The World War I of coffee: Peet’s Coffee and Tea versus Starbucks

Increasing workloads and extracurriculars have caused many students to join caffeination nation, but which popular provider is best for you? Below is a discussion of the pros and cons of the two most popular coffee franchises in America: Peet’s Coffee and Tea and Starbucks.



Peet’s Coffee and Tea provides a warm, comforting environment. Baristas really make an effort to form bonds with customers, by knowing their name and regular orders. You get more of the “mom and pop” coffee shop experience, which is extremely rare in franchises. The Peet’s brand attracts an older crowd, as well as older, more experienced baristas. That being said, customers experience a mellow environment ideal for studying, simplistic interior design and great customer service.

The quality of Peet’s beverages is extremely consistent, as batches of coffee are brewed every 30 minutes. The brand’s selective, finely grinded coffee beans and unique deep roasting process give rise to its coffee’s dark, rich and intense flavor. As a result, specialty beverages, though embellished with additional flavors, still maintain a bold coffee flavor. Contrary to popular belief, however, Peet’s coffee, with 267 milligrams of caffeine per 16 ounce cup of medium roast, has a lower caffeine content than Starbucks’ coffee (see Starbucks’ caffeine content below).

In addition to coffee based beverages, Peet’s has a wider variety of and stronger emphasis on teas (hence the name Peet’s Coffee and Tea). With 50 Mighty Leaf tea bag assortments available for purchase as merchandise, there is an impressive selection of associated over-the-bar drinks, some of which include matcha green tea, chai and oolong lattes, as well as mint, herbal and jasmine teas.

On the other hand, Peet’s has a more limited selection of food, often pastries, sweets and a few meal items besides some prepackaged sandwiches, juices and fruit. With many staying to work for hours, craving more than just banana bread, a wider variety of options would make customers’ stays more enjoyable.

Another shortcoming is Peet’s pricing: a small coffee at $1.95, a small vanilla latte at $3.75 and a small mocha javiva (like a frappuccino) at $4.30 (see Starbucks’ pricing below). Still, I would argue that the quality and environment are worth the extra cents, especially if your visit runs long.



Starbucks projects a modern, hip vibe from the moment you open the door. The brand generally attracts younger customers with younger baristas that attend high school or college, making Starbucks a popular place to hang out, but not always an ideal place to study. And, with young, frequently rotating baristas, you experience lower quality customer service.

The coffee at Starbucks is lighter and less bitter, but surprisingly, has a higher caffeine content, with 330 milligrams per 16 ounces of medium roast coffee. Specialty drinks, however, have a greater emphasis on sugary flavors, such as vanilla, caramel and chocolate.

With regards to tea, Starbucks does not have its own brand; all teas served are Teavana teas, known for its exotic flavors. While Teavana teas are of the highest quality, the selection available in stores is very limited. Starbucks does compensate for its lack of teas with a unique line of refreshers, such as the ever-popular Very Berry Hibiscus.

Likewise, with baked goods, Starbucks’ foods are provided by La Boulangerie, a French bakery chain popular throughout California. You could see this as a lack of originality and independence on Starbucks’ part, or you could see this as utilizing your resource, because La Boulangerie food is delicious. Customers can easily satisfy cravings with fresh bagels, breakfast sandwiches or traditional French pastries at Starbucks locations.

But perhaps the greatest difference between Starbucks and Peet’s is the overwhelming amount of social attention Starbucks receives. Starbucks has become more than just a coffee shop; it’s a full-fledged brand that consumers strive to flaunt on mugs, t-shirts, cell phone cases and other merchandise. This of course, can be seen as both a positive and a negative. Despite the hype, Starbucks’ pricing is reasonable, with a small coffee at $1.75, a small vanilla latte at $3.25 and a small mocha frappuccino at $3.80.

Ultimately, where there is youth, there is technology: Starbucks has created a rewards card program in which you earn points that eventually earn you free drinks. This system, popular among clothing retailers, makes you feel like you’re shopping for coffee, instead of just buying it, which in itself, can be pretty exciting.