Categorized | State Side

A Conscious Cup

There’s no shortage of coffeehouses around MSU’s campus. Everywhere you look, new coffee shops seem to be opening for business. Each shop carves a niche for itself in the coffee market, hoping to attract a certain portion of consumers. All java joints fulfill the basic function of selling legal addictive stimulants in beverage form to the public, as well as providing a community gathering place. But, with so many nearby choices, which one is the best?
[coffee1] Loyalty to small, independently-owned businesses, availability of Fair Trade-certified coffee (guaranteeing coffee farmers a minimum price per pound for coffee) and an inviting atmosphere are a few factors drawing people to a particular coffeehouse. Here is a look into what matters to students when purchasing their early morning drug of choice.
Some people love Starbucks for its excellent quality product and have come to rely on the consistency of its coffee and its many locations. Usually you can find numerous franchises in one city.
Brittany Albright, hospitality business senior, said the Starbucks on Grand River Avenue is her favorite coffee shop because it consistently makes the best lattes. Albright hasn’t tried other coffee shops around campus because she simply likes Starbucks better, she said. She’s tried other coffeehouses in her hometown and none of them had the same quality lattes. Staff friendliness is important to her, too. “People are always talking to you here,” she said of Starbucks.
Lindsay Messner, physiology junior and barista at the Grand River Starbucks, said it is a great place, both to buy drinks and to work. “Their roasting process and bean standards set them apart. It’s just consistently good drinks and beans and I don’t find that at other coffeehouses in the area.”
While Messner enjoys many things about working at Starbucks, what she likes most are her co-workers. She feels valued as an employee, particularly when district managers took her and others to dinner to thank them for their hard work. “This company just offers a lot and I feel like they do care about us and that is why I have been working here for three years,” Messner said.
Messner also said employees are offered stock options, decent tips, room to advance and Starbucks community involvement in the AIDS Walk and multiple sclerosis events. Starbucks offers a lot more to its employees than other coffee companies, Messner said.
Some students, however, shun the corporate giant, preferring to take their business to smaller, local businesses they say promote socially responsible beverages and offer a cozier atmosphere.
“I hate Starbucks,” said Tommy Simon, a social relations and English sophomore, who does not identify himself as a serious coffee drinker. “They put smaller coffee shops out of business and they don’t do their part with Fair Trade. Market prices are decreasing for coffee farmers and Starbucks is pocketing extra change from it and ripping off consumers.”
Simon prefers localized coffeehouses such as Espresso Royale (which is still a chain, yet much smaller than that of Starbucks), Magdalena’s Tea House and Café Cafetzin. These three places are his favorites because they offer socially conscious beverages, which attract certain kinds of people. “Quite frankly, it’s just nice people welcoming people,” he said. “They all have open-mic nights. It’s a great crowd.”
[coffee2] For Simon, going to his preferred coffee/tea shops means having a clear conscience. “I go to them mainly for studying, to meet up with people. It’s just someplace to hang out for a while,” he said. He thinks the crowd who frequents Starbucks “is buying into the corporate world. It’s a rip-off,” he said.
Sarah Kuchenreuther, hospitality business junior and East Lansing Meijer Starbucks employee thinks “coffee is a trend, and the name of Starbucks is a fad.”
Another person who eschews corporate coffee shops is Dec. 2004 graduate Shawn Wozniak, who prefers to brew his own coffee. When buying coffee, he looks for the Fair Trade-Certified label and requires the stores he buys coffee from be mission-based.
Wozniak either buys his coffee online or at the East Lansing Food Co-op on Northwind Drive, which carries locally-grown, organic food and which he said has the largest Fair Trade food selection in town. “Almost all the coffee sold there is Fair Trade-certified,” he said.
When he does go to a coffee shop, Wozniak prefers small, cozy cafés such as Café Cafetzin on Michigan Avenue in Lansing. “The overall feel of the place is nice,” he said. “Pete, the owner, has art on the walls and talks to you. It’s a community. You feel welcome to it.”
Whether you choose a corporate giant that is decent to its employees; a unique and socially-committed small business or like to brew your own joe, think about where all that latte money is going. Even our smallest everyday purchases are political, so be conscious with your cup.

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