Funny Business with Jane Wells

Starbucks' Java Mojo And Yes, I'm A Genius On Housing Crash

I'm back from vacation, and here's one thing I learned: teaching your kids to drive is a little easier, but a lot more stressful, than potty training ever was.

I also spent time at various Starbucks , where I noticed the help was decidedly more talkative. This is part of the company's new strategy to get its java mojo back. Tim Bueneman of McAdams Wright Ragen in SBUX's hometown of Seattle has actually checked out some of the new coffee makers the company is installing. He even took a few pictures on his cell phone (by the way, the days of highly-paid reporters are waning...everyone with a picture-taking cellphone is a journalist...).

Bueneman says the first photo shows the new "Mastrena" machine which will be in 30 percent of the stores by the end of this year. It has a digital timer and grinds beans individually for each cup. Bueneman says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz calls the machines "breakthrough technology" which deliver greater consistency. "Note in the first picture how much lower this machine is than the existing machines," Bueneman says. "It allows the barista and the customer to see and chat with each other. I found this to be a nice change..."

But the more interesting new machine may be the "Clover," shown in the second picture, which uses a French Press. Bueneman said it takes a little longer to make the coffee this way, but he found it "extremely flavorful...much more mild and smooth than SBUX's other brands and should be a hit with customers who dislike SBUX strong flavors ('Charbucks')." Count me in on that one.

As they say, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut in the forest. Check out this story I did almost three years ago exactly on appraisal inflation.It's posted on the Miller Samuel website, because I interviewed CEO Jonathan Miller for the story back in April 2005. By the way, I think I liked my hair better back then.

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