stan the man sent me this article on the black liquid gold known as espresso and to be honest, i’m sick of hearing about the so-called great espresso you get in italy. i’ve been there. had espresso from rome to venice and it was no better than cups i’ve had here in the uk or in the states. the italian factor is highly overrated. in fact, their packaged espresso brands like illy and lavazza are too lightly roasted and merely average. i much prefer buying a dark roast(italian or french) from starbucks for my machine. i do agree with the writer about all the factors involved in making a good espresso and the fact that, in italy, the barristas take pride in their work while in the us, you get a bartender or waitress making your cup. thus, your chances of getting a good, crema-topped cup is much better in italy. but honestly, any starbucks will give you as good, if not a better, cup of espresso as a roman cafe 90% of the time. even the author grudgingly admitted they make a “better than average” cup, but didn’t like the “burnt” flavor of their coffee. for his information, the “smokey” flavor is characteristic of the roast they use and lots of people like that quality, including me. it’s a matter of taste. you can’t complain about their quality control either. i once saw a starbucks barrista dump out three shots before she was satisfied with the timing and appearance of my espresso. i usually frown upon chains, especially ones so ubiquitous, but starbucks is really well run, trains their people well, and sells a consistently excellent product.