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Coffee Wars II

Posted by A.E. Smith on September 12, 2006

Drink_upCaribou isn't the only company taking shots at Starbucks' latte culture.  It looks like Nestle and Coca Cola want their own piece of the big green. According to Ad Age, each is launching a new specialty coffee brand that will bring the gourmet coffee experience to those without, well, any experience in making gourmet coffee. The idea is to offer "goof-free superpremium brews that can be served up by ordinary coffee-counter jockeys rather than highly trained drink masters."

Coca-Cola's system, called Far Coast, is being first introduced in Canada this month, with Singapore and Oslo, Norway, to follow. Nestlé, meanwhile, is quietly developing Nescafe Specialty Solutions, a gourmet-coffee system that allows upscale foodservice customers to mix concentrate with water to create hot or cold mocha, latte, French vanilla and chocolate drinks.

This post is worth reading, simply because they use the phrase "land-grab in coffee."

Having been a barista myself (though not at Starbucks) and having tried many machines that claim to make a "latte", I'm a little skeptical at the promises of these new coffee systems. Starbucks' success is based on the whole luxury culture it oozes, not the quality of its coffee, and its real triumph has been in creating a worldwide network of semi-public spaces where consumers can tap into an ideal: that of the plugged-in, urban professional with enough time and money to spend on an overpriced beverage. The art of coffee sales is about more than perfect foam. Unless these instant imitators can whip up a couch, WiFi and pretty people watching opportunities just by adding water, they've got nothing on Starbucks. Lose the coffee house, and you've lost the war.


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