How the Starbucks Siren Became Less Naughty

[update] Starbucks logo changes again.

You are probably here because you looked closely at the Starbucks logo and were a little confused about what is depicted on it. Is it a mermaid? What are those things that she is holding up with her hands? Wasn’t the logo different before? What’s the history of it?

I asked those questions myself and did a little bit of digging. My research started with a book that I had, called A Dictionary of Symbols by J.E. Cirlot. In it there was a chapter about Sirens.

Basically, from what I gathered from different sources, including that book, there is a lot of confusion between the different mythological half-women. Typically they are called Sirens – both the half-bird/half-woman and the half-fish/half-woman varieties. The fish type are usually called Mermaids. Both types according to the ancient Greeks were in the business of seducing mariners with songs and promises of sex and then killing them, but Hans Christian Andersen and Disney mostly made everybody forget that.

The whole sex-symbol status of mermaids hinges on the question which part is “woman” – upper or lower. “The other type of mermaid” that hapless Fry was referring to would have problems attracting suitors, of course. And how do you do it with the normal type?

Wise mythologists came up with the answer, of course. And the answer is a two-tailed mermaid sometimes called a Melusine.

The book had an old engraving of a two-tailed mermaid. It reminded me of the Starbucks Siren, but back then I did not realize that the original Starbucks logo had a slightly altered version of that engraving in the original brown cigar band-shaped logo.

Notice that the graphic designer removed the belly button, the unattractive shading around the bulging tummy of the 15th century siren and merged the tail-legs to remove the suggestion of naughty bits. The logo Siren also smiles a little while its 15th century doppelganger is looking rather grim. Other than that it’s clear that this is exactly the image that he or she was using.

According to uspto.gov “[Starbucks] mark consists of the wording “Starbucks Coffee” in a circular seal with two stars, and the design of a siren (a two-tailed mermaid) wearing a crown”.

Here’s the “cigar band” logo from which I took the image above. The original hippie Starbucks owners did not sell espresso drinks, but mostly sold coffee beans, tea and spices. Today Starbucks sells liquor and ice cream, but no spices if you don’t count the cinnamon gum and the stuff on the condiment table.

The next, more familiar green iteration of the logo has a more attractive stylized siren. The chest is hidden, but the belly button is still there.

Here is the current logo. They cropped the siren image so that only a hint of the tails is visible. I asked hourly partners at Starbucks and friends, and none of them could figure out what those things to the side of Siren’s head were.

Lately I’ve stopped seeing pictures of the Siren on Starbucks mugs – they seem to favor just the word “Starbucks”. I also started seeing the new type of the siren as part of store decoration and on coffee packaging. She only has one tail. I guess the family-unfriendly image of a fish-woman spreading her tails is on its way out.

[update] Here’s a picture of the new siren:

The brown Siren logo can still be found on merchandize sold at the original Pike Place Market Starbucks in Seattle. The logo is altered though – instead of a “cigar band” design it uses just a circle logo. Cigar band logo mugs and coffee jars can still be found on eBay for upwards of $50 per mug and $200 per coffee jar. I am still looking for anything bearing an “Il Giornale” (a company founded byHoward Schultz that later ended up buying out Starbucks with the help of none other than Bill Gates Sr.) logo.

[Update]
Dear Boing Boing readers – you might enjoy other sections of this blog such as Gastronomic Adventures and 100 Views of the Empire State Building.

[Update]
I was alerted to another article that explores the Siren’s symbolism. I haven’t used it in my research, but it is very thorough.

[Update] The whole logo history is described pretty well in Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. The book is full of other Starbucks trivia: if I remember correctly, it states that Howard Schultz is a close friend of Yanni.

[Update]

I received some information from Doug Fast, the designer behind the green logo. He also graciously sent me some rare examples of the logo, for which I am extremely thankful.

“I am the guy who designed the green SBUX logo. The original brown SBUX logo was designed in 1971 by my employer before I started working for him in January 1974. ( I still work there as a designer) The design company was then called Heckler/ Bowker, here in Seattle. Bowker (the company copy writer) was one of the three original founders of SBUX and left Heckler/ Bowker in 1984 to take on SBUX full time. (there were 5-6 stores at that time) The other two founders were; Jerry Baldwin and Zev Siegal. Heckler/Bowker came up with the Starbucks name and Heckler came up with the first (brown) logo. The other name strongly suggested was Pequod, but lost out to Starbucks.

