Comparing Coffee Shop Chains: Caribou vs. Starbucks Face-off

Hot chocolate, iced black coffee, iced chai tea, refreshers ratings


Allyson Jay

Size small drinks are compared from left to right: hot chocolate, ice black coffee, green tea lemonade, and iced chai latte.

The ongoing famous debate: Caribou vs Starbucks. Which is better? We ventured out to Edina, MN where we compared two different drinks: hot chocolate and iced black coffee. For each of the drinks, we purchased the smallest sizes they offered. Caribou drinks also appear to be slightly larger but that could be due to the cup design. Overall the Caribou atmosphere was much friendlier than Starbucks. 

First, we tried the Starbucks hot chocolate. The drink, size “short,” came with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on top of the drink. Despite this illusion of a delicious topping, the drink itself could be described as a “waste of space”. The below average rating of 4/10 is due to its bitter flavor, obvious use of hot water instead of milk, and high price point of $3.15. On the other hand, the Caribou hot chocolate, which came with the same decadent topping, received a 9/10 at $3.19. This high rating is due to the drinks flavor and use of milk providing the perfect ratio of chocolate to warm milk. Thus, the hot chocolate at Caribou was significantly better while only 4 cents more. 

Next we tried the black coffee. The Starbucks iced black coffee, which was $3.25, received a 6/10. While this drink was bitter (as is any unsweetened black coffee), watered down, and offered an undesirable aftertaste, it was significantly lighter and better than Caribou’s black coffee. Caribou’s coffee was extremely bitter, awfully sour, watered down, and had a very unpleasant aftertaste that polluted our taste buds for the rest of the day. We rated it a 2.5/10. Even though the Caribou coffee was only $2.39, we do not recommend buying it nor would we get it again. 

Thirdly, we sampled the iced chai tea from both locations. The Caribou chai was “mid” at a rating of 6/10 and a price point of $3.39. This was due to the lack of spice and aroma that was supposed to come from the tea. On the contrary the Starbucks chai got a particularly high rating of 8/10 and was $3.25. The drink hit all the marks of flavor, smoothness, and no after taste. The Starbucks drink was 14 cents less than caribou and was significantly better. Therefore, the obvious winner for chai is Starbucks. 

Lastly, we tried the refreshers. The Caribou green tea lemonade was rated a high 8/10, as it was very refreshing (hence the name, “refresher”), sweet but not overly sweet, and a nice balance of the two flavors. On the other hand, the Starbucks green tea lemonade received a 5/10 for its sourness, lack of flavor from the green tea, and yet another bad aftertaste. As for prices, the Caribou refresher was 46 cents cheaper than the Starbucks refresher, with a price of $2.79. This was a very good deal, considering the Caribou drink was cheaper and significantly better tasting.