By Michelle Rafferty
“So, why did we launch the Trenta? We listened to you,” says Starbucks. Really?
Looking for more answers, I asked my friend Greg Dietrich for his thoughts on the matter. Greg works at Paragon Coffee Trading, which means he imports coffee and collaborates with members of the New York commodities coffee trade. Oh and he gets to roast beans and cup all day (see picture below on right). Below is a conversation (via Gmail’s instant messaging service) we had about the Bucks’ latest creation.
Note: Some g-chat names have been changed to protect the identity of those in the conversation below.
Me: So you work in coffee. What do you think of this whole Trenta thing?
Greg: Honestly, this is about McDonald’s. They are very successful with their iced coffee and Sbucks is trying to compete.
Me: So the Trenta is really a response to McDs?
Me: They also appear to be warring over oatmeal…is Sbucks actually afraid they’ll lose their customers to golden M?
Greg: Sbucks started off as a specialty coffee outfit but they moved away from that a long time ago. Now they are responding to the demand for iced coffee and larger beverages.
Me: Wait what does “specialty” mean? Better quality?
Greg: There are many interpretations of specialty coffee, but for the most part it encompasses all Arabica/high grown single origin coffee.
Me: And what do they use now?
Greg: Well, Sbucks does not use bad coffee, in fact it is still considered specialty because it is Arabica, meaning it is grown at high elevations, and it is from a single-origin. But, by no means does specialty signify “good coffee.” Sbucks has gotten sooo big that they are now buying coffee from cooperatives (many different farms with varying degrees of quality), whereas the majority of the other roasters prefer to buy single-estate coffees (aka single farm coffees where quality is consistent and exact origin is available for the end consumer).
Me: So they still get to say they’re “specialty,” but in reality they’ve lost some rights to this claim. They’ve just grown too big.
Greg: Yeah. They have already lost a lot of customers to McDonalds/ McCafe due to quality and price. McDonalds has better coffee.
Me: Whoa, really?
Greg: Yeah, McDs has won numerous blind tasting competitions and they have cheaper prices.
Greg: In my opinion the difference between the two is not so much the bean, but the way they roast. McDonalds has an outside company roast their beans for them that solely focuses on roasting whereas SBbucks roasts for themselves and I feel has become complacent and lacks innovation in terms of blending and adding new flavors.
Me: They are bad roasters?
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