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SF & El Cerrito - JR Muggs vs. Starbucks

rworange | Oct 20, 2005 01:04 AM

The JR Muggs coffee shops are the retail locations for Diantha's Coffee, a Marin company founded in 1986 and run by three women who decided the shops would only sell fair trade, organic coffee

Happily Diantha’s coffee is not only good for the earth but good tasting. I thought the coffee was equal to or better than Pete’s with the added bonus of being totally organic and free trade.

They are certainly better than Starbucks which has been strategically placing their shops next to Muggs. Two of their four shops closed because of this and the El Cerrito branch is in danger of closing.

I don’t understand this because the quality is very good with one roast similar to Mr. Espresso. Add to that the fact that the prices are significantly less than Starbucks. At the end is a link to an article in a local paper about the Starbucks invasion and Starbucks reply.

The flavor of the company which really does care about the people who stop by is captured by this quote from a customer in the article:

“I used to go to Starbucks, but now I come here for the sense of community,” Gibbs said. “You go to the same Starbucks for the fifteen-hundredth time and nobody knows who you are or what your name is. Here they actually want to know about your family.”

“Like many of the regular customers, Eugene Cassidy (triple latte) said if The Muggs closes the community will lose something else that’s very rare: extremely good coffee, which he described as the “real deal.”

You’ve probably tried Diantha’s coffee without knowing it if you buy supermarket labels like Berkeley Bowl and Sonoma Market.

Like Blue Bottle, the owner is roasting beans each morning so the shop has a fresh supply of coffee daily. The fresh beans are sold whole or ground to order. The organic roasts carried in the shop are:

Dark Roasts: French, Muggs, Drakes Bay
Light Roasts: Sumatra, JR Blend
Medium: Espresso, Moka Java, Guatemalan
Decaf Roasts: espresso, Columbian, Sumatra, French Roast

Loose leaf tea is Lindsay. Bagged tea is Republic of Tea.

The owner’s husband, who has a catering company, provides the baked goods. The carrot cake is good, not overly sweet with natural orange tinge and filled with walnuts. No pineapple so the cake is not overly moist. The quiche is tasty too. However the standout is the pumpkin cheese muffins, rich, moist, with ginger and generously filled with lemony cream cheese. They far outshine Starbucks overly sweet version.

Here are the coffees I’ve tried to date:

Drakes Bay – nice nutty roast flavor my favorite of the Dark Roasts
French – A smooth and not assertive dark roast

Moka Java – Even though it is listed as a medium roast, it was the most assertive

JR’s Blend – very mild that complemented baked goods well. While I’m not a fan of light roasts, this tasted to me almost like Mr. Espresso … so if you are a fan of that coffee, you’ll probably like JR’s blend
Sumatra – I’m not a fan of any Sumatra in general as it always has a tinny taste to me.

Decaf Espresso – My favorite. A nice round, rich, smooth flavor
Decaf Columbian – Nice body. Juan Valdez would be proud

Like Pete’s, these aren’t multi-dimensional third wave type of coffees that coffee aficionados would swoon over. However they are made with care and even Pete’s, to me, seems over roasted. That is not the case here. It’s a carefully crafted, well-priced, no nonsense coffee. I liked them better than Philz too.

I will tell you what nice people own the shop. When we were talking about Starbucks (the article is on the counter), I mentioned that now they even had a Pete’s down the street as more competition. I was told “Oh, but Pete’s makes very good coffee”.

A big sign on their wall says:

“By choosing to buy your coffee drinks at JR Muggs, you are directly supporting a better way of life for Third World farming families through fair prices, direct trade, community development, and environmental stewardship”.

Good coffee and good people. One hopes they hang in there. This is near my home and is where I will be buying my coffee. Oh, it’s a WiFI Hotspot too.

In this link (scroll down),


Starbucks responded and said of the article below that it was:

“…unfair and a misrepresentation of Starbucks and its healthy co-existence with a variety of coffee stores and strong commitment to local communities.”

Since Starbucks placed 4 stores nearby, Muggs has lost sixty percent of it’s business. Starbucks didn’t specify who would be healthy as a result of the co-existence.

Muggs has the look of a chain and I’m ashamed to say that I passed by this little store for almost a year without stopping in. I heard of Starbucks, after all. Who has heard of Muggs. In the year that I’ve stopped by Starbucks, employees came and went and no one ever asked my name. In the little over a week that I’ve been stopping by Muggs, they know my name.

Yeah, the big guys like the Berkeley Daily Planet should stop picking on Starbucks. It’s not fair.

You know, this board gets a lot of heated discussions on Starbucks and I ask that you not respond on the board about that. I think that Starbucks has its place. In areas where nothing else is around, it is a decent enough cup of coffee and I have been glad to see it.

If you have feelings one way or another, let your pocketbook do the talking. If you are a Starbucks fan, get your coffee there. If you feel that the local joint, not only JR Muggs, is the better deal, then bring your business there.

In my area, I think Muggs has the better cup of coffee, better baked goods and a more caring staff, so that is where my business will go in the future. That is just me.

JR Muggs Coffee Inc,

499 Bay St,
SF, Ca 94133

11740 San Pablo Ave
El Cerrito CA 94530

Diantha's Coffee

Link: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/ar...

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