Starbucks vs. Peet’s: Clash of the Coffee Titans

For coffee connoisseurs, or even your more casual caffeinators, there are more roasters than ever to choose from. But two, in particular, are goliaths of the coffee market. Be it positive or negative, the reputations of Peet’s coffee and Starbucks coffee precede them, and today we’ll take a closer look at these two coffee titans and judge which has the edge.  More specifically, we have poured through some of the best beans both coffee chains offer for sale online and have come up with a list of beans from each worth trying.  At the end, we’ll consider which company has the edge regarding their beans for-sale.  Hardcore fans of one or the other may have their reasons for swearing by their chosen coffee champion, but we’ll try here to take an unbiased look.

A Tale of Two Coffee Giants

Starbucks is a household name even outside the coffee industry, and even with non-coffee drinkers! From its origin in a single store selling roasted coffee beans in Seattle, the global coffee house has grown tremendously to over 30,000 stores globally, over half in the United States.  Starbucks serves millions of monthly customers with a cup being sold somewhere every minute. Needless to say, Starbucks’ popularity dwarfs the competition’s.

Peet’s may not be as widely-known as Starbucks internationally, but there would be no Starbucks without Peet’s. Peet’s got its start in 1966 in California. Back then, the craft coffee scene was in its infancy and Peet’s would be one of the first American pioneers in it. Named after its founder, Alfred Peet, this coffee chain has grown to over 200 locations in the United States.

Here, we wanted to take a look at the differences in Starbucks’ and Peet’s coffees for-sale online.  But, before we get into the differences between their specific offerings, let’s take a more general look at their differences in style, substance, and philosophy.

A Difference in Approach

The two coffee houses take markedly different approaches in their brewing, branding, business models, and even the coffee beans they offer for sale.

Starbucks efforts to appeal to a younger crowd using a ‘modern’ aesthetic heavily present at all their cafes.  Regarding the coffee specifically, Starbucks is known for their darker-than-usual roasts that produce a characteristic slightly-burnt or bitter taste.  Many commentators have hypothesized that this acquired taste fosters an eventual preference for their brand. Starbucks’ specialty drinks go the opposite route—focusing on crowd-pleasing sugary tastes in caramel and vanilla flavored drinks.

Peet’s cafe experience has a significantly different vibe- more ‘laid back” “warm” and less modern or chic. Unlike Starbucks’ more fast-paced, coffee-on-the-run atmosphere, Peet’s focus is on customers leisurely enjoying their coffee in-cafe. Flavor-wise, Peet’s coffee features a more typical roast-level, but emphasizes a bold, espresso-forward taste in their cafe drinks.  Even so, Peet’s dark, rich coffee has lower caffeine content than Starbucks coffee.

Both coffee houses have for-sale coffee beans for sale on their online stores.  Both companies’ offerings also include both blends and single-origin selections.  However, Starbucks’ offerings tend to be more of the crowd-pleasing variety, seeking to appeal to a wide variety of coffee lovers.  Starbucks also tends to emphasize their blends.  Peet’s, on the other hand, tends to be slightly more adventurous in their selection, with a greater selection of Single-Origin coffees for sale.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the top coffees you can buy online from both companies: 

Coffee Bean Reviews

Peet’s Best Coffees

5.      House Blend

This Latin American blend is a great introduction to the world of Peet’s coffee. It is a dark roast that is best brewed using drip and press pot methods. It is bright and not as full-bodied as other roasts. With a hint of spice and a crisp finish to it, it manages to be interesting without being too adventurous and, as such, is an ideal starter coffee for those looking to branch out a bit.

4.      French Roast

Drip and press pot brewing methods should do the trick for this coffee.  Peet’s French Roast is bold and flavorful with smoky overtones.  Because of these bold flavors, this coffee would be a great selection for those preferring their coffee with cream and sugar. While some reviewers online may be overstating things by pronouncing these beans to be “the best coffee one can get”, we would concur that Peet’s French Roast is one of the better French Roasts out there.

