A year ago, I mentioned in my blog how US coffee companies over roast their beans. Now the Chron brings up basically the same sentiment, quoting a coffee shop owner saying "the coffee is kind of over-roasted and the barista techniques aren't up to par."
No shit Sherlock! Anyway, read the article, it gives a good overview of how we ended up with semi-burned espresso. As I suspected, it was mostly Starbucks, but interestingly, it started with Berkeley icon Alfred Peet who trained the Starbucks founders.