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Robot-Staffed Coffee Shop Opens in San Francisco

What the barista at Cafe X lacks in human warmth it makes up for in efficiency. Customers input orders into a digital kiosk and receive their coffee by way of a robotic arm.

After opening their first store in the Hong Kong Science Park, Cafe X recently launched a second location at the AMC Metreon in San Francisco, TechCrunch reports. Though the setup may look intimidating, purchasing a drink is simple. Patrons with the Cafe X app can skip the kiosk and place an order directly from their phones. When the coffee is automatically brewed to perfection, customers punch their order numbers into a touch screen and the Mitsubishi industrial robot arm delivers the drinks seconds later.

It’s easy to imagine similar robots replacing human employees in coffee shops around the world, but Cafe X founder Henry Hu says that’s not his intention. Rather, he wants to zero-in on the specialty coffee service industry by finding a faster way to make top-tier espresso. “This won’t replace baristas or the coffee shop experience that so many people have come to love—we don’t aim to do that,“ Hu said in a release. “What we’re offering is the best possible experience for people who are looking for consistent specialty coffee to-go.”

The lack of labor costs does come through in the prices—8-ounce drinks start at $2.25. And of course, Cafe X still has some people to pay, like on-site specialists whose job it is to answer your coffee-related questions.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Food
It’s Still Summer, But Pumpkin Spice Lattes Are Already Here
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Starbucks

It’s August, so go ahead and gird yourself for pumpkin season. Yes, that tell-tale sign of impending autumn, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, is about to come back, according to Fortune. The company hasn't released a specific launch date, but it just announced that a new bottled version of the latte will be coming to grocery stores this month, along with pumpkin spice ground coffee.

Last year, the PSL arrived in Starbucks stores on September 1; the year before, it was September 8. There's no denying that the coffee chain is forcing its fall favorites on us earlier and earlier. Early enough to make us consider getting that Pumpkin Spice over ice, in fact.

The much-derided orange beverage is just the most famous example of a marketing trend that spreads far beyond coffee. As early as late July, pumpkin-flavored snacks, cookies, cereals, and other foods you wouldn’t think should taste like pumpkin start hitting stores, giving the people what they really want: to pretend they’re cozying up in a scarf on a rainy fall day instead of sitting in front of their air conditioners in their underwear.

Why does Starbucks keep pushing the starting line of the fall season closer and closer to mid-summer? Dollar bills, obviously. In the first decade after the drink’s launch in 2003, the company sold around 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes. In 2015, Forbes estimated that it would make $100 million from the PSL that fall alone. Despite the online hate, a huge chunk of people loooove their PSLs.

These days, it’s not fall until someone starts hating on the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Besides, climate change will eventually render seasons moot, right?

[h/t Fortune]

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Food
How to Get a Free Macchiato at Starbucks This Week

If you’re in need of an extra caffeine boost later in the week, head to Starbucks. As Thrillist reports, the coffee chain is offering complimentary macchiatos at participating U.S. locations from August 3 to August 7.

The promotion, called Meet for Macchiatos, isn’t entirely free. To take part in the giveaway, customers must first pay for a macchiato of any flavor between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. With that purchase a second macchiato comes at no extra cost.

You can take advantage of the special offer to treat a friend, or you can keep both drinks for yourself when your energy reserves are running low at the end of a workday. Whichever macchiato flavors are sold at your local Starbucks—which may include caramel, coconut milk mocha, and straight espresso—are available through the promotion. In addition to the traditional hot beverage, customers can also order their macchiatos iced, which sounds like a tempting option for the first weekend in August.

[h/t Thrillist]

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