Winter, a 42-year-old coffee fanatic from Houston, Texas, is on a mission to have coffee at every Starbucks coffee-shop in the world. Given that Starbucks operates on almost every corner of every street of every city in America, not to mention thousands of shops around the world, Winter seems to have set himself an impossible goal. Yet, he’s already been to 11,676 Starbucks branches, and he won’t rest until he’s been to each and every one in the world – that’s at least 10,000 more to go.
He’s a self-proclaimed caffeine addict, who at one point, used to guzzle 29 cups of coffee a day. Interestingly, he actually prefers artisanal coffee from independent stores, but he appreciates that Starbucks tastes the same everywhere. His first visit was in 1997, and he almost immediately decided that he had to go see all the branches in the world. “It was a completely random idea that came to me when I was in Plano, Texas while discussing the growth of Starbucks in the greater Dallas area,” he said.
“It was just a hypothetical question. I wondered: ‘Would it be possible to visit them all?’ Most people would leave it as a hypothetical question, but I figured, why not? It seemed entirely possible and as it meant traveling around the country, it became a lot of fun. I became a freelance computer programmer around the same time, and although it wasn’t to pursue the Starbucks mission, it certainly gave me more freedom to carry on with the challenge.”
Back in 1997, there were only 1,500 Starbucks outlets in four countries, which actually sounds like an achievable goal. But the coffee chain has had such an astronomical growth rate since then that Winter has been struggling to keep up. Starbucks is currently the world’s number one coffeehouse company, with 23,305 stores in 65 countries and territories.
“I do not expect to ever complete the project, as I have every reason to think that Starbucks will outlive me,” he said.
But Winter isn’t dejected by the fact that he might never achieve his goal. “As long as there are new stores to visit, I will try to visit them,” he said matter-of-factly. “Many of them have closed down before I’ve had the chance to visit them but at the same time, many new stores have opened.” And he’s glad that his mission gives him a chance to see the a lot of the world as well.
Even when Winter travels, he doesn’t do a lot of touristy stuff – Starbucks is always his number one priority. Like when he spent 30 hours in Hawaii during which he went to five stores on three islands, but he didn’t go to the beach even once. And he refuses to tick a store off his list unless he has tried a caffeinated beverage at the place. No, hot chocolate doesn’t count.