The original SBUX store was NOT in the Public Market or in the Arcade as people think. It was at the corner of Western Avenue & Virginia, just north, across the street from the Public Market at the foot of the steep hill going up to 1st Avenue, and opened it’s doors in March 1971. I have a photo of it and also a drawing of it that was on an SBUX Christmas card from 1977.

The first retail Starbucks coffee drink concept store was originally called Il Giornale, and located on 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle. There was only one of these stores ever. I designed the logo for that in 1985-86, plus the coffee bag packaging, and still have the stationary, bags, and cup designs in my sample file. Howard Schultz was still an employee of SBUX at that time, not the owner, as I’ve seen said in previous blog info. here.

The reason only ONE Il Giornale store ever existed was because of the purchase of SBUX by Howard and his investers, and because the SBUX name and logo had so much capital already, they changed Il Giornale back to SBUX and wanted a more reproducable SBUX design, to go national.

I did the green “full siren” logo with a stronger, simpler, read for reproduction. The SBUX type was HAND DRAWN and based on the typeface, Franklin Gothic (this was pre-computer, folks) and had to be drawn so it bent well, around the circle. We submitted the logo to Howard, one with a red color and one in a green color. He picked the green color option.

In 1992 we had to blow up the siren to eliminate the spread, so called suggestive tails, so that’s the version you see today.

I still have most of the original concept work for the creation of this logo in one of my big sketchbooks. To me at the time, it was just another logo job to do. Who would have thought I’d be sick of seeing it all over the place. It isn’t one of my best logos.”

Original stores from the old coffee bag:

The original “cigar band” logo:

Il Giornale logo:

Green “bellybutton” logo

One of the newer coffee bags that reimagines the siren:

New “cigar band” logo with covered up nipples and cleaner lines:

New plastic stirrer / plug in the shape of the siren:

Old logo at one of the first (from what I hear it’s not the “original” location) stores at the Pike Market in Seattle

original-starbucs-logo

starbucks-pike-market

Did reading this article inspire you to write a poem about Starbucks? You can use Rhymebuster, the algorithmic rap generator. Turns out a lot of things rhyme with Starbucks (other than sucks).


TT: Planetdoes News

While buying coffee at hidden Starbucks I browsed through the little pamphlets that they have next to condiments and stirring sticks (did you notice that they have Splenda now?). What have I learned? Firstly, I learned that a Starbucks grunt’s official title is “hourly partner”. Cordwainer Smith’s rhyme comes to mind : “I need a temporary dog / For a temporary job / On a temporary place / Like Earth!” I kind of collect peculiar corporate job titles, as I’ve mentioned at the end of an earlier Thought Tally.

Secondly I learned that you can come into any Starbucks and ask for complimentary coffee grounds. As it turns out, coffee grounds make an excellent nitrogen fertilizer for your garden. I wonder if Starbucks coffee is a good fertilizer – it sure tastes that way.

***

Why I drink the Starbucks fertilizer? Because my lunch break is short and Joe’s is in the Village. By the way, recently I’ve learned that there’s another good coffee place called Ninth Street Espresso. I need to pay them a visit.

***

I also need to some other coffee and caffeine news. There’s a new trend in espresso making. The innovative barristas started cutting off the bottoms of portafilters. This lets them notice any minute imperfections in packing of grinds and have outstanding quality control of the extraction. It also looks cool as hell. I am thinking about doing the same with one of my spare portafilters.

I learned this interesting tidbit because these days there are several outstanding blogs kept by super high quality coffee house operators. There’s Victrola Coffee, Blue Bottle Clown College and Tonx Dot Org. I suggest that you subscribe to their feeds unless you can’t stand heartbreakingly beautiful photos of artisanal caffeinated drinks.

***

In other news I seem to be totally addicted to matcha tea. I got some awesome “thick tea” from Japan and it rocks.

Caffeinated Bubble Trouble

It’s a proven fact : bubbles make caffeinated beverages better. Take a crappy tonic drink from Thailand, add carbonation, introduce it in Europe and the US and bam – you are a billionaire. Introduce espresso (simplistically speaking a very concentrated coffee with a foam of sugars, proteins and oils on top) and cappuccinos (add foamed milk to an espresso) in America on industrial basis – and bam – you almost a billionaire.

Seems like the next logical step is tea. You see, Japanese have this tea ceremony thing. Never being a big fan of tea, but being a Japanophile at heart, I always wanted to try that. Unfortunately to this day I haven’t, but I definitely tried some tea that is used in the ceremony. They were selling it in a booth in Kyoto alongside with ice cream.

