Thoughts From Vacation (PT1)

Coffee Edition

Well, I’m coming to the end of my vacation and before it’s over I thought I would write a little about a few of my favorite things.  First, I’m writing about coffee today, I’ll be doing a short compare/contrast between Starbucks Coffee and Caribou Coffee – the two local shops I visited while in Brainerd MN.  Tomorrow I’ll be writing about the local MTB trail and uploading a little video of the ride.  Then on Thursday, I’ll be doing a book review of Necessary Endings.  Well, let’s get to it and talk about coffee – by the way coffee drinkers, I’d love to hear what you think about each of these chains so reply back!


It’s no secret that Starbucks is one of my favorite places to grab a cup of coffee – especially when I’m travelling.  Here’s the deal (for me), Starbucks is a clean, friendly (typically) and modern environment.  The team knows how to make coffee drinks with excellence and they are professional / serious about their craft.

Starbucks-LogoWhen I go to a Starbucks, I want a good cup of coffee and a place to sit to enjoy it.  I usually read for a few minutes while drinking my coffee.  I also like to watch people and think (about nothing or about ministry/family/life).  Enjoying coffee at Starbucks is a time for me to unwind, reflect and/or get ready for my day.  If I’m there in the morning I will read my Bible and get caught up on the daily news.  If I’m there in the afternoon I will read a book, meet with other friends or simply reflect on my day.

Here’s the positives for going to Starbucks:

  • Thoughtful Environment, a place that is easy to sit down and unwind for a bit
  • Professional Team, members that know the product they are offering and how to prepare it properly
  • Consistent Coffee, they always offer Pike Place Roast plus two other varieties


caribouOne of the reasons I love travelling is that I really enjoy visiting other coffee shops and trying their various roasts.  So when we visit my in-laws in MN it’s always a treat to check-in at Caribou Coffee (We don’t have them here in Northern MI).  Caribou is very similar to Starbucks (IMHO) in their approach to coffee and service.  Again, clean/welcoming environment, friendly staff and very good coffee.  They really try to create a customer experience that is warm (almost like a cabin feel) and soft.  I love to grab my cup of coffee and sink into one of the large dark leather chairs that are tucked into a corner to read my Bible or book.

IMG_1049-757042This past week, while in MN, I spent most of my (coffee drinking) time at Caribou.  I went each morning, usually around 7am to read the Bible, pray, and read a few chapters of Necessary Endings.  I’d spend about an hour or so each day before the family was awake reading, reflecting and praying; a peaceful start to each day.

Here’s the comparison for Caribou to Starbucks:

  • Thoughtful Environment, I think I like the Caribou “cabin” feel more than the modern feel of Starbucks.
  • Friendly Team, again, similar to the Starbucks team the Caribou staff is very professional and friendly.
  • Consistent Coffee, nope, they miss it here.  Now, Caribou has very good coffee, but it is not consistent.  Each day they offer 3 different coffees and if you don’t like them then you’re out of luck.  What’s more, typically you would see a coffee shop offer a light or medium roast along with a dark roast and then the daily decaf.  However, at Caribou, they mix it up everyday – on one morning when I went in they offered 2 light roast coffees along with their daily decaf.  Bad Move.  At Starbucks, they always have Pike Place Roast, so if you don’t like their daily selection you can always go to the Pike Place Roast.  Also, when traveling and you just want a good cup of coffee, it’s great to be able to stop at Starbucks and grab a consistent cup of Pike Place.

Bottom Line:

starbucks2The consistence of the coffee is not a deal breaker for me – it’s just a little frustrating to me.  I love the environment of Caribou and if I have some time to relax/reflect I will stop at the Caribou to sit and read.  However, if I need to grab a cup of coffee to go and there is a Starbucks and a Caribou next door to each other I will pick the Starbucks every time because of their consistency.

Okay, what are your thoughts?  If you enjoy drinking coffee and have been to both a Starbucks and a Caribou I’d love to hear your opinions on these two chains.