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Chantico 

Starbucks, 521 Olive Street, 314-231-2150

Three cheers for the International House of Brown! Hooray for the Caffeine Castle, the Ubiquitous Usurper. Starbucks! Yeah! Starbucks, which eats all other coffee joints for breakfast, which has so efficiently and ruthlessly captured the American java market that it's the McDonald's of its niche. In fact, it has outdone McDonald's, which at least has Burger King and Taco Bell to contend with.

Starbucks moves into neighborhoods that have vibrant indie coffeehouses and proceeds to milk the businesses dry. We all agree that sucks. And sure, Starbucks' coffee's not Kaldi's, Shaw or Goshen, roasted locally. But even the most militant chain-haters must acknowledge that before Starbucks, the pickings were pretty slim. We had Folgers. We had Yuban, for Christ's sake -- crap in a can. Before Starbucks, could you get a decent cup downtown? Hell no. At the airport, were you happy with your choices? No. You drank brown spew brewed at six a.m., burnt by six-fifteen and served to you at three. On a road trip, where'd you get your coffee? That's right: at a gas station. At least Starbucks makes a good cup of coffee. They don't scrimp.

Pretty much at Starbucks is brown: brown coffee, brown tea, brown muffins. Speaking of brown, we'd like to highly recommend Starbucks' new brown chocolate drink, called a Chantico. It is named for the Aztec goddess of orgasms, lard-asses and cocoa butter.

But who cares about the goddess Chantico when the drink Chantico warms your hands right now? Served in what seems to be a jumbo Dixie cup, the drink is a delicacy that, like most special things, is full of ingredients that will make your heart stop. In addition to said cocoa butter, it's steamed with whole milk, contains a Radio Flyer's worth of sugar and a flatbed of chocolate. The result: a six-ounce serving containing 390 calories, 21 grams of fat and 51 carbohydrates.

A bummer, yes, but not if you're wise and exercise. Then you can indulge in this liquefied pudding -- rich, creamy, dark. It's thicker than hot chocolate, darker than chocolate milk and hotter than Scarlett Johansson.

You can order a Chantico at any Starbucks, because each location is pretty much the same -- brown and green and clean and oppressively comfortable. But we recommend getting it downtown, at the corner of Olive and Sixth, because the employees are always laughing and friendly. They seem to know all customers by name; they know who drinks what, and why. Sure, it's a Starbucks, but people inhabit this place, people with feelings and taste and compassion.

But maybe that's the Chantico talking. One sip of this elixir and any cynicism you may have had regarding aggressive capitalists stomping on the lattes of budding entrepreneurs will dissipate, if only for a fleeting moment. But in that moment, the ecstasy will erase your fear of death and/or pain, your sadness at the futility of life; your mind will become clear, and your serotonin levels will jump. Your loins may even stir. Soon you will be making sweet brown love to an Aztec goddess.

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