People love their coffee. That's a glaringly obvious conclusion following Starbucks'(Nasdaq: SBUX) announcement of its fiscal year-end results. The coffee king had a piping hot year, and hopes to keep the magic brewing.

Its revenues grew 24% to $3.3 billion for the year. Same-store sales improved 6%, which isn't surprising to anyone who's watched it put up solid comps gains month after month this year. (And last year... and the year before.)

It earned $215.1 million in fiscal 2002, ahead of the previous year's earnings by 18.7%. Excluding one-time charges and gains, the company earned $218 million, or $0.55 a diluted share, versus last year's $0.46.

The company's free cash flow improved year over year, though only marginally as it used its cash from operations (as usual) to pay for its extensive global expansion. The already-minimal long-term debt became even more so, declining around 12%. Net and gross margins were largely unchanged.

Fiscal 2002 was a great year for the coffee retailer. Looking ahead, Starbucks faces some lofty self-set expectations over the next few years. It has projected sales growth of 20% per year and earnings growth of 20% to 25% for the next three to five years. It intends to add 1,200 more stores next year, while keeping comps growth of 3% to 7%.

Building new stores and maintaining sales at the old ones is a delicate balance, but so far it has walked that particular tightrope with agility. At the close of fiscal 2005, it expects to be churning out lattes at 10,000 locations worldwide.

To achieve all this, the company will have to operate almost flawlessly. Starbucks has proven itself an innovative company, capable of returning outstanding results one on top of the other. It's not completely far-fetched, then, to believe it can do what it's set out to do. However, current sore spots, like the troubled Starbucks Japan, will need to be corrected and contained.

Investors are used to getting perfection from Starbucks. With shares currently trading at a substantial premium to next year's earnings growth, they'll continue to demand the best. Let's hope Starbucks can deliver.

LouAnn Lofton, who owns shares of Starbucks, anxiously awaits her first Gingerbread Latte of the season.