Tommies’ cuppa joe now served by Starbucks

<p>Aaron Hays/TommieMedia</p>
Starbucks is now the exclusive coffee supplier at St. Thomas. (Aaron Hays/TommieMedia)

A familiar face will be arriving this fall on campus: the green logo of Starbucks Coffee.

Full espresso bars, featuring all of Starbucks’ hot and cold drinks, will now be available at Scooters and Beakers. Seattle’s Best, a Starbucks-owned company, will be brewed daily everywhere else, including The Grill and Food for Thought on the Minneapolis campus. The switch has replaced the local Flamenco coffee.

“Change is always good,” said Director of Dining Services Todd Empanger, who made Starbucks’ happen at St. Thomas. “There has always been a call for the Starbucks and Caribous, a nationally-branded coffee. With two years before we go into the Anderson Center, we thought, why not just try it?”

After many staff meetings, taste tests and deliberation, the choice was made to declare Starbucks the winner above other competitors.

“The key reason was with Starbucks we could use some of our existing equipment,” Empanger said. “Caribou said if we wanted higher-end drinks, like espressos and cappuccinos, we would have to buy their equipment.” So in an effort to save money during difficult economic times, Empanger dismissed Caribou’s proposal, which included a required purchase of two $10-$15 thousand dollar machines.

Empanger and staff were also attracted to the idea of being able to serve not only Starbucks, but Seattle’s Best too. It was the “option of having two for the price of one. When St. Thomas can bring in two responsible companies, representing two different flavors … It was a win-win deal for us,” Empanger said.

Another key element in the decision was to continue serving a Fair Trade coffee, like the previous Flamenco brand. As one of the largest buyers of Fair Trade coffee, Starbucks and Seattle’s Best boast their certified organic coffee. Visiting any new selling location on campus, advertisements on posters and table tents read “Certified organic coffee means less impact on the environment. And more impact from you,” educating customers about their cup of joe.

The transition from a local, smaller coffee brand to a nationally recognized name like Starbucks may be difficult for some to stomach. But Dan Jensen, manager of Scooters, said he believes that by bringing in the full Starbucks espresso bar, business is only going to get better. “You can’t argue with success,” he said. Jensen said he is anticipating a consistently good product, one that’s going to add to the consistently good food, service and atmosphere of Scooters.

In an effort to eliminate the Styrofoam cups on the St. Paul campus, Dining Services is switching to paper cups made with a starch-based material. Customers will see a slight increase in price as a reflection of paper costs, Empanger explained. Although more expensive, the new cups are more eco-friendly and will decompose over the years.

As incentives to save, customers can bring their own mug for an extra 25 cents off, or use the new campus-wide punch card, where students can receive a free coffee after the purchase of 10 drinks.

In the end, Empanger knows that the change will bring mixed reactions.

“Coffee is a taste thing, you either like it or you don’t, you prefer this or that,” he said. “For preferences, we’ll hear both sides, I am sure.”

So, what is going to be the hottest drink in the line-up this fall? The featured Caramel Macchiato, said Jensen. “They’re great, actually outstanding. They’re going to be very popular.”

Sally Schreiber can be reached at