The Coffee Wars’ Latest Battle

1223571735So the Clover—a coffee machine that, as far as we can tell, is basically an $11,000 French press—has arrived at Starbucks. The company was pretty excited. (Remember those apocalyptic 9.9.08 signs?) This, after all, was supposed to be its secret weapon in the fight to win back customers in a post-Starbucks age.

But after getting used to the new brew, we must ask…Are we the only ones who are disappointed? Apparently Irish Bostonians are not instantly receptive to just anything involving clover. While staking out our local Starbucks, we noticed customers awkwardly eye and pass the new samples in line while sticking to their familiar caffeinated drinks.

We’d say the reaction was lukewarm at best. (But at least it wasn’t as big of a flop as those Vivanno smoothies.)

The Clover system creates made-to-order coffee from beans that absorb flavors like cherry, lemon, and citrus. The press that brews the coffee operates like a vacuum, pushing the coffee up and squeezing out the water, according to Heather, our local ‘bucks barista. Starbucks boasts that Clover is “the cleanest cup of joe you’ve ever had,” but many taste-testing customers say they’d have to drink the bitter blend with sweetener and milk. So, does the difference really matter in the end?

The price increase ($2.50 for a grande, about 50 cents more than a regular-blend grande) hasn’t come at a great time—especially now that McDonald’s has jumped into the latte fray. In the end, Starbucks might not have the luck of the Irish on their side this time.

—Alicia Zweig