Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Starbucks versus Dunkin' Donuts. The hell with politics. Let's talk about something really important: coffee. Today, Globe business columnist Charlie Stein -- after admitting that he's "a non-coffee drinker" -- asserts that he can't understand how Starbucks can thrive in the shadow of Dunkin' Donuts. "I can't fathom why people are willing to pay $3 for coffee when the Dunkin' Donuts down the street charges half as much," Stein writes. "But customers are willing to pay up, even when money is tight."

Charlie, since you admit that you don't drink coffee, did you at least check the prices before you blithely stated that a cup of Starbucks costs double that of the same brew from DD? Now, I don't have a price list in front of me, but as a frequent customer of both establishments, I can tell you, without fear of having to post a correction later today, that a cup of regular coffee costs pretty much the same at Starbucks as it does at Dunkin' Donuts. Maybe Starbucks will set you back an extra quarter or so, but it's worth it to be able to choose between dark roast and mild, and to be able to add half-and-half and sugar to your own liking rather than allowing some DD drone to turn your "regular" into a lukewarm coffee milkshake.

What costs $3 and more at Starbucks are those fancy espresso drinks, the lattès and cappuccinos that Starbucks-haters are so fond of sneering at. But even at the upper end of the menu, the prices at Dunkin' Donuts are nothing to rave about. Starbucks's Frappuccino and DD's Coolatta are both ridiculously expensive. But I've been into Dunkin' Donuts stores where a Coolatta costs more than any Frappuccino. Plus, Frappuccinos are great; Coolattas are revolting.

If you want more on the great Starbucks-Dunkin' Donut debate -- and other than Charlie Stein, who doesn't? -- check out the "Wicked Good Guide to Coffee," at Boston Online.

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