When future historians look for ways to illustrate how late 20th/early 21st-century hyper-capitalism worked they might well reach for an old Starbucks coffee cup. Starbucks began life as a small coffee shop in Seattle in 1971. In the 1990s it embarked on a global expansion, with almost 17,000 stores opening in 55 countries. Such was the chain's success that it began to diversify out of coffee and started selling books and music.
Earlier this month, it unveiled a new logo which dropped the name Starbucks altogether. And now the company has brought out a super-sized cup which contains more liquid than a typical human stomach. The 961ml "Trenta" appears to be purely a commercial innovation. Starbucks fears losing custom to McDonald's and 7-Eleven which serve soft drinks in even larger receptacles. So in four decades, Starbucks has evolved from a trendy West Coast coffee emporium into a ruthlessly profit-driven distributor of huge vats of sugary soft drinks.
Whether that journey can be described as progress depends on your point of view. Starbucks' original patrons probably doubt it. Those who enjoy drinking ice tea by the litre will presumably be happy. Whatever: we are about to discover whether it is possible to super-size the already super-sized.