A Pumpkin Spice Latte from each of the two most well-known coffee houses in Oregon, Starbucks and Dutch Brothers sit side by side. Photo credit: Leilani Vandehey


It is time to face the burning question that has been demanding attention in modern media and influencing Portland culture. Starbucks or Dutch Bros? For years millennials and baby boomers alike have incessantly quarreled over whether Apple or Android phones are superior. Though a solid conclusion has yet to be reached, the newer and much tastier feud over coffee is beginning to take over the population. Ben Dunfee-Hall (10) has an unwavering loyalty to the Seattle based coffee shop, Starbucks. A gold member since sixth grade, Dunfee-Hall claims that “Starbucks is great. The people, the drinks, the music, the aesthetics.” However, Cody Roberts, a freshman from Mt. Hood Community College, believes whole-heartedly that Dutch Bros is the greatest coffee shop in the world. You may be wondering, how exactly does one go about determining superiority (or lack thereof) between two iconic coffee franchises as huge as Starbucks and Dutch Bros? There are quite a few factors to take into consideration, and each has the potential to vary between different locations, different baristas, and even different items on the menu.  


The first factor to take into consideration is the quality of the product. Does it taste good? Does it look good? Is it well made? In comparing product quality of these two beloved coffee houses, we must first acknowledge the differences in product variety. Although they only sell drinks, Dutch Bros features 15 different categories of drinks that are available at every location, each with many different selections with fun and exciting names and colors to please your eyes as well as your tastebuds. Starbucks produces less variety in their drinks, however they sell cups and merchandise, bakery items, fruit, breakfast, and countless other types of food that provide the perfect accompaniment to their handcrafted drinks. Dunfee-Hall says that he has rarely had a dissatisfactory drink at Starbucks in his life, and in the occasion that he did, employees offered to remake it and bring it up to standards every time.

Dunfee-Hall’s experiences at Dutch Bros were drastically different from the happy, problem-solving attitude of Starbucks baristas, with a few unprofessional and rude employees at Dutch Bros. Customer service is a vital aspect of a person’s relationship with any business, and especially ones in food service. The Dutch Bros website states, “We may be a coffee company, but we are in the relationship business.” Contrary to Dunfee-Hall’s belief, many of their customers agree with that statement. “The baristas at Dutch are so nice!” says Meaghan Roberts (age 17), adding on to her sibling’s claim that Dutch Bros is the best coffee shop.


But what good is great customer service if the company’s overall values and sourcing are unethical? Ethical standards must be clear and precise when evaluating any business, and even more so when that business serves as a common ground for much of humanity. Everyone likes some kind of drink. Coffee, tea, or maybe a rebel from Dutch or a Starbucks frappuccino. Going out for coffee and refreshments is an easy way for people to connect and build community. Dunfee-Hall went to his local Starbucks so often throughout his time at Da’Vinci Middle School that he was on a first name basis with all of the baristas, and even considered them his friends. The ethics of individual employees are clearly intact, but it’s much more difficult to look into the sourcing of the company as a whole. On the official Starbucks website, there is an entire page dedicated to explaining where all of their products come from, and why they’re one of the world’s most ethical companies. Upon inspection, the Dutch Bros website has no evidence of any ethical rationality at all. Wouldn’t you rather buy your coffee from a company that is open and honest, rather than one that leaves out vital details, and insists on dyeing their drinks unnatural colors that couldn’t possibly be healthy for their customers? I don’t know about you, but I think it’s safe to say that Starbucks is better than Dutch Bros.

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