shop with an interesting blend on display. I ordered it and was told they only have their usual blend, which I agreed to. I then stepped back and watched the prep. Needless to say the flat white was a disappointment, lacking flavour, and way too milky. Not sure if they are a franchise, but this goes to show, good coffee "can" be elusive in Australia. In all honesty, the coffee served in Starbucks, Shanghai was better.