Judging Java: Giant Eagle Starbucks

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Coffee Columnist

Growing up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, three things were sacred: Fiori’s Pizza, Sidney Crosby and Giant Eagle. Only one of those things sells coffee. Being home over break brought back memories of playing Sonic Adventure 2 in the Eagle’s Nest as a little kid, and upon the discovery that they sold coffee, my mission was obvious.


Except there’s one fallacy in that statement. Giant Eagle doesn’t sell coffee—a Starbucks inside the Giant Eagle sells coffee. We could get into an argument about whether or not that means that the Giant Eagle is selling coffee, but I do not know the inner workings of whatever the licensing agreement is between the two companies. Upon further research, I discovered that the employees are Giant Eagle employees but are also licensed Starbucks baristas, a discovery that further complicates this situation. So, for here on out, I will refer to this as the Giant Eagle Starbucks.


Now, I have previously reviewed Starbucks coffee, specifically the Starbucks in Market Square. In that review I said that it was “mind-numbingly mediocre” and had “nothing to write home about.” So why revisit a coffee I said “smelled like a burnt sock?” The answer is simple: it was in a Giant Eagle.


I ordered the Veranda blend and got myself a coffee cake on the side. The Veranda blend is a sweeter blend, with hints of sweet vanilla amidst a bitter backdrop. I should note, the coffee cake complimented the coffee exquisitely. The sweetness of the coffee cake in between sips of the light roast made for an experience that was no doubt of higher quality than had I not had the coffee cake.


I drank it in a Best Buy parking lot while listening to a homemade CD of Radiohead’s experimental masterpiece Kid A. Watching the snow blissfully fall on the town I grew up in while The National Anthem played from the car’s speakers, the coffee slowly warmed my soul, as if to say “everything is going to be ok.” 


The coffee was not the perfect cup, but it wasn’t the worst cup either, in fact, it was better than the Market Square Starbucks. The kiosk nature of the Giant Eagle Starbucks left out the faux authenticity that the Starbucks furnishings feature, and simply made the process of purchasing the drink a quick conversation between me and the barista.


That’s not to say that aesthetically, the Giant Eagle Starbucks doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb amidst the suburbanite consumers buying bread, eggs and sugary cereal. No attempts were made to blend the Starbucks into the Giant Eagle color palette, but it’s not unbearable, and I’m almost certainly nitpicking.


Upon reflection, life is like a Giant Eagle Starbucks. At one point you’re youthful, innocent. Eventually, you sell yourself to the Kroger Company, and then 50 years after that, they open up a Starbucks inside of you. This is a bad metaphor.


Overall, I have to say that the coffee was good, and unlike the Market Square Starbucks, I would say that it is, in fact, something to write home about.