Tale of Two Coffee Roasters

Heady aroma.

Ito makes a pot each day.

Peet’s coffee is best.


Mornings in Judge Lance Ito’s chambers was an aromatic delight. He always had a pot of freshly brewed coffee on. Not just any coffee. Coffee made from Peet’s coffee beans, distributed by a roaster in San Francisco.

One morning, he gave