10 things you didn’t know about Starbucks

Black-and-white Starbucks Pike Place original store exterior

Test your coffee knowledge with Starbucks fun facts. In honor of the coffee company’s 50th anniversary, here are ten things you might not know about Starbucks – from the true story behind the Starbucks siren logo, unique store locations, to winning a Grammy and more.

1. The story of the Starbucks siren logo

Black-and-white original Starbucks logo sign from Pike Place store

Co-founders Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Zev Siegl opened the first Starbucks in Seattle's Pike Place Market on March 30, 1971. The name was inspired by author Herman Melville’s famous novel, Moby-Dick (Starbuck was the name of the first mate on the ship, the Pequod). After settling on a name, next up was to create a logo.

While scouring old marine books a mysterious, nautical figure called to them, a twin-tailed siren. Starbucks has two connections to the seafaring world, Seattle is a port city, and coffee often travels long distances across the water to get to us. Over time, Starbucks has given the Siren a few makeovers, but she remains as alluring as ever. You can learn more about the story of the Siren here.

2. And the Grammy goes to…Starbucks!

Ray Charles album cover on table next to Starbucks cup

In 2004, Starbucks and Concord Records teamed up to co-produce, market and distribute a groundbreaking album with Ray Charles, “Genius Loves Company.” At a time when duet albums were not commonplace, Charles was paired with legendary guest artists including Norah Jones, Diana Krall, James Taylor, Elton John, Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt. The landmark album went on to receive eight Grammy® Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year, and was certified multi-platinum with worldwide sales of more than 5 million copies.

3. Starbucks has its own coffee farm

Entry lobby of Hacienda Alsacia

Yes, Starbucks owns a coffee farm and you can take a (virtual) tour! Purchased in 2013, Hacienda Alsacia is a 240-hectare coffee farm located in Costa Rica that serves as a working farm as well as Starbucks global Research and Development facility. Costa Rican coffee has been a part of Starbucks core offerings since it opened its doors in 1971. In 2018, Starbucks sold a limited-edition offering of Hacienda Alsacia single-origin packaged coffee to customers around the world.

This year, Starbucks launched an all-new virtual experience that invites partners and customers to explore Hacienda Alsacia. To access the virtual experience, visit coffeeexperiences.starbucks.com.

4. The secret meaning behind partners’ aprons

Red, green and black Starbucks aprons hanging on hooks

In more than 80 markets around the world, the green apron is a symbol of Starbucks. It signals a warm welcome and expert coffee craft from the more than 400,000 baristas who proudly wear one each day. But did you know there are many types of Starbucks aprons?

Here are a few of the aprons your barista may be donning in stores:

  • American Flag Embroidered Apron: This embroidery celebrates veterans and military spouses.
  • Mortarboard Embroidered Apron: Graduates of Starbucks College Achievement Plan receive this embroidered apron.
  • Green Aprons with ASL Fingerspelling: For our Signing Store partners in Washington, D.C. who identify as a Deaf individual and ASL is their primary form of communication, this apron serves as both a source of pride for partners and a helpful cue to customers about communication and connection. Globally, Starbucks operates 10 signing stores in markets including Malaysia, the U.S., China and Japan.
  • Black Apron: Special designation for partners who have been certified for their coffee knowledge, known in some markets as Coffee Masters.
  • Red Apron: To help spread some holiday cheer, partners wear their red aprons when the holiday season arrives.
  • Starbucks Reserve and Roastery Aprons: These tan canvas aprons with leather straps are for our Reserve and Roastery partners, created to withstand years of labor and care needed for the art of roasting.

You can learn more about Starbucks aprons here.

5. Starbucks first latte was introduced 13 years after opening in 1971

Sepia-tone hand holding pitcher pouring steamed milk into row of Starbucks cups

When Starbucks first opened its doors in 1971, its now much beloved brewed coffee was not on the menu – although it was only given as samples. The store sold bulk whole bean coffee, tea, and spices as well as a selection of coffee makers, grinders, and teapots.

That changed in 1983 when Howard Schultz walked the streets of Milan for the first time and immersed himself in the culture of the Italian café. “The Italians had created the theater, romance, art and magic of experiencing espresso,” Schultz recalled. “I was overwhelmed with a gut instinct that this is what we should be doing.” The following year, Schultz convinced the founders to test the coffeehouse concept in downtown Seattle, where the first Starbucks® Caffè Latte was served.

6. A lucky mistake

Box of four bottles in Mazagran packaging

When Starbucks launched its carbonated coffee beverage called Mazagran in 1994, customers were polarized. Some loved it. Some hated it. Not many bought it more than once. But Mazagran is still an important part of Starbucks history, because it launched the North American Coffee Partnership with PepsiCo, and the coffee extract found a new home in 1996 with the game-changing bottled Frappuccino.

7. Investing in communities

Watts Community Store exterior

To provide economic opportunities in underserved and rural communities across the globe, Starbucks created the Community Store Program. These stores focus on hiring from the community, partnering with nonprofits and working with local artists, and serve as a space for community events and programs. Starbucks has invested in 19 Community Stores with most recent store dedications in Carbondale, Illinois and Tampa, Florida. The company plans to open 100 Community Stores by 2025.

To learn more about how Starbucks Community Stores are making a positive difference in the communities it serves, see this story about the Watts neighborhood Community Store in Los Angeles.

8. Unique Starbucks stores

Outdoor terrace of Starbucks in Prague

With over 33,000 stores across the globe, each Starbucks store offers something unique to the community that it serves – from locally inspired art and merchandise, to store designs and experiences that set it apart. Starbucks has opened several one-of-a-kind locations over the past 50 years, including:

If you’re looking to hit the road this summer, here are a few more must-see stores from around the U.S.

9. The world’s largest Starbucks

Exterior shot of 4-story Chicago Roastery

Did you know that Starbucks largest store is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago? Here all the coffee served in the store is freshly roasted on-site (the coffee roaster is the first thing visitors see when they enter the Chicago Roastery). The Chicago Roastery boasts five floors and 35,000 square foot store celebrates the company’s heritage in coffee roasting and the craft of coffee.

Since 1971, Starbucks has been obsessed with the fine art of roasting and proud to showcase this expertise in six Roasteries around the world. Starbucks Master Roasters tailor a unique roast for each coffee lot to unlock maximum flavor and nuance. The Chicago location also boasts an on-site Italian bakery, cocktail bar, curved elevator and a 56-foot steel cask (the company’s tallest), a sculptural blend of form and function, where coffee beans go to rest and de-gas after being roasted. Learn more about the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago here.

10. Before there were Sharpie pens

Barista's hand pouring steamed milk from pitcher into cup

In the days before writing drink customizations on cups in Sharpie pens, the position of a cup on the bar would tell the barista how to make the beverage. It could be with the logo facing forward for whole milk, and away for nonfat. Maybe upside down for decaf. It varied from store to store. But no matter where you were, a strong breeze could blow them all over.By the mid-90s, using a Sharpie made the beverage customizations experience easier for Starbucks baristas and customers, and eventually lead to baristas personalizing the experience even further with the addition of customers’ names on cups.