The majority of people in the United States undoubtedly think of Starbucks when they think about coffee chains in the country. This is because Starbucks is the world’s largest coffee chain, not just in the United States.
But before there was a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, and before there were K-Cups, there was a coffee shop called Peet’s Coffee that established the American specialty coffee business as it is known today.
Peet’s Coffee & Tea was established in 1966 in California, and it was the first coffee shop in the United States to offer freshly roasted, dark-roasted coffee beans. Alfred Peet, a Dutch immigrant in the United States who had a passion for coffee and a dream, was the one who pioneered the style that is today popular at both Starbucks and independent cafes equally. But it all began with Peet.
Although Peet’s Coffee is now a relatively little business with just around 240 outlets throughout the United States, the company’s history has left a significant imprint on the specialty coffee industry. Not only did the creator of Peet’s have a significant influence on the people who started Starbucks, but he also had a profound effect on almost all of the specialty coffee that is consumed today.
Peet’s founder disliked American coffee
There seems to be a coffee shop on every corner these days – there were more than 31,490 in 2015. So, what might possibly motivate someone to invest much in a brand-new coffee chain?
Simply said, when Alfred Peet first arrived in America in 1955, the coffee provided in most restaurants and cafés… sucked. Peet was raised in the coffee trade and was used to European coffee culture, so he was taken aback when he first tasted low-quality coffee in America. “I come to the world’s wealthiest nation, so why are they drinking the worst coffee?” Peet is reported as having said. He was shocked that Americans would boast about consuming 10 cups of coffee a day since Peet knew that only watery, low-quality coffee could be drunk in such quantities.
Peet hypothesized that American coffee tasted so awful because it was rationed during WWII. Because of the introduction of the instant coffee business during WWII, people were no longer drinking coffee brewed from fresh beans.
Peet, determined to make a difference, began importing his own coffee beans and roasting them by hand, as he had learned in Jaca, Indonesia. His powerful, dark-roasted beans stood out from the insipid fare provided in restaurants and cafés, and it was only a matter of time until his company took off.
Starbucks’ founders were influenced by Peet’s founder.
When Alfred Peet launched the first location of Peet’s Coffee in 1966, he only offered coffee beans for sale. However, his beans were dark roasted, giving them a flavor profile that was distinct from that of the majority of the coffee that was on the market at the time. The future founders of Starbucks, three buddies, took notice of the opportunity. They decided that the best thing to do was to open their own coffee shop in Seattle, but first they wanted to learn more about the business.
They worked for Peet throughout the holiday season in 1970, and at that time, Peet educated them on all there was to know about coffee, including where to get coffee beans and how to roast them. People say that Peet thought of Zev Siegel, Gordon Bowker, and Jerry Baldwin as his sons. They were very close, both in business and in their personal lives. They grew close not only on a professional level but also on a personal level.
According to the three individuals, Peet granted Starbucks complete clearance to duplicate the style of his establishment in 1971, the year that the first Starbucks location started doing business. Also, Starbucks started out by selling Peet’s roasted coffee beans before they bought their first roaster. As was the case with Peet’s when it first opened its doors, the original Starbucks location offered nothing but freshly roasted coffee beans when it first opened its doors. It wasn’t until many years later that Starbucks began offering brewed coffee for purchase. Also like Peet’s, Starbucks’ initial venture into brewing coffee was to put up a coffee bar so that customers could taste the beans before taking them home. This was an idea that clearly proved successful for Starbucks, and it was also the first foray into brewing coffee that Peet’s took.
American specialty coffee was basically invented by Peet’s
On April 1, 1966, with the money given to him by his father and a 25-pound roaster, Peet launched the first location of Peet’s Coffee. Not everyone immediately took to his coffee since it was so much stronger than the norm. Peet’s shop not only offered freshly roasted beans for sale, but also a coffee bar where customers could sample his brews before committing to a bag. The European market took to it instantly, and news quickly spread.
Like wine, coffee is evaluated by smell, taste, and evaluation by specialists, and Peet taught his staff how to “cup” it. For many, the “Golden Age of American Coffee” began with Peet and his assertion that coffee beans could speak their own language.
Peet’s once sold for nearly $1 billion
Starbucks, which grew out of Peet’s Coffee, has close to 14,300 stores in the United States alone. Peet’s, on the other hand, has kept things small, with only about 240 stores spread across a few states.
But the number of stores isn’t the only way to measure the value of a company, especially in 20122012, JAB also bought Caribou Coffee, a chain of nearly 500 coffee shops around the world. JAB now owns several well-known food brands, including Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme, and Dr Pepper.
Original Peet’s Coffee still operates
Even now, people from all over the world visit the original Starbucks in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where there are lines that are hundreds of feet long. Some people wait for hours outside the store to order a drink. But true coffee lovers should head south to Berkeley, California, where the first Peet’s Coffee shop is still open. After all, the first Peet’s was what led to the first Starbucks, and it seems to have kept the same laid-back, hippie vibe that made it so popular.
Even though the original Starbucks is more of a tourist attraction than a real coffee shop, the original Peet’s Coffee is still a mainstay for coffee lovers in the area. The shop is close to downtown Berkeley and the UC Berkeley campus, and students, professors, and locals have been coming in and out of its doors for decades.
Those who like a bit of history with their coffee will be happy to know that the original Peet’s has a museum in the back with old photos, newspaper clippings, and old coffee-making tools. Even though there are long lines in the morning, the cafe seems to be less busy in the afternoon, so you can sip your coffee and think about the chain’s place in history.
Peet’s aids coffee producers across the globe.
There are a lot of challenges to commercial coffee farming. Peet’s is doing their best to find coffee that is grown in a way that is good for the environment and workers, and where they are paid fairly for their work.
Peet’s trades directly with coffee growers instead of going through a third party. This gives them more information about how their supply chain is managed and how their workers are treated. They also give priority to coffees that have been certified by the USDA Organic, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance.
But instead of ignoring smaller family farms in favor of larger farms that are already up to par, they created the Farmer Assistance Program. The program basically looks for smallholder farmers who, with a little help, could grow beans that meet Peet’s high standards for quality.
The program teaches farmers new ways to grow coffee that are better for the environment and help them make better coffee. In some places, their partner, TechnoSource, teaches employees new ways to do things. In other places, like Guatemala, coffee growers are helped to find the tools they need to teach each other and share their knowledge in things like managing shade trees, harvesting, pruning, and more. The goal of the help program is to make the coffee industry more sustainable on both a human and an environmental level.
Starbucks owned Peet’s for a time
Alfred Peet died in 2007 at the age of 87. Many big names in the coffee business paid tribute to him, but Jerry Baldwin, one of the co-founders of Starbucks, may have known Peet better than anyone else.
Peet taught Baldwin everything he knew about how the coffee business worked. “Peet gave us roasted coffee, and he also taught me how to do it… He was very generous, “Baldwin said. But the histories of both Starbucks and Peet’s are even more linked than you might think. This is because Starbucks bought Peet’s Coffee at one point.
It’s a little hard to understand, but hang in there. Baldwin started Starbucks with his friends Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegel. He was president of the company until 1987, but he bought Peet’s Coffee in 1984 when he heard it was for sale. After three years, Baldwin seemed to realize that he really loved working at Peet’s. He eventually gave up his ownership of Starbucks by selling his shares to the company’s current CEO, Howard Schultz, so that he could focus on Peet’s. Baldwin is still a member of Peet’s Coffee’s board of directors.
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