University anticipates contracts with Alakef and Peace Coffee

By , Reporter  |  Wednesday, November 6, 2013 8:43 PM

After St. Thomas’ Starbucks Coffee Company contract expires in December, the university expects to provide both Alakef Coffee Roasters and Peace Coffee at its beverage stations.

Director of Dining Services Todd Empanger said the department is in the final stages of settling the new contract.

“It’s not a done deal until we talk to both the new companies and Starbucks … hopefully next week we’ll have a decision,” Empanger said.

Empanger said Peace Coffee didn’t get a very good rating in the blind taste test, but offering the two brands would both please student demands and be good for business.

“Students have always asked for Peace Coffee,” Empanger said. “We’re always trying to appease the student population, but we also look at the business standpoint and how it’s going to be supported.”

St. Thomas has offered Starbucks for seven years, and despite students favoring it in a blind taste test in late October, Empanger said it is time for a new vendor.

“We were going to change anyway from Starbucks,” Empanger said. “We’ve had some shipping problems, and it’s out in Seattle. We’ve always talked about going local.”

Sophomore Ali Quarberg isn’t excited about the change because Starbucks coffee is all she drinks.

“I don’t really understand why they would change coffees after they’ve had Starbucks for so long,” Quarberg said. “I think Starbucks is the best kind you can get.”

Empanger said Alakef, a Duluth-based company, has the whole package.

“They’re local. They roast their own beans. They’re fair trade; they’ve got it all,” Empanger said.

The Minneapolis campus’ coffee preferences may differ, though.

“We’re doing one more tasting in Minneapolis because everyone likes Starbucks over there, so they don’t want to change,” Empanger said. “If Starbucks wants to stay over there, they can probably work with them.”

Between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses, St. Thomas could potentially enter into new contracts with three different coffee brands, but Empanger hopes for a comprehensive agreement.

“My preference is that we switch and just go with Alakef and Peace Coffee everywhere,” Empanger said.

Senior Filip Baluch works in the Summit Marketplace and the Loft, and he doesn’t think the switch will affect how much coffee they sell.

“It’s hard to tell, but I think people won’t care too much, because they just want to get their coffee and go,” Baluch said. “I’ve heard that we’ve had a pretty bad experience with Starbucks, so if it’s going to make things better then why not switch.”

Senior Teresa Lingg agreed that students will keep buying coffee despite the brand change.

“On-campus coffee places are the most convenient, and I’ll buy whatever brand it is,” Lingg said. “Whether it’s Starbucks or anything else, I think most students don’t care too much.”

Empanger is confident with Dining Service’s decision, and he hopes students respond well to the change.

“When talking about coffee, everything’s personal preference. I think the ones we’ve chosen, Alakef and Peace, will be a good blend here at St. Thomas,” Empanger said. “I’m hoping (students) will be satisfied with either company because of what they stand for and what they’re offering.”

Molly Sigler can be reached at

This item was posted in Featured News, Latest News, News and has 3 comments so far.


  1. Ryan Burke
    Nov. 7, 2013 9:47 AM

    This is an excellent step for the university to start ACTUALLY living out its mission by not buying coffee from companies that use unfair, borderline slave-like labor, and not just using the mission to suppress people of color, activists, and queer people on campus.

  2. Melissa Seymour
    Nov. 7, 2013 5:01 PM

    YAY! Oh my gosh, I love Peace Coffee. I’d buy coffee on campus a million times more if we got it! 

  3. Michael Blissenbach ’09
    Nov. 11, 2013 8:43 AM

    I am glad that St. Thomas is ending its contract with Starbucks. Contracting with Starbucks was problematic on a number of levels from the standpoint of Catholic teachings on social justice, the dignity of human life, and the sanctity of marriage. Peace Coffee appears to be a much better fit from a Catholic teaching standpoint.

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