Starbucks vs. Local Coffee Shops - Which One is Iowa Students' Go-To?

Coffee. Most college students can’t live without it. It’s always there for you – helping you through your 8 am class, pushing you through that mid-afternoon slump and fueling your late-night study binges. It’s not an addiction, but rather a necessity (and maybe a little bit of an addiction). 

If you’re like me, an embarrassingly large chunk of your paycheck gets handed over to various coffee shops around Iowa City each week. Starbucks used to be my holy grail, but since starting a job at the IMU, Java is my new go-to (I’m definitely sipping a Java iced coffee as a write this). It got me thinking though – what do most University of Iowa students prefer? Are we all suckers for the chains: Starbucks, Dunkin, Caribou Coffee? Or are we loyal to our local shops: Java, Cortado, High Ground? To put the debate to rest once and for all, I decided to ask around on campus.

The results of my mini-survey were clear – the majority of UI students can’t escape the siren call of Starbucks (haha get it, because their mascot is a siren?). Almost 52% of the people who responded to my survey chose Starbucks as their go-to, mainly due to convenience. 

“I would rather support local instead of Starbucks, but online ordering and customization is just so much easier for picking up between classes and activities,” says sophomore Elizabeth Wickham. 

For other people, it came down to the amount of non-coffee options Starbucks has.

“I love Starbucks because I feel like a queen drinking it,” says sophomore Teresa Jacbosen. “Also, I love the variety of drinks they have!”

While it’s true that there’s no local equivalent to a Mango Dragon Fruit Refresher from Starbucks, plenty of Iowa students are also fiercely loyal to our coffee shops closer to campus. For those who support local, Java leads the way. A big win for Java is their atmosphere, which many Java lovers said was perfect for studying. 

“The whole vibe is just very inviting,” says junior Hannah Zepeda. “Because I feel welcomed there and enjoy myself, I usually spend more time studying there, too!”

High Ground also received a vote from Dylan Kilpatrick, because he claims their chai tea lattes are the “best in town.” 

What about the other big chains, though? America runs on Dunkin’ – or so their slogan says. In reality, broke AF college students run on Dunkin', especially in Iowa City. For the 19% who chose DD as their go-to, cost was usually the number one reason.  

“It’s only $2 for a large iced coffee!” says Dunkin-lover, Ally Doorenbos, junior. “Local coffee shops are just too expensive. Plus, I like the drive-through.”

College students on a budget will do a lot to save a buck or two – including driving out to Coralville. A Dunkin' on campus would be a GAME CHANGER though.

All in all, it looks like Iowa students are suckers for the convenience and cheap prices of the chains. However you fuel your caffeine addiction, just remember, there's no such thing as too much coffee!

Image Credit: Dunkin' Photo