Starbucks 2021: The year in pictures

It can be hard to find the right words to convey the experience of 2021 – another year largely shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic that was full of peaks, valleys and just the day-to-day stresses of the unknown. Things we’d hoped would be normal again by now are still challenging. 

But even within that, there were – and are – still so many beautiful moments when we truly see the humanity of the world and what happens when we come together.

Around the world, our partners (employees) once again stepped up for each other, their communities and their customers. They gave back, brought joy and worked hard, knowing that comfort can sometimes be found in a cup and that the ritual of a trip to Starbucks can provide even a little bit of normalcy in a world that can be so unpredictable.

For Starbucks, 2021 also marked our 50th anniversary. From our beginning back in 1971 as a small coffee, tea and spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market to today, we are looking forward to our next 50 – bringing people together over coffee, and helping create a better future for our planet and everyone on it. 

While it can be hard to find the words to hold all that, sometimes photos can, so today we’re looking back at some of our favorite images from 2021. Reminding us of the powerful moments we have been able to share. And most importantly, inspiring all of us to keep going forward with hope and optimism for what is yet to come.

Honoring our diversity

Photos by, top left to bottom right, Connor Surdi, Clay Williams, Swarat Ghosh, Sharon Chischilly, Joshua Trujillo, Tanya Bindra, AAron Ontiveroz and Courtney Pedroza.

Our stores are in neighborhoods and towns around the world and our partners represent, support and celebrate those communities. We span a beautiful spectrum, and we honor our diversity. From Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to Pride Month, Black History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Disability Pride Month, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month and more, we featured partners and their stories of identity, culture and tradition.

Visit our Instagram to see more stories from our Heritage Month series.

50th anniversary

Photo by Joshua Trujillo

In 1971, a small coffee, tea and spice shop opened near Seattle’s Pike Place Market with a name out of Moby Dick and an alluring siren as a logo.

In 2021, while we celebrated our 50th anniversary, it was a great time to unbox some of the historic and archival items that had been gathered and stored at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle – spanning the history of the company.

We found original menus, bags of coffee and tea, our first-ever holiday cup, tokens for free coffee and even unopened bottles of Mazagran – a carbonated coffee beverage launched in 1994 that lasted only a brief time but developed a dedicated following.

Photos by Connor Surdi

Store dedicated to the Navajo Nation

Photo by Connor Surdi
Photo by Joshua Trujillo

Like so many across the world, the Navajo Nation was ravaged by the pandemic. In the early days of COVID-19, Starbucks store manager Ty Barbone worked to make sure essential supplies were reaching people in his community. But Barbone wasn’t done. He  reached out to Starbucks leadership and became the spark behind the new Indigenous Partner Network – one of 12 partner-led networks across the U.S.

Barbone’s store on the edge of the Navajo Nation in Gallup, New Mexico was remodeled and reopened as Starbucks 22nd Community Store, dedicated to the Navajo Nation and indigenous people. Each Community Store hires local partners, works with local artists and contractors, and teams up with nonprofits, with the goal of becoming a hub of community activity.

In November the store was dedicated in a community ceremony, with dancers from nearby Zuni Pueblo performing a traditional Deer Dance to honor the new gathering space. A hand painted mural by Navajo artist Daniel Josley is a centerpiece of the store, celebrating his heritage.

Stepping up, helping out

Photo by Ting Shen
Photos by Connor Surdi, left, and Jeffrey McWhorter, right
Photo by Starbucks Vietnam

Even in the midst of the pandemic, Starbucks partners didn’t sit idly by in 2021. As always, they were getting involved in community efforts around the globe. We continued our work with Feeding America® to address the growing need for food assistance, and partners gave their time in food banks to to help get food to those in need. They also volunteered in homeless shelters and with many other organizations that offer help to those in need.

With grants from The Starbucks Foundation, our partners worked to bring clean, safe drinking water and handwashing stations to communities in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Expanding support for farmers and the planet

Photo by Joshua Trujillo

Coffee farmer Walquíria Peixoto Correa holds the coffee she saved for her own family after the conclusion of harvest on her family farm in Guaranésia, Brazil.

In 2021, Starbucks opened our first farmer support center in Brazil, our 10th globally, offering resources to farmers like Walquíria. Located in Varginha, Minas Gerais state, the new Farmer Support Center provides open-source agronomy and training on ethical sourcing practices to farmers, regardless of whether or not they sell to Starbucks.

Photo by Joshua Trujillo

A coffee farming community in the hills near Turrialba, Costa Rica. Costa Rica is home to Hacienda Alsacia, the only Starbucks-owned farm in the world.

The heartbeat of Starbucks

Photos by Connor Surdi

Our partners are truly the heartbeat of Starbucks. Even during this pandemic, they bring joy, care and connection to our customers and each other every day.

In 2021, we were able to feature some of our partners and their real-life stories in everything from ads celebrating our 50th anniversary to storytelling about what these amazing humans are able to accomplish, including those who work hard to earn their bachelor’s degree through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

Beauty in a beverage

Image by Connor Surdi

As always, we are in love with coffee, including the way it comes to life in our cups.

A looping GIF shows milk cascading through a cup of Starbucks Cold Brew, photographed with a macro lens.

Working with local artists

Photo by Joshua Trujillo
Photo by Connor Surdi

Through the Starbucks Art Program, we have the privilege of working with talented local artists to create original pieces for our stores and offices around the world. In 2021, the team worked with many artists including longtime contributors Jen Ament and Marisol Ortega, here working on new pieces in their studios.

Using our skills to help speed vaccine delivery

Starbucks partners tested out the flow of mock vaccine stations, including pretending to deliver vaccines, at the company’s Tryer Center. 

Photos by Joshua Trujillo

Starbucks serves 100 million customers a week in 30,000 stores around the world. You could say we have lots of experience moving people through spaces.

In January Starbucks teamed up with the State of Washington and other companies to help find efficient ways to move people through COVID-19 vaccination sites. Mock stations were set up in the Tryer innovation lab in our Seattle headquarters, and tests were conducted on how to move people through the vaccination process. The information was shared with the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center and implemented at early mass-vaccination sites in Washington State.

Taking flight for the holidays

Photo by Joshua Trujillo

In early December, Starbucks teamed up with longtime partner, Alaska Airlines, to offer a unique BOGO flight deal. On Dec. 7, a custom-painted Alaska plane decorated with Starbucks holiday cups lifted off from Seattle Tacoma International Airport en route to Chicago. A large prop cup, part of a photoshoot, seemed to walk past the airplane on the tarmac before takeoff.

Love in a cup

Photo by Connor Surdi

As the curtains close on 2021, one thing is clear: The year was made so much better because of the people. Our partners and the wonderful customers that visit our stores all coming together to lift humanity and leave us all inspired. As we’ve always known, it truly is about so much more than coffee.