Coffee Crawl: Starbucks vs Caribou Coffee


Katrina Schiller

Photography on the wall of a Starbucks cafe.

There is great debate regarding which local coffee chain is the best: is it Starbucks or Caribou Coffee?

In my opinion, it all comes down to personal preference, so this review is a compilation of the various factors that may influence your decision when choosing which one to visit.

The atmosphere of Caribou and Starbucks is one of the differing characteristics between the two coffee chains. Guests find that Caribou Coffee has a more traditional coffee shop ambiance: most have carpet and some have fireplaces. The colors of Caribou Coffee are softer toned hues of brown with occasional minty blue accents. Starbucks’ colors are contrastingly different in comparison to Caribou. They mostly use black, white, and gray colors. The lighting in Starbucks cafes is typically darker, and the overall vibe is more hipster.

Another difference is that you can find Starbucks Coffee’s in every state, but Caribou Coffee is only in 18 states.

The menus of Caribou Coffee and Starbucks also have discrepancies. First off, Caribou uses simplistic terms for their beverage’s sizes: small (12 oz.), medium (16 oz.), and large (20 oz.); whereas, Starbucks uses non-traditional names for their sizes: tall (12 oz.), grande (16 oz.), venti (24 oz.), and trenta (31 oz.).

The differences don’t stop there! The beverage menus of the two coffee shops include various different drinks and combinations of flavors. Some customers find that their favorite drink will only be available at either Starbucks or Caribou, but not both. For instance, if you’re looking for something with cinnamon syrup, you’ll have to find a Starbucks because Caribou doesn’t have cinnamon flavoring. If you’re looking for marshmallow syrup, you’ll most likely need to go to Caribou, because Starbucks only carries marshmallow flavoring seasonally.

With all of the differences between Starbucks and Caribou, it’s clear to see why people are passionate about their favorite. Sartell High School students have strong opinions regarding their preferences.

Blake Webster likes Caribou better because it tastes a lot better.
Blake states “I honestly think it’s a way more friendly and welcoming environment. It’s lighter, and the caramel crafted presses are good at Caribou.”

Eddie Hamilton likes Starbucks better because they’re more friendly, and their coffee is better.
“They seem to be more trained,” Eddie says. He likes the menu names even though they’re more confusing. “Caribou is more for the ‘foo foo’ coffee drinkers.” You can also call Starbucks “Starbae.” Eddie likes the Pikes Place Roast at Starbucks.

Ally Koopman says the employees at Caribou are more friendly, and since we have a Caribou closer to us in Sartell, it’s more convenient; however, she likes Starbucks’ iced caramel macchiato better than Caribou’s. At Caribou, Ally gets the peach black tea with a half shot of raspberry, and at Starbucks she gets an iced caramel macchiato.

Brock Sorenson says the Starbucks rewards system is more confusing than Caribou’s. “Starbucks literally sucks,” Brock says. “Caribou is so much closer, and I have friends that work at Caribou which makes it more environmentally friendly.” More bonuses about Caribou are that it has a nice room that you can study in, and the Coborn’s in which it is located has sushi. Brock likes that Caribou Coffee also has salt and sugar mix, which Starbucks doesn’t.

Lexie Lamont is team Caribou because they have marshmallow flavoring but Starbucks doesn’t.