It was a gloomy, quiet morning. Tired UC Berkeley students stumbled out of their apartments after the long weekend, desperately searching for the nearest form of caffeinated sustenance. Espresso machines hummed, latte frothers rattled, and no one had the slightest idea that the Clog was clandestinely watching, scheming and plotting an investigation.
It recently came to our attention here at the Daily Clog that there is an unholy number of cafes in and around campus, with seven Peet’s Coffee & Teas dominating the scene. We’d all like to be fair and optimistic about our coffee options, but even the most egalitarian economist will tell you these different locations are not created equal. They must differ, to some degree, in pricing, product quality and overall customer accommodation.
What we didn’t expect was the degree to which they differred. After conducting a covert investigation in which we went into each Peet’s location and ordering the same complicated drink, the results were astonishing. Prices varied to a staggering degree, the drink ranged from acidic to sugar-sweet, and baristas reacted with everything from grimaces to grins.
Order one “Small, skinny, half-caf Madagascar soy caramel macchiato” (a made-up drink that pulled adjectives from various menu items) from every Peet’s Coffee location around.
The modus operandi: Be as stoic, straightforward and unapologetic as possible.
Price factor: The Peet’s on Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way charged the least for the drink, amounting to only $3.20 (compared to the most expensive location, Qualcomm, which charged $4.15).
Taste factor: Common Grounds struck a healthy balance between sweet and bold. The foam-to-liquid ratio was 1:3. and even the residue syrup at the bottom of the cup was not overly rich.
Accommodation factor: The Den cashiers and baristas were the most accommodating and friendly. Almost all employees were confused by the order.
Here is a breakdown of The Daily Clog’s experience at each location. Taste and accommodation are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being horrible and 5 being outstanding.
Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way
The barista had to ask several times if the order was for one or two drinks. She explained that Madagascar means foamed vanilla and milk, and that, therefore, it was odd for a customer to put in a request for a “caramel Madagascar.” She described the drink as a “latte-macchiato,” and claimed she has received far more complicated orders in the past.
Shattuck Avenue and Kittredge Street
The cashier asked for a repeat of the order and a breakdown of the complicated language. Finally, after a frustrated try at the register, he called over the head barista, who explained that the drink can’t be both skinny and soy, because “skinny” insinuates fat-free milk (there is no such thing as fat-free soy milk). Eventually, the head barista determined the order to be a “latte with sugar-free vanilla syrup, regular caramel syrup, soy milk, one shot of regular espresso and one shot of decaffeinated espresso.”
The cashier, who smiled throughout the entire experience, kindly asked for a repeat of the order and an explanation of each particularity that was desired. He even clarified the order for the barista so that the drink came out exactly as requested. This was the only location that drizzled caramel on top of the foam rather than mix it into the drink.
Golden Bear Cafe
This ordeal required four baristas. The first woman insisted that the drink was ridiculous and impossible. The second barista looked confused, and so called over a third barista. This third barista condescendingly laughed aloud and finally called over a woman from the salad bar. The hybrid salad-bar worker barista, clearly fed up with her co-workers, rolled her eyes at the order. “It’s not so hard,” she said, whipping up the drink in under a minute. We were impressed by her expertise, but disappointed when we took the first sip of the saccharose concoction, which tasted like a mix of spoiled milk and candy.
The barista asked us to point out where on the menu the drink was located (read between the lines). She seemed overly confident in her abilities, forgetting that we requested soy milk and caramel. She also put the drink on ice. So… wrong drink, best taste.
The cashier conferred with the barista before returning to the front for clarification. She asked if we just wanted a freddo. We didn’t. She ended up making us what appeared to be a vanilla latte.
After receiving the order from the cashier, the barista called us over to make sure she had gotten it right. She explained, just as the barista from the Telegraph Avenue location had, that there is no such thing as nonfat soy milk. She mumbled something about an upside down latte to the cashier, who winked at us as we cupped the warm drink in our hands.
Contact Daniela at [email protected].
All photo credits go to Eric Zhao.