Politics, religion, and Starbucks vs. Peet's coffee shops are the top 3 topics to avoid at any family dinner. It will only upset the room, especially the Starbucks and Peet's debate.

However, I couldn't help diving in and picking apart what makes these two coffee houses great.

Here is a detailed look at the differences between each company to ensure you get the perfect cup of joe.

At A Glance: Comparison Table

Let’s see who has an edge in these common and crucial aspects of an enjoyable coffee experience.

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Peet’s

Starbucks

Coffee Quality

Cell

Drink Options

Cell

In-Store Atmosphere

Cell

Staff Service

Cell

Convenience & Speed

Cell

Peet's Vs Starbucks: Key Differences Explained

The proof is in the pudding, so let’s focus on the most important aspects that we all look for in a coffee shop.

1. Coffee Quality

Both coffee chains use 100% pure Arabica coffee beans from Latin America—this ain't no instant coffee. 

However, the difference in how they process their freshly roasted beans separates them.

Peet’s takes a more traditional approach to their medium roast process by trying to find the most optimal level for the different styles of beans they order.

Although all Arabica, they still differ in flavor and aromatics depending on what part of the world they were grown.[1]

Starbucks, on the other hand, has a very distinct flavor they go for, which is a slightly burnt, dark roast blend that provides a slightly bitter taste.

Starbucks Breakfast Blend, House Blend, and Pike Place Roast coffee beans

2. Best Drink Menu Options

When you inevitably find yourself standing at the counter, looking up at the menu, giving yourself neck cramps with antsy baristas impatiently awaiting—choose one of these specialty drinks.

Best Peet’s Coffee Drink

  • Nitro Cold Brew - The process of making a cold brew starts with the beans as they are ground more coarse to slow the extraction process.[2]

    Upon ordering, they infuse the brew with nitro in a similar process to pouring stout beer. This gives coffee lovers a smooth and somewhat bubbly texture that is very drinkable any time of day.

Best Starbucks Coffee Drink

  • Vanilla Latte - One of the most popular (and delicious) creations is the vanilla latte that uses its dark roast espresso blend.

    Combined with steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and a thin layer of foam on top, this drink is very palatable to even non-coffee drinkers. 

3. Ambiance Within Their Cafes - Peet’s

As soon as you walk in, it's easy to see why Peet's Coffee has been around for decades.

It has a warm, welcoming feel, unlike the "cattle-drive" feel that Starbucks has every weekday morning.[3]

4. Seating - Peet’s

Peet’s Coffee wins again here as they make an effort to provide long-term comfort.

Most Starbucks do offer seating and tables, but very rarely are they padded, and many locations only offer barstool seating.

This is to increase their turnover and keep people filing through.

5. Speed Of Service - Starbucks

By having tens of thousands of locations, Starbucks can’t afford slow service.

No matter which Starbucks establishment you find yourself in, you can count on prompt and efficient service. 

Now if only they could get my name right!

Old Couple Ordering at Starbucks

6. Customization Options - Starbucks

Being a large corporation has its advantages, and one of those advantages is being able to test different drinks to ensure they will sell before rolling them out.

This process has allowed Starbucks to develop an extensive menu that gives customers with all different types of palates the chance to enjoy many coffee and tea drinks.

7. Price Range - Peet’s

When it comes to price, people prefer Peet’s. 

This came as no surprise since the price of Starbucks drinks is often criticized and is almost a part of their own brand now.

People expect to pay more for coffee in a white cup with that familiar green logo and misspelled name.

It's a cultural thing and definitely does not reflect on the taste or quality.

8. Food Options - Starbucks

Starbucks has really stepped up its food game with quality but even more with its number of options. They have everything Peet's has and more.

Both Starbucks and Peet's offer coffee and tea and artisanal-style sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, but Starbucks has more options.

Both have a wide range of delicious baked goods, but Starbucks goes beyond just cookies and croissants. Try the cake pops!