Japanese tea ceremony involves two kinds of tea, “thick” and “thin”. From what I understand the difference mainly in the dilution and the quality of tea. I like stronger flavors, like espresso and scotch, so I prefer to make thick tea. Making is very simple. You take some high quality powdered tea called Matcha and put it into a bowl. You pour some hot water on top (I use the water from my espresso machine’s hot water spigot). Then you take a special whisk called chasen that is made by splitting a single piece of bamboo and whip your beverage up, kind of like making shaving lather with those old fashined shaving whisks.

You get a radioactive green liquid that is absolutely loaded with green tea flavor, caffeine and and antioxidants. I already went through a package of medium cheaper Matcha, I think I’ll order some of the higher quality stuff as well.

Here’s how Matcha is served in Japan, with regular tea and sweets. The one on the right is wrapped in a pickled leaf of sakura.

Here’s what I just made for myself:

Drink At Joe’s

Believe it or not, but finally there’s a coffee place in Manhattan that I can recommend. It is hard to believe that this lasted for so long. Read this famous NYT article by William Grimes to understand just how miserable the situation was. So when livejournal user mityanyc first told me about this new place I was a bit skeptical, but it turned out to be the real deal.

The cafe is somewhat unimaginatively called “Joe” and looks just like any other espresso place in the Village. A small space with a few tables barnacled with PowerBooks toting hipsters and paper grading NYU professors, a shelf with pre-packed coffee beans, a large espresso machine, a couple of commercial grinders and a counter full of pastries.

What sets this place apart is the fact that the owner, Joe Jonathan, actually spent some time researching the subject of proper espresso drink making. The machine is a La Marzocco. The coffee – from a very high quality roaster and is ground to order. The tamper (I think it was an ErgoTamper) perfectly fits the portafilter and the barrista actually knows how to use it. And guess what – every latte is served with a rosetta.

For the purposes of this review I ordered an espresso ristretto and a small latte. The latte was perfect – “microfoam“, rosetta, sweet tasting milk. Very tasty. Espresso was passable – good amount of crema, not too bitter. The color of the crema was brown, without overextracted whitish inclusions, but also without “tiger striping” and that brown reddish glow. A very respectable result, similar to what I get at home most of the time. With a few tries and very fresh shipment of Schomer’s beans I get tiger striping/flecking and the espresso tastes better.

I wanted to buy some beans to review, but they did not have any espresso roast left.

While I stood outside taking a picture, two men walked by me, and one pointed to “Joe” and said to the other: “ah, so that’s the place that everyone’s talking about”. Indeed.

Joes is located at 141 Waverly Pl., it’s just past Waverly Restaurant (see picture at the bottom of this post) that looks like the diner where Seinfeld characters hung out. The closest subway station is West 4th Street on IND. 6th Ave line.

Ach, We Call It Coffee With Milk Around Here, Ya Latte Drinking Surrender Monkey

After many, many tries I think I am finally getting closer to figuring out “latte art” – making patterns on the surface of espresso crema with specially steamed milk. Here’s my best attempt to date:

It’s a weird hybrid of a rosetta and an apple.

To see much better examples of latte art, see this outstanding guide or just look over google’s results.

David Schomer has a commercial video for sale (which is terribly overpriced – $49.95 for 18 minutes), but fortunately there are a few free demonstrations out there.

I have to warn you, watching these is absolutely hypnotic :

http://www.coffeegeek.com/video/artigiano.mov
http://www.coffeegeek.com/tempphoto/sammy.mov
http://www.latteart.org/latteart.htm (click on “demo” for the movies).

Once I figure out the process completely I’ll post my own tutorial.

I Need 150 mg of Trimethylxanthine IV Push Stat!

Recently I visited New York offices of a certain Redmond based corporation. The corporation in question always has free snacks and soft drinks in its numerous kitchens (the home campus having an especially fancy selection at that).

Their office coffee machine fascinated me even more than “Colombian Supremo” vs “Colombien La Vereda” K-Cups and content of “Milds” in Mother-Parkers’ packets. (As a side note I’d like to add this rumor that Tim Horton’s coffee made by Mother Parkers is so addictive that some people think it contains cocaine).

Anyway, the Redmondsoft coffee machine is made by Flavia and uses packets that look like miniature iv bags:

I asked to keep one as a souvenir – they were out of coffee and this is actually a hot chocolate packet. The coffee packets were probably all injected by employees. They also had tea packets which were smaller in size.

