Wednesday, August 19, 2009


McDonald’s recently came out with a new line of coffee beverages to meet the ever growing need people have to pump themselves full of caffeine. I suppose the goal is to compete with Starbucks. They market the new line of coffee as McCafe. I am constantly amused by McDonald's marketing. They just take a word and add "Mc" to it and get a new word. It's not a nugget, it's a McNugget. It's not a muffin, it's a McMuffin. I think the McGriddle amuses me the most.

“This bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is good, but it seems too heathy?”

“What if instead of english muffins, we used Pancakes?”

“I like it but something’s missing.”

“What if we injected the pancake with sugary syrup?”

“Find a way to etch our logo right into the sandwich itself and we got ourselves a hit.”

I haven’t been in a McDonald’s for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not above eating things that are bad for me. If Heather weren’t around I would be living off a steady diet of:

Pizza—if you add pepperoni, all four food groups are represented, right?

Doritos—how many different flavors can they spray on a chip?

Capri Sun—If I can get the straw through that little plastic spout.

What makes McDonald’s (and the other major fast food chains) unappealing to me is their particularly egregious business practices. I’ve seen too many documentary films to stomach fast food. I recently saw Food Inc. at an independent movie theatre and a lot of the imagery of animal abuse and poor working conditions is heartbreaking. Some other good resources are documentaries like Super Size Me and books like Fast Food Nation and Don’t Eat This Book. Above all I just don’t want to hand over my hard earned money to a corporate system that stresses quantity over quality. I'm sure this all reeks of East Coast Liberal Elitism. Well I apologize. I guess it's just the type of media I'm surrounding myself with. If you think I'm annoying, you should spend some time with Heather. She's twice the food snob I am.

Against my better judgement, I wanted to try McDonald’s line of premium coffee drinks just to see how they measured up. I wouldn’t let myself do it though. I figured if I caved and spent the buck or two on the drink, McDonald’s would just use it to euthanize a kitten or bludgeon a panda to death with a giant Big Mac. It’s an irrational assumption but it seems like something they might try.

While scanning through my weekend circulars, I came across an ad for McCafe with several coupons for drinks including a free latte or mocha and a free iced latte or mocha. I logically worked through this new development and came to the conclusion that if I used the coupon and got the drink, my conscience would be clear. I wouldn’t be giving McDonald’s my money; if anything, they would lose money. Not much, but some. I ran this theory by Heather (she’s more contemptuous of fast food than I am) and my logic checked out. QED.

After work, I strolled into the nearest McDonald’s (1st ave. and 69th st. Manhattan) and stood in line. The place was particularly chaotic. I felt the urge to walk out but if I did that I probably wouldn’t come back. You only have one chance to win me over McDonald’s; make it count. I finally got to the front of the line to the surly lady taking orders. I can’t say I blame her. I can’t imagine she’s making much more than minimum wage. It didn’t help her mood any that I’m just some punk coming in with a coupon, but I didn’t care. I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes for my iced latte and I’ll be damned if I’m not getting it. So I order.

I’ve worked with automatic espresso machines before but I found the one they used to be very strange. Not only does it spit out the espresso shot, it also spits out the milk. The lady just filled my cup with ice and pressed a button and out came my latte—perfectly measured and ready to go. It even spit out the little bit of froth that comes on top. McDonald’s fascinates me. They will take lattes and cappuccinos, which are traditionally craft beverages, and streamline the process to the push of a button. It represents the good and bad of America.

The lady handed me my free beverage. I thanked her and bid her good day. Then I tried my drink. It was fine. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it was fine. It was on a par with something you would get a Dunkin Donuts. The thing that took away from the experience was the fact that I was drinking through a regular McDonald’s straw—the kind with the circumference of a dime that are designed to bring sugary soda and shamrock shakes from the cup to your face in record time. I tried to sip slowly and analyze objectively but the straw made it hard.

The whole experience was pretty much what I would expect from McDonalds. I give them a lot of credit for their ad campaign but as a coffee consumer in their key demographic, I don’t want to go out for coffee to a place that reeks of burgers and fries. I still have another coupon for a free hot beverage, but I’ll probably just let it expire. I’d rather spend my money at a smaller place with a more skilled staff that knows a thing or two about crafting a decent beverage.


Natalie said...

I agree, 100%. McDonalds just isnt my cup of tea... or coffee in this case.

Anonymous said...

There was a blind research on the taste of coffee a year or two back, including Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and many other brands. Dunkin Donuts won hands down over Starbucks and other competitors. Unfortunately, there is no Dunkin Donuts around my neighborhood or my office. Otherwise, I'd love to try their coffee.

Mcdonald's Canada gave away free coffee for two weeks earlier this year. I had a few of them. It was surprisingly better than I thought. I wouldn't mind them at all. And it's cheaper than Starbucks:)

I wrote a story about Starbucks iced coffee vs Mcdonalds iced coffee just over a month ago. Though I prefer the Starbucks one, I think the Mcdonald's iced coffee is quite decent. You got what you paid for i guess:)

Great post. Thanks for sharing!
Tana from

Sasha said...

I tried my first (and last) McDonald's hot latte last week. First of all, it comes sweetened, which I really don't appreciate because I don't usually put sugar in my coffee/tea. The latte had an overall plastic-y texture and tasted like a paste diluted with water.
And the thing I disliked the most were the hair trimmings that surfaced on my drink... : /
That's McDonald's for you...

Great post!

Kate S said...

I'm not a fan of coffee, so I can't help at all. And Heather is entitled to food snobbery - we once went to Friendly's and got our food before the drinks. Now, it was Friendly's, where normal people go for ice cream and not food for good reason, but it was Marathon and we were hungry. She's entitled, is all I'm saying.

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