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World War Brew: Starbucks v.s. Caribou

On one end of the Washington Avenue Bridge, you see an army clad in brown and baby blue; hair pulled back into stylish buns, tortoise shell glasses glistening in the dawn. On the other end, soldiers clothed in black, donning headsets, march together, proudly sporting their emerald green aprons. Onlookers await the battle of the century, anticipating the massive blood loss ahead. This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. World War Brew.

For years there’s been the debate over which is better; Caribou or Starbucks? Whichever side you pick, you will defend it until your last breath. You’re either ‘Bou or ‘Bucks until death. I decided to put these two coffee shops to the test and find out which one really is better. With firm and rigid grading criteria, I set out to make the final decision of where my allegiance would fall.

My first coffee order was a small (or tall) iced coffee with soy milk and a pump of vanilla.


My first observation was how much my drink from Caribou sweat. Holy smokes, I felt like I was holding a rock you find at the bottom of the lake; super slippery and uncomfortably wet. When I got past the strange precipitation, my iced coffee from Caribou was phenomenal. There was a perfect balance of coffee, cream, and vanilla mixed together to create a fusion of coffee goodness. While my iced coffee from Starbucks was average, the last sip of my ‘Bou drink that morning ran deep through my veins along with the regret of drinking it so quickly.

Next up  for the second day of battle were these drinks:

I had  a Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refresher, and a Lemon Ginger Pomegranate Sparkling Juice from Caribou. Both were drinks of the pink and fruity variety, but Starbucks really stole my heart this time. I’m sayin’, Starbucks wined, dined, and 69’ed me with this drink. I would totally call the Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher back the next morning. She was sweet, but not too much so; like Caribou. The Lemon Ginger Pom just gave me a stomach-ache. I was overpowered by how nice she was to me. Very Berry was a 10/10 in the look department too. I’d never pick someone off of just their physical appearance, but the cut up berries in my drink were just… wow. Well played, Starbucks, well played.

Third, I had the beloved drinks modern folk call the Frappuccino, and the Cooler. 580 calories of blended coffee, ice and caramel, later, Caribou slayed this one. I could honestly bathe myself in Caribou coffee whipped cream. This caramel beauty was blended to perfection; not too chunky, not too watery. Sorry abs, there’s a new man in town and his name is the Caribou Caramel Cooler.

Less significant fights occurred, (black coffee, chai tea latte, iced green tea) and they led me to two conclusions. One: Starbuck’s has way better ice cubes for chewing on. (Shout out to the people who understand why this is important). Two: Caribou’s menu is far easier to navigate. I felt like I was intruding on a conversation I wasn’t welcome in when I was trying to read the menu at Starbucks. Ordering there left me confused, naked and alone.

Sitting in the two coffee shops were very different experiences. Starbucks made me feel like I had some meeting in a tall building to go to, that I shouldn’t be dribbling coffee down my chin and that I should have washed my hair two days ago. Very clean and professional. Caribou had a cabin-y feel. Fireplaces and logs were everywhere; I should’ve been wearing my flannel. How’d I forget my ax at home?

Who won the war? My final verdict may have come from my Minnesotan instinct, but Caribou Coffee came out on top. The drinks were better, I felt more comfortable inside, and I can order using the words “small, medium and large.” The small drawbacks of the ice cubes and precipitation didn’t mean much when my cup had the blue Caribou on it.

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Jane Doe


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