During my recent tasting tests, I wondered about the differences between two popular coffee brands: Volcanica Coffee and Starbucks. While Starbucks is undoubtedly a household name, I’ve been drinking more and more Volcanica coffees lately and loved their specialty peaberry coffees. So I decided to dive deeper into these two brands to understand their distinctions better.
Volcanica Coffee sources its beans from high-altitude, volcanic soil. This gives them a distinct smoothness unique to their brand. On the other hand, Starbucks is known for having a more widely available selection. The coffee house giant offers coffee lovers everything from dark roasts to specialty seasonal options to the latest merch. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of each brand as we dive deeper into the world of Starbucks vs specialty coffee!
Starbucks vs Specialty Coffee From Volcanica
Volcanica Coffee Overview
- A family-owned specialty coffee company with more than 150 different coffees (1) from volcanic regions worldwide.
- The beans of Volcanica Coffee are sourced from 16 volcanic regions spanning 13 countries. Including Costa Rica, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Colombia, and Hawaii.
- Coffee varieties include single-origins, blends, and flavored options. The benefit for you as a customer is that you can experience each growing region’s unique flavors and characteristics.
- Volcanica Coffee roasts its beans in small batches to ensure freshness and optimal flavor.
- Volcanica is committed to eco-friendly practices, offering carbon-neutral shipping and supporting reforestation projects.
- Volcanica also provides a variety of certified organic and Rainforest Alliance-certified options.
- All coffees are Kosher certified by the Atlanta Kosher Commission (1).
- Starbucks was founded in Seattle, Washington, in 1971. It all started with a single store selling coffee beans and equipment in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market (2).
- Starbucks is now the largest coffeehouse chain globally, with over 36,000 locations in more than 84 countries (3).
- Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) is a Nasdaq 100 listed company, with its top 3 largest shareholders being Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street (4).
- The company has expanded its product offerings beyond coffee. They are also selling tea, pastries, sandwiches, and branded merchandise.
- Starbucks is committed to environmental and social initiatives. The company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. They want to eliminate single-use plastics and actively support community programs.
- Starbucks serves approximately 100 million customers per week across its global locations.
Coffee Bean Sourcing
Volcanica Coffee emphasizes the importance of 100% Arabica beans. Most beans are organic, Fair Trade, and all of their coffees are Kosher certified.
Starbucks sources its coffee beans from various regions around the world. The company is mainly known for using Arabica beans in many of its blends.
Volcanica focuses more on single-origin, estate, and gourmet coffee beans. They also sell peaberry coffees (5), which are sweeter and have a stronger flavor due to their smaller size. They have a wide selection of single-origin coffee beans and exotic coffees such as:
- Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee
- Brazil Peaberry Coffee
- Hawaiian Kona Coffee
- Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
- Kopi Luwak
On the other hand, Starbucks offers a wide variety of coffee beverages, from espressos to Frappuccinos. But there is much more, from packaged coffee beans to Keurig K-Cup pods. But their coffee is neither gourmet and is not single-origin because most are blends from different beans and different countries.
So Volcanica offers higher quality coffees, and Starbucks has a more mass-market appeal for the average customer.
Social and Environmental Responsibility
Volcanica Coffees are certified organic or Fair Trade, while Starbucks has made progress with its Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices. This ensures sustainable sourcing and support for farmers.
Starbucks also invests in renewable energy and works to reduce its environmental footprint.
Coffee Quality and Taste Test: Starbucks vs Specialty Coffee
When I first compared Starbucks and Volcanica coffee, I was excited to see how they would stack up regarding coffee quality and taste. Having tried both brands, I can say that each offers something unique for coffee lovers.
In my experience, Starbucks is great for rich, bold flavors. Some of my favorite Starbucks blends, like Pike Place and Veranda, have a smooth, full-bodied profile.
On the other hand, Volcanica offers a vast selection of more than 150 coffee varieties grown worldwide, including specialty beans, organic, estate, decaf, and low-acid options.
I noticed a couple of distinct differences between Starbucks and Volcanica. Starbucks favors a darker roast, providing a more robust and intense flavor. Volcanica has a broader range of roast levels, catering to those who may prefer something lighter or more nuanced in taste. Do you know what does volcanic coffee taste like?
I compared a medium roast from both brands in my personal taste test: The Starbucks Pike Place and the Tanzania Peaberry coffee.
Starbucks’ Pike Place offered me a bold, balanced flavor with hints of chocolate and toasted nuts. Meanwhile, the Volcanica medium roast from Tanzania had a more delicate profile. I especially liked the fruity notes and the mild acidity.
Ultimately, both Starbucks and Volcanica deliver high-quality coffee with distinct taste profiles. It’s up to your taste buds to decide which brand suits you best.
Volcanica vs Starbucks: Pros and Cons
- Widespread Availability: Over 36,000 locations across 84 countries.
- Diverse Coffee Offerings: Variety of coffee beverages, from espressos to Frappuccinos.
- Expanded Product Range: Tea, pastries, sandwiches, and branded merchandise.
- Environmental and Social Initiatives: Committed to reducing its carbon footprint and eliminating single-use plastics.