3.      Major Dickason’s Blend

Major Dickason’s blend is Peet’s most popular coffee. It is a dark roast blend with rich, smooth, and complex flavors. Earthy and nutty flavors particularly stand out.  Perhaps the best feature of Major Dickason’s is its versatility, lending itself well to a variety of brewing methods including drip, press pot, and espresso.  It’s also available at a variety of grocery stores, including Wegmans – making it generally easy to find.

2.      Guatemala San Sebastián

Peet’s buys beans from Antigua farms that it includes in a number of great blends, but this single-origin coffee is a cut above the. These beans are highly aromatic with a distinct taste of bittersweet chocolate. Overall, it is a bright, high acidity coffee with a sweetness that has earned it the reputation of one of Peet’s best.  It is easy to understand why it is one of their top sellers.  Try pour over in order to realize this single origin’s full complement of flavors.

1.      JR Reserve Blend

It roasts on Wednesdays only, so mark your calendars. Peet’s JR Reserve is a bit hard to describe- its full bodied, with prominent notes of chocolate, but with a spiced flavor that eludes description. The reasoning behind the once-a-week roast to order is to ensure it is as fresh as possible when received. Many reviewers commented on these beans’ mysterious and complex spiciness! Although expensive, Peet’s JR Reserve is definitely a coffee that enthusiasts should try.

Starbucks’ Best Coffees

5.      Starbucks Café Verona Coffee Beans 

Starbucks Verona is normally considered a little light by lovers of dark roast. Still, we’d describe its flavor as “classic”- representative of low acidity dark roast blends generally.  Cafe Verona plays all of the usual hits you’d expect from a dark roast with notes of chocolate, nuts, and caramel.  

4.      Starbucks Veranda Blend Coffee

Recently, Starbucks has put increased emphasis on lighter roasts, branding them as “blonde roasts”.  Starbucks Veranda Blend is one such blonde roast that is more caffeinated than other Starbucks coffees while remaining mild and easy to drink.  The flavor can be described as a bit buttery and sweet- much like a morning pastry.  The Veranda Blend is worth trying as an entry point for Starbucks blonde roasts generally.

3. Starbucks Brazil Latin American Blend Whole Coffee Beans

Brazil Blend may be difficult to find in stores, but is usually in-stock online.  For a major coffee chain offering, Brazil Blend is a bit adventurous and unusual- featuring prominent notes of maple and vanilla while managing to remain somewhat bright and fruity.  The result is an interesting mix of flavors that still works well as a go-to everyday cup of coffee.

2.      Starbucks Sumatra Dark Roast

Starbucks Sumatra Dark Roast is bold with somewhat funky, earthy notes.  To those new to Sumatras, this funkiness is actually a good thing! Like most Sumatras, Starbucks Sumatra Dark Roast has minimal acidity, but is notably less smoky than some other Sumatras. As such, we think it is a great coffee both for “getting your feet wet” for those unacquainted with Sumatras and for Sumatra lovers.

1.      Starbucks Pike Place Coffee

Pike Place harkens back to Starbucks birthplace- the name of the Seattle market where the first-ever Starbucks opened way back when. Pike Place is seen as both the “default” roast for the coffee house and its most iconic coffee. Many may not realize it is actually a dark roasted Latin American blend. Pike Place exudes a smooth, balanced flavor with crowd-pleasing notes of nuts and chocolate that are virtually impossible to take offense to.  Available both in-store and online, you haven’t experienced Starbucks until you’ve tried Pike Place.


So, who comes out on top? While it necessarily comes down to personal preference, we think Peet’s probably has the edge with a great selection of single origin coffee from exotic locations and varied flavors. 

While we prefer Peet’s, Starbucks’ strength is its unique tasting blends that appeal to a broader coffee audience and are offered at more affordable prices.

What do you think? Did we miss anything? Be sure to let us know!

Jay Arr

Jay Arr is passionate about everything coffee. What began as a simple interest in the history, production, and brewing of coffee led him to a job as a barista at a national coffee chain. That’s not where Jay’s story with coffee ends, however. Roasting and brewing day in and out, he continued to gather knowledge about all things coffee.

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