Coffee and Tea Titan: Starbucks Raises Prices Again

Ethan Thomas, Photographer

Starbucks cites supply chain issues, brought on by the pandemic, and labor costs as cause for the jump, but this is not the first time the titan has raised their prices. 

At any time of the day one can find groups of students huddled over textbooks, gripping coffees, teas and snacks from any one of the three Starbucks locations on campus, but students may soon notice an increase in the price of these products. 

This will mark the third increase in the last six months; the first in October 2021 and the second in January of this year. The pricing change coming despite continuously rising profits, according to the company’s Q1 Earnings Release. 

Starbucks began increasing COVID-19-related spending. Giving employees paid time off for those receiving vaccinations or who had contracted the virus, according to this New York Times article. 

Although Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson said the adoption of these safety protocols led to “significantly higher COVID-related benefit pay than expected,” an article published by TODAY in early February added. 

In early February 2022, Johnson also told analysts and investors that there are more price increases planned for this year, but the company is cutting back on marketing and promotions to help mitigate the rising costs, according to a USA Today article published in early February. 

The company has hired more workers in the last quarter, and recently raised its minimum wage to $15. Baristas are set to earn $15 to $23 an hour by the summer, also raising the cost of training these new workers, according to the TODAY article. 

The price increases vary by location. Leaving it up to Starbucks to decide how it will affect borderland stores, but how will this affect students that depend on that much needed coffee or tea in the morning to get their day started? Will they notice? 

“Expensive is expensive,” said Karina Sierra, a clinical laboratory science student. With her were three other CLS students, Daniela Sanchez, Eduardo Romero and Suzeth Sanchez, who also agreed the increase would only moderately impact their purchases. “You just know that it can be expensive,” Morales said. 

​​All four students also agreed that the cafe’s items were essential in the life of a student. “It depends on when we study,” Morales said when asked how often she frequents the store. 

“I would notice [the price increase] but at the same time I wouldn’t,” added Romero. “It’s either that or bring coffee from home.” Romero felt that because of the company’s following, the effect of the new prices would have minimal impact, “I feel like they’re still gonna do it,” Romero said about the company, “there’s a lot of people that love Starbucks.” 

Mirroring the sentiment of Johnson in Starbucks’ 2022 Q1 earnings call. “Strong customer affinity for Starbucks,” Johnson described on the call, “demand for Starbucks continues to build and we are fully committed to capitalizing on this momentum for the long-term.” 

“I did notice, especially when there’s a difference between here and the chemistry building,” Sanchez dissented, commenting that they have more seasonal items.  “Not everyone can afford their prices,” Sanchez continued, stating that she chooses the cafe’s teas over coffee because they are cheaper. 

“People are still gonna pay for it,” Morales said, “Certain people stay here, like for long periods of time, but obviously they can’t bring their whole food for the day. So they might be kinda forced to.” 

The white chocolate mocha and the caramel macchiato are listed as popular under Starbucks’ coffee assortment. In other categories, the chai tea latte, the regular and white hot chocolate and Caramel Frappuccino share the same label, according to Uber Eats.  

A comparable nearby option is Kinley’s House Coffee and Tea located at 2231N. Mesa St. It is not as easily accessible as the Starbucks locations that are within UTEP’s campus, but may offer a cheaper assortment of drinks. 

Kinley’s offers many similar selections to the coffee powerhouse that is Starbucks, at prices that would not go unnoticed. Starbucks offers a white chocolate mocha latte for about $5.45, while Kinley’s offers a white chocolate flavored latte for $4.55, nearly a dollar less. Another difference in prices can be seen in their specialty teas, Starbucks’ green tea matcha latte sells for around $4.75 while their competitor, Kinley’s offers a similar item for $4.19 according to the menus on their respective websites. 

Echoing Sanchez’s comment, students will spend less when ordering teas, but there is still a significant difference between the prices of the franchise and the local spot. Starbucks offers an iced green tea that totals around $3.45. Kinley’s offers the same product for $2.95, a difference of about 50 cents. 

Students do feel the impact of these differences, “I would definitely choose [Kinley’s],” said Michael Basave, a 19-year-old sophomore and English major, “I’m really tight on money all the time as a college student, price really matters.” 

There are also four new locations coming to different areas of El Paso, the nearest to completion being a new location on Executive Center, according to KISS FM. There will also be a new location near the Amazon Fulfillment Center in the Eastlake Marketplace in Horizon, and two in East El Paso, one on Montana Ave. and the other on Yarborough.