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Artisanal vs. Commercial: The Coffee Debate

Holly Rusch and Sara Raubvogel

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Mass-produced coffee chains and smaller, more artisanal stores have come to a head in a popular SF locale: the ferry building.

Starbucks, a popular chain, has a location directly across from Blue Bottle coffee, a smaller and more selective shop inside the ferry building itself.

Hazel Marie, a Starbucks patron drinking tea, pointed out their immediate reason for not visiting Blue Bottle coffee: “I don’t drink coffee for digestive reasons, but I come here for tea and a sandwich.” However, they added Starbucks “prices are pretty stable and you know what you’re getting.”

Starbucks is known for a wide variety of beverages and is a go-to for many tourists and locals alike.

Blue Bottle customer Himanshu Rasan explains: “I come to Starbucks three days a week, but we were coming to the ferry building and bluebottle is more special.”

And this specialized quality that draws customers might explain why Jason Poplin, a Starbucks manager, believes stores like these are taking customers away from bigger brands like Starbucks.

“Blue Bottle is more of an underground coffee, it’s more unique- Starbucks attracts tourists who know what they’re getting.”

With artisanal coffee shops on the rise, mega-brands like Starbucks, while still enjoying mass popularity at the moment, might have to change their branding in the future.

As Poplin explains: “Starbucks is general coffee. Blue Bottle offers a specific and unique kind of coffee we might not offer.”

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