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Jason Coffee

There is always this debate among coffee lovers whether or not Starbucks is premium coffee or should even be considered in the specialty coffee discussion. I for one am, obviously,an advocate for Starbucks being included in the discussion.

My thoughts in this article may come as a surprise to many of you. Many people think of Coffee Cup News as being an advocate for the smaller guy, the local coffee company and the niche, specialty, high quality coffee company; which we are. I, Jason Coffee (owner of Coffee Cup News), also try hard to be a realist and include all factors into the conversation. Which brings me to my main point, Starbucks in many ways is more popular than (specialty) coffee.

Starbucks Coffee

That last line may have shocked you to read, Starbucks is more popular than (specialty) coffee, is he serious? (and I am.) Starbucks gives people who would have otherwise never even consider spending premium prices on coffee an easy on-ramp into doing just that. Starbucks Coffee really acts as a funnel to the specialty coffee industry as a whole. (Coffee Cup News attempts to be an extension of that funnel drawing people deeper into the specialty coffee scene.) Starbucks sells around, 4 billion, cups of coffee every year to people who would have otherwise never developed a daily, premium price, coffee habit. I know because I am one of those people.

Coffee Master

In a recent article, My Starbucks Story, I shared that I worked for Starbucks for 5 years when I first started enjoying coffee. As I worked there they gave me many tools to help me enjoy coffee. We did daily coffee tasting, paired up coffee with pastries and learned different geographical facts about how and where coffee is grown in the Coffee Master program. Once I was ready I led daily tasting with my co-workers and held weekly tastings that my customers would attend. (In turn educating people about coffee who would have otherwise never developed a passion for the bean.) This increased my passion for coffee and played an intricate role in how much I love to seek out the best coffee, in the world, I can find today.

So when people say things like, “Starbucks? Why do you even include them in the coffee discussion?” The above reasons are just some of my reasoning behind why Coffee Cup News includes Starbucks in the coffee discussion.

Do you think Starbucks should be included in the premium coffee discussion?

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  1. ddavidn

    I agree as well. I will drink Starbucks, when I am in “unfamiliar territory” and don’t know of a great coffee shop around. I know exactly what they have, I know it will be consistent, fast, and I know what I like to get there. I see nothing wrong with it. However, I always try to find a better coffee shops in areas that I frequent.

  2. Bill Rowland


    You make a pretty strong point and I’ve never really thought of Starbucks in that way.

    So Starbucks is like a “gateway drug” then, eh?

  3. Andy

    I agree that Starbucks should be a part of the conversation. I managed a small independent coffee shop in the early 2000’s. At that time there were no Starbucks in a 50 mile radius. When one opened about 4 blocks away from my store we all thought they would overtake us and swallow the little guy up for breakfast.

    In actuality our business started to grow when they came to town because, as you stated, they are a gateway to a new world for many people. Once people tried Starbucks they wanted to try the other coffee shops around town. Some of those shops were better, some worse, but we saw a 25% growth in the first year after Starbucks opened.

  4. Chase Mann

    I agree they should be included in the discussion. I myself went through Starbuck’s training back in my early days of my coffee career and their training program was excellent … then I moved on to Caribou Coffee and thought their training program was even better … now I usually create the training programs for the roasters I work with/for … and I owe a lot of my base knowledge to Starbucks and Caribou.