Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A tale of two Specialty's

While I had noticed a while back that Specialty's first Seatown location had renovated, it took a nudge by @CoffeeCity to realize that the location had dumped Intelligentsia Coffee in favor of Peet's. There are rumors of more Specialty's coffee upheaval in Seatown soon, so I took this opportunity to compare the two offerings, side by side.

To be clear, the coffee equipment at each location is the same- Scharer superautos, Fetco drip brewers, and Bunn tea brewers. It's just the coffee and roaster branding that's different at each. The one exception is a bit of additional branding at the Peet's location- the wooden menu/signage wall behind the counter is familiar to me from other Peet's standalone cafes. No such element is visible at the Intelly-supplied location, though I don't think Intelly strives for consistency between locations.

I started at the 3rd & Spring location that features Peet's and ordered a small latte, 12oz. The coffee flavor was present, but mild, mostly a sweet nutty flavor. You can see the result below.

I continued to the 4th & Columbia location that features Intelligentsia and ordered a small latte there. The coffee flavor was present, but very muted, sweetness came through, but milk flavor really dominated. I'm a regular (eater) at this location, so there was some comment about making this one right "since it was me". While the flavor was unoffensive (really the program's fault, not the staff), you can see the hint of a rosetta in the cup- not a small feat when combining 1oz of espresso and 11oz of milk.

It's clear that Specialty's is taking a different direction from other retailer/restaurants with their coffee program, but less clear which direction they're going exactly. The typical model would have them choosing a national coffee supplier (which they had in Intelligentsia) OR choosing a local supplier in each significant market they enter (for example, choosing Peet's in the bay area and then Intelly in Chicago, and maybe somebody lower-middle like Vita here in Seatown).Specialty's re-tooling their coffee approach simultaneously with two separate roasters in the same (not hometown) market, strikes me as either an entirely new approach, a "quiet" market test, or some type of last-roaster-standing competition for their wholesale coffee business.

I'm curious to see how this turns out...

1 comment:

Melody206 said...

I'm very curious too how this will all turn out. I haven't had a Specialty's latte yet, but now I will have to try one. It sounded like you liked the Peet's latte better. Btw, I eat at Specialty's on 4th & Columbia all the time too! I am amazed we're not running into each other.