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Is Starbucks Coffee Actually That Good?

Starbucks still has the lead in the coffee wars, but, with its McCafe assault, McDonald's is steadily gaining, according to recent analysis by BIGresearch.

That should surprise nobody who's been following the companies and their increasingly heated battle. What might be a bit more surprising is that McDonald's might not lag that far behind in taste either.

The Coffee Review said after a recent taste test that Starbucks coffee has only "a slight edge" over that of McDonald's. "The difference in caffe lattes was subtle, perhaps not worth fussing over for most palates," said one expert (h/t Badgett's Coffee eJournal).

I've written before about how Starbucks raised the bar for coffee standards across the country, causing more and more competitors to offer products that actually taste like coffee instead of like dishwater.

But those standards were pretty low to begin with. When Starbucks started off, Americans were known for our cheap, low quality coffee, and Starbucks was definitely a step above that. But that doesn't mean it was ever top of the line. Which could be a major part of its problem lately -- it's not just that fewer people are willing to spend more on coffee; it's that even those who are willing to spend more might not think Starbucks is the best they can do.

Update: Over at BNET Retail, my colleage Ian Ritter takes on McDonald's incredibly annoying ad blitz for its "McCafé" drinks.

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