- Global Customer Base: Serves approximately 100 million customers per week.
- Inconsistent Quality: Quality and consistency might vary depending on the specific blend or location.
- Coffee beans are not freshly roasted: Beans are not freshly roasted.
- Mass-Market Focus: Mainly targets mass-market appeal rather than gourmet or single-origin coffee.
- Ownership: Owned by large asset management companies, detracting from support for smaller, local businesses.
Specialty Coffee: Volcanica
- Premium, Single-Origin Coffee: Focuses on unique and flavorful beans.
- Distinct Smoothness: Sourced from high-altitude, volcanic soil.
- Wide Coffee Variety: Over 150 coffee varieties, including specialty beans, organic, estate, decaf, and low-acid options.
- Small-Batch Roasting: Ensures freshness and optimal flavor.
- Eco-Friendly Practices: Carbon-neutral shipping and reforestation projects.
- Certifications: Offers certified organic, Rainforest Alliance-certified, and Kosher-certified coffee.
- Limited Availability: Less widely available compared to Starbucks.
- Higher Price: Can be more expensive due to the focus on high-quality beans and sustainable practices.
Verdict: Who Has Better Coffee, Starbucks or Volcanica?
Between Starbucks and Volcanica Coffee, there are some key differences that I’ve noticed.
Volcanica Coffee focuses on creating premium, single-origin coffee. Coffee cherries are grown on the slopes of volcanoes. The volcanic ash in the soil creates a rich, fertile environment for the coffee plants to thrive. This results in some truly unique and flavorful beans, such as their 100% Kopi Luwak.
Starbucks is a well-known global brand. They offer a wide variety of coffee blends and beverages.
While their coffee has a more mainstream appeal, the quality can vary depending on the specific blend or location.
I have enjoyed many Starbucks drinks, but the consistency and taste sometimes fall short.
When it comes to the actual coffee beans, I find that Volcanica offers a higher quality product. The focus they put into creating distinctive, flavorful coffee speaks to the coffee aficionado in me.
But Starbucks is still an excellent choice for a quick caffeine fix. The coffee house chain offers a diverse menu that caters to a wide range of tastes.
So Starbucks coffee or Volcanica Coffee is a matter of personal preference. I lean towards Volcanica’s dedication to producing high-quality, unique coffee beans. However, Starbucks can still be an enjoyable experience.
Finally, something you might also want to consider besides sourcing, varieties, taste or certifications. You want to know more about the company’s owner(s). Who is that you are supporting with your daily cup of Joe or three?
Is it a gigantic coffee corporation aiming to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time?”
This all sounds oh-so inspiring until you realize that Starbucks’ five biggest shareholders are the de facto Kings of Wall Street, and the top three firms (BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street) OWN and CONTROL most of corporate America.
Top 5 Institutional Holders of Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) at close 21 April 2023 (4):
- Vanguard (9% ownership)
- BlackRock (7% ownership)
- State Street (4% ownership)
- Bank of America (3% ownership)
- Morgan Stanley (3% ownership)
So, if you want to support a local family-owned business in Atlanta, renowned for their exceptional gourmet Arabica roasts instead of fueling the colossal empires of Starbucks – owned by asset management giants like Vanguard, and BlackRock – then Volcanica Coffee is your go-to coffee brand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is Volcanica Coffee So Expensive?
Volcanica Coffee is known for its high-quality beans sourced from volcanic regions worldwide. The beans are grown at high altitudes, contributing to their unique flavor profiles. You get what you pay for because the company focuses on providing single-origin, organic, and fair-trade coffee options.
Is Volcanica Coffee Fresh?
Yes, Volcanica Coffee is freshly roasted. The company roasts the beans only after an order has been placed. Customers will receive recently roasted coffee beans, allowing them to enjoy the best flavors and aromas.
Which Coffee Is Most Like Starbucks?
Starbucks coffee fans might enjoy Volcanica’s darker roast options. For example, Volcanica’s Sumatra Mandheling is a dark roast with bold flavors. Very similar to the dark roasted profile of Starbucks beans.
Bottom Line: Starbucks vs Volcanica Coffee
So who has better coffee, Starbucks or Volcanica? Volcanica has an impressive selection of single-origin gourmet and specialty coffees. They are one of my top picks if you want to explore exotic flavors from the top coffee regions around the world.
Starbucks Coffee is a mass-market coffee product with heavy branding and marketing that comes with a premium price tag. Their coffee ranges from great to uninspiring. Starbucks coffees are perfectly fine for the average customer to satisfy their daily need for a quick and convenient cup of Joe. Their strength is convenience and an extraordinary brand they have managed to build over the last six decades.
But if you want to enjoy gourmet coffee at a great price point, then Volcanica Coffee and small specialty coffee roasters are a better choice.
- 1 Starbucks vs Specialty Coffee From Volcanica
- 2 Volcanica vs Starbucks: Pros and Cons
- 3 Starbucks
- 4 Specialty Coffee: Volcanica
- 5 Verdict: Who Has Better Coffee, Starbucks or Volcanica?
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Bottom Line: Starbucks vs Volcanica Coffee