Perky Stuff

I’ve made coffee in almost every which way, except percolated. I also never owned a percolator. Alt.coffee news group FAQ which I always regarded as the highest authority in all things caffeinated, seriously disses the French-invented percolator. On the other hand, people who actually drank percolated coffee usually have good things to say about it. Because of that I think I’ll hunt for a nice percolator specimen on eBay. A glorious Art Deco instrument in chrome and Bakelite. Even if I won’t like it’s coffee making characteristics, it will remain in my collection as a sculpture.


(This particular auction seems to be reflectoporn free.

Dead Programmer On Coffee

often tells me that I should move to Seattle. But there is one reason why I would actually want to move there. And that reason is Espresso Vivace.

You see, this dude Schomer served in the Army as a metrologist. No, not a meteorologist. A metrologist, a person who measures stuff for a living. When he became a civilian again he decided to apply some of his skills to making espresso.

Good espresso is very hard to make. It’s no secret, really. And it’s rather well known what you need to do to make good espresso. To oversimplify things you need:

a) very fresh, properly roasted high quality coffee beans
b) pure water with a certain degree of hardness
c) a good quality burr grinder with very fine grind adjustment
d) a La Marzocco espresso maker with perfectly adjusted for water temperature and pressure
e) a perfectly fitted espresso tamper (such as one made by Reg Barber)
f) a thick walled ceramic cup
and
g) a barrista who knows what he or she is doing.

Now, the barrista must be able to do the following things:
a) correctly adjust the grinder and grind enough beans for one shot. This is a tricky trial and error process – the grinder must be adjusted depending on ambient temperature and humidity.
b) fill the portafilter very evenly with the correct amount of coffee grinds and tamp them down with enough force
d) make sure that the group doesn’t have enough time to cool down
e) place the group into the machine and press the brew button, shutting it off after a correct period of time
f) judge the quality of the resulting espresso shot and throw it out and make a new one if it’s no good
g) keep the machine in immaculate state of cleanliness

All of these steps are important. David Schomer came up with a way to measure and reduce already small temperature fluctuations in La Marzocco machines. He also added extra cooling fans to his grinders to prevent coffee from heating up when ground. He custom made ergonomic perfectly fitted tampers. He measured, modified hardware and technique and then measured again, sharing his secrets with the world.

Right now I am between espresso machines. When my last machine gave up the ghost (word to the wise, don’t buy any consumer grade Nuova Simonelli machines. If they die, you won’t be able to get any service for them) I decided to get nothing other than a used single group La Marzocco. I can’t afford a new one as it costs around 6 grand, but used ones can be had for as little as $1000. One of the problems is of course that it uses 220V electricity, but I’d be willing to pay an electrician to install a 220V outlet for me. Of course some lucky bustard got an experimental 110V machine, but no such luck for me. Besides, I want the real thing. I am horribly tempted to get an ECM Giotto machine that comes recommended by Schomer himself though…

Nah, I don’t want to leave New York just because there no good espresso places here. It’s cheaper just to make my own. Or even one day I might open the real Dead Programmer’s Cafe here. Maybe if I find a partner..

This all kind of reminds me – I am all out of coffee beens. Time to order some more.

Another Post from cubicle filled corridors of the Newscorp Building.

We tender this premium coffee for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the deadprogrammer’s collection to you 33.

Recently a commercial Bunn coffeemaker in our office kitchen was replaced with an automatic Keurig B2003 machine that uses K-cups. K-cups are a neat technology, but not suitable to good coffee preparation. Cffee from k-cups tastes like coffee prepared in athletic cups (because it gets very stale). On the other hand, conventional Bunn machine was actually very good, but we had the most foul prepackaged coffee. To this day I have one package of that coffee hanging on the wall of one cubicle. Check it out:

I new there was something weird in that coffee. “Milds”! What the hell are “milds”? Judging by taste it is probably tobacco. Or dried dog crap. But then, what else what did I expect from a company called “Mother-Parkers”? Hey, these motherparkers even have a website.

There is an OU symbol on the package. Milds must be kosher.

Box O’ Joy

I was always fascinated by the concept of a modern beer keg. Who invented it? Who could come up with such ingenious technology? Google is mum on the subject.

Wine sold in boxes is also an interesting approach to packaging beverages. But I’ve seen something even more bizarre in a local Dunkin Donuts. They sell brewed coffee in a box.

It’s called Box O’ Joe
.
The damn thing is huge. I think I’ll buy one as a decoration for my cubicle.