Vilified with seemingly equal regularity, Starbucks is the caffeinated megachain we hate  to love and love to hate. But are the reasons any good on either side? Inspired by a recent post in defense of the chain from chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz, here’s a look at five reasons to love the world’s most loved mocha merchants.

It Gave Us a Coffee Language

Before Starbucks came along, the most common words used to order a coffee were probably regular and light and sweet. Asking for a latte would have probably earned a sideways glance, and macchiato might get you hauled away in a padded wagon! Thanks to the weed-like spread of that smirking mermaid in the 1990s, however, there’s probably not a person left alive on earth who hasn’t at least heard the word cappuccino, and only a handful more who’ve never managed to taste one. With its thousands of international locations, Starbucks has done more for introducing “light and sweet” people to basic Italian words than Rosetta Stone has!

Without It, Would We Have Specialty Coffee?

Despite our collective grumbling about there being a Starbucks on every corner (I say better a Starbucks than a Tim Hortons), the fact of the matter is that what makes the company so easy to hate is also what makes it easiest for folks like me to love: Starbucks converts the masses into espresso junkies, and those of us dedicated to specialty quality, hand-crafted coffee will take it from there.

Passionate Baristas Are Born Behind Those Counters

I’ve met innumerable passionate, informed, engaged, and excited staff who exude their passion over the counters without shame each time I visit one of their cafes. Just being in the enchantingly aroma cloud of dark roasted beans, whipped cream, and chocolate that seems to seep up from the floor, how could you not love it and send the passion along?

Suddenly It’s OK To Spend Money On Coffee

Coffee’s affordable luxury is largely thanks to the Starbucks relaxed atmosphere and coffee execution, and the increased mainstream acceptance makes the bitter pill of the $2-or-more coffee a bit of an easier swallow. The deliberately grown-up-friendly environment, the fancy foreign words on the menu, the staff trained to address customers as “guests” and cater to their every caffeinated whim: This gives me an intoxicating “you’re-worth-it” attitude that successfully persuades relatively big money out of wallets everywhere. That willingness to shell out more dough than we used to for Starbucks’ has empowered people to seek out the really good stuff, and to pay for it accordingly.

You Always Know What You’re Getting

Even if you’re not crazy about what you’re getting, at least you always know exactly what it’s going to taste like, no matter where you are. The famous dark flavor profile encourages a predictable cup—strong, smoky, intense, roasty—and the impressive espresso machines means consistency from shot to shot, regardless of the baristas’ skill, attention, or mood. Let’s face it: Sometimes you find yourself with a coffee jones while in unfamiliar territory, and all you want or need is a little taste of something recognizable. Starbucks has always, always got your back on this one.

So there you have it.  And for all you Starbucks haters (or perhaps Tim Horton lovers), don’t worry: I’ll let you have your say with a flip side to this post…. after I’ve finished my Grande Salted Caramel Mocha! 🙂 ~ j