9. Number Of Locations - Starbucks

The number of locations that Starbucks has is staggering. 

In total, there are over 35,000 spread out across 84 countries, with 15,000 in the US alone.

Compared to Peet's 333 locations in only one country, there's no question that Starbucks has the upper hand in this category.

10. Environmental Sustainability Approach - Peet’s

Both roasters care about their environmental impact.

Based on size alone, Peet's carbon footprint is much smaller, but on a per capita basis, they also beat out Starbucks.

Both places allow you to fill your own mug, but Starbucks only allows this with a limited number of drinks.

Peet's will accommodate any drink (as long as it fits in your mug) AND give you $0.10 off whatever you order.

Woman working on a coffee farm checking the plants

11. Employment Opportunities - Peet’s (For Now)

Both companies offer great plans involving paid time off and minimal health coverage benefits, but with Starbucks being as large as it is, it's hard to please every employee.

They are currently dealing with labor disputes and the possible formation of a union.

Even more recently, Starbucks been accused of union busting, so as of right now, Peet's seems like the safer and more lucrative place to work.[4]

12. Reward System For Customers - Starbucks

Although a bit more complicated, the Starbucks reward system can provide advantageous returns to the devoted Starbucks drinker.

The key is to reach gold status as soon as you can so you can start earning stars. Stars can be redeemed for food and free drinks.

Peet's has a similar system but is much more rudimentary; you earn a point for each purchase and triple points when you buy their ground coffee.

15 points gets you a free drink, so if you prefer your coffee at home, choose Peet's reward system; otherwise, Starbucks is the way to go.

13. Products For Home Use - Starbucks

Both companies offer their coffee beans in bulk for you to prepare at home with your own machine.

Being owned by Starbucks, Peet's also offers k-cups for single cups to satisfy everyone's personal preference.

Starbucks gets the nod here because they offer a wider variety of flavors to help you create unique beverages at home.

Peet's only offers their classic yet modern blends.

14. Caffeine Content - Starbucks

Both are quite high in caffeine, but if you need a little extra pep in your step, choose Starbucks.

Peet's registers 202mg of caffeine for a 16oz cup, while Starbucks packs in 267mg of caffeine.

Despite having less caffeine, Peet's still provides a deeper roasted flavor that tastes stronger than it is. 

Burlap sack filled with coffee beans next to a coffee scoop

Peet's Brief History & Its Best Coffee Beans

Peet's Coffee is much older than Starbucks. Founded by Alfred Peet in 1966, this coffee house has been dishing out great coffee long before it was cool to do so.

There were no hipsters, influencers, or corporate types praising the benefits of drinking coffee back then.

In a way, we can thank Mr. Peet for starting such a widespread and enjoyable culture that brings together people from all walks of life.

Spending time at Peet's means taking a break from life and enjoying the savory and complex flavors of many different coffee beverages.

While Peet’s pales in comparison vs Starbucks in terms of locations, their beans are sold in more than 15,000 stores nationwide.

Coffee Bean Quality - Peet’s Coffee Beans

1. JR Reserve Blend

Providing a smooth and almost sweet flavor to the tail-end of each sip, this coffee is full-bodied with notes of bittersweet chocolate with just a hint of exotic spice.

Be sure to get to your local Peet’s early on Wednesday, as this blend is only offered once a week.

2. Major Dickason’s Blend

If you want the quintessential flavor of what Peet's stands for and has been perfecting for over 50 years, grab a bag of Major Dickason's Blend.

It's a dark roast (dark for Peet's) blend that finishes with nutty and earthy tones. It's perfect for those who prefer cream and sugar with their cup of coffee.

3. French Roast

French roasts, in general, are a classic flavor that has been perfected by Peet’s.

This bold flavor has smoky overtones and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including via drip machines, french presses of all sizes, and more elaborate espresso makers.

Bags of Peet's coffee sitting next to a cup on a table

Starbucks' Rich History & Its Best Coffee Beans

Having started with only one store in 1971, the story of how Starbucks began is a classic tale of the American dream.

Three college buddies—Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl—teamed up due to their shared interest in high-quality coffee.

Starting with one location on the cobblestone streets of Seattle's Pike Place Market, the story of the most successful coffee chain began.

Fast-forward 50 years, and the coffee company now has 35,000+ locations and brings in over $35 billion annually.

This is one of the only coffee companies that has transcended the coffee world, as they are known by people who have never even drank coffee, let alone the Starbucks brand.

For now, they are still on top and setting sales records every year.

Coffee Bean Quality - Starbucks

1. Starbucks Sumatra Dark Roast

While many may disagree with this being the best freshly roasted coffee beans from Starbucks, I’m happy to defend my decision.

Starbucks is known for dark roasts, so it makes sense they would offer this Indonesian specialty.

However, they do it using a more palatable process that offers coffee drinkers the chance to enter the world of dark roasts slowly.

2. Starbucks Pike Place Coffee

The coffee that started it all is widely considered their best. Also, dark roasted, this South American blend is much more run-of-the-mill and considered the "house blend" for Starbucks.

It has nutty and chocolatey notes, which makes it a big seller, and we all know how much Starbucks likes to make sales.

3. Starbucks Veranda Blend Coffee

Due to their stronghold on the dark-roasted market, Starbucks now offers lighter roasts that they term ‘blonde roasts.’

While I still don’t consider this to be light-tasting, it does have obvious hints of a buttery and velvety taste and texture.

Starbucks coffee mug sitting in a pile of coffee beans

Common Peet's and Starbucks Questions

Which came first, Peet's or Starbucks?

Peet’s Coffee opened five years before the first Starbucks. In 1966, Alfred Peet opened the doors of a small gourmet coffee shop in Berkeley, CA. Starbucks did not open until March 30, 1971, in Seattle, WA.

Is Peet's Coffee owned by Starbucks?

Yes, Peet's Coffee has been owned by Starbucks since 2012. While the two have an intertwined past, it seems that now Starbucks is in full control and has been helping to make Peet's a household name in the premium coffee industry.

Why is Peet's Coffee so expensive?

Peet’s coffee is so expensive because of the care taken to not only roast the beans but to source them from the freshest producers. Despite the cost of Peet’s, Starbucks is slightly more expensive due to the higher costs of shipping to such a vast network. 

Does Peet's Coffee use syrup?

Yes, Peet’s coffee uses Monin syrup for all its flavors. However, the chocolate sauce they use for their hot cocoa and mocha drinks is made in-house.


The Final Verdict - Peet’s Vs Starbucks

Despite being part of the same large corporation, these two industry giants create a different coffee taste and overall experience.

If you love coffee and want a dark roast with a hint of bitterness but need fast service and many options, Starbucks stores are for you.

If you need an inviting space to catch up with a friend while enjoying a balanced flavor with attentive service, head over to Peet’s Coffee.

References:

1. https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/35351/20220103/the-art-and-science-of-coffee-roasting.htm
2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41364872
3. https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1009898/how-shanghais-coffee-culture-brewed-up-a-revolution
4. https://www.phillyvoice.com/starbucks-workers-philadelphia-national-labor-relations-board-complaint-alleged-union-busting/

Caitlin Shaffer

Author

Caitlin Shaffer
Caitlin Shaffer, is a knowledgeable coffee expert and passionate writer. Her articles are a mix of personal experiences, insights gained from her travels, and interviews, offering an extensive view of the global coffee scene. Caitlin enjoys embarking on new travel adventures, often to destinations celebrated for their unique coffee offerings, from Indonesia to Italy and Colombia, adding a worldly flavor to her articles. Her go-to coffee? Cold brew with homemade vanilla syrup – a personal favorite that keeps her love for coffee fresh and exciting.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... cold brew with homemade vanilla syrup.

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