Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Weighing in on Starbucks’ new brew

April 8, 2008


“Not as bitter!” “What’s with the flayed mermaid”? “Smooth …” “What? Free coffee?”

Just a few of the comments overheard this morning in the busy newsroom — journalists are a highly caffeinated bunch, after all — about Starbucks Corp’s new coffee brew called Pike Place Roast, launched today.

Folks, including this reporter, lined up outside Starbucks coffee houses across the country today as barristas passed out free 8-oz (227 gram) samples of the coffee that the global coffee chain hopes will stave off competitors such as McDonalds Corp in the economic downturn.

“The reality is, they have enough brand equity with their consumers they can afford to experiment,” said Matthew Kaufler, a fund manager with Clover Capital. Kaufler, a Starbucks drinker whose professional portfolio does not include the coffee chain, had yet to try the new blend, but said Starbucks stock, given its 40 percent fall since a year ago,  ”is starting to look enticing.”

The new blend, which sells for $9.95 per pound (454 grams) has a smoother flavor and finish, the company says. That appeared to be the general assessment in this newsroom, although some drinkers questioned Starbucks’ new label on the cup. The brown band — formerly green — now features a mermaid whose tail is splayed in two like a butterflied chicken.

“It’s actually a siren,” said a Starbucks spokeswoman. “A siren is a two-tailed mermaid.”

Aha. Indeed.

The two-tailed mermaid harkens back to the company’s roots at the fishermen’s haven of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the spokeswoman said. The new logo, which looks like the company’s original label, will be seen on cups for a few months, after which the green and white cups — on which a much smaller siren is visible — will reappear.

But, back to the taste.

Thumbs up or down? Bitter or smooth? Is the mermaid — siren, sorry — distracting or enticing?

Please share your thoughts, caffeinated readers, and tell us what you think of Starbucks’ new brew.

 (Photo: Reuters)


Starbucks must wake up and realize their problems are NOT about the coffee. The market for coffee shops and gourmet prepared coffee is nearly saturated, and being overrun with mass competitors. Starbucks has to find new places to compete. Its forays into sandwiches, other merchandise, music production, movie production and star agency were the kinds of things that could save the company – and now Mr. Schulz is tearing those down to invest in a slugfest which will only drive down margins. Investors beware. Read more at


I like it! It is to expensive though IMO



When a company toys with a logo that is one of the most recognized in the developed world it is most likely either desperate or idiotic (or both!) Coffee is a morning ritual. Rituals like consitency. I found my morning double expresso somewhat discomforting out of new logo cup. From my point of view, Starbucks started a slide when they replaced hand crafted espresso with machine made. I realize all the labor issues involved with the new machines and can almost accept them. However, to randomly play with my morning ritual for the sake of competing with McD is not forgivable!!!

Posted by tnt | Report as abusive

dissapointed by the new blend. very weak tastes like mcdonald’s coffee if i wanted mcdonalds coffee i could pay a smaller price and go there. Starbucks coffee was what it was because it is strong like real coffee drinkers like it. The new blend tastes like gas station coffee. I hope the real stuff comes back. Would be okay for 99Cents but for regular price i think i will drink at home instead.

Posted by Rebecca | Report as abusive

Here it is..a raining-sleeting-is-it-going-to-snow night in Minnesota and I just had my first Pike Place roast.
I waited for my coffee to be brewed (GREAT FRESHNESS! THAT IS A WINNING CONCEPT) and was wrestling over whether I should buy a bag for a friend who is is a coffee hound to try but decided to hold off to see if this knocked my socks off. Umm…why does this taste like something from Caribou? I have to get a shot of two of espresso in my cup from Caribou just so it tastes like they actually put coffee in the cup! NOW STARBUCKS!? E-Gads!

Posted by Tom in MN | Report as abusive

YUK! took 1 sip and threw it away! lets hear it for mcdonalds and dunkin donuts!!

Posted by kelly | Report as abusive

I’m so sick of this phony “back to origins” campaign, the force feeding of Pike’s Place, and the steady stream of premature apologies from the barista’s regarding the quality of the drink, offering to remake it e v e r y time you order. If Howard would just focus on getting the younger “partners” to stop chit-chatting about their private lives and flirting with one another while there is a line of 20 glaring unserved customers right in front of them, that would be a HUGE improvement. In fact, I think instead of “proactive apologies” for their drink making, they should all be forced to apologize proactively for being inattentive to customers, closing with “. . . and if you’d like me to shut up and just make your drink from now on, I’d be happy to do so!”

Posted by Ruthie | Report as abusive

That high-resolution picture should have been resized! Great picture though. Reminds me why I don’t go to the Buck and choose to be a Peetnik instead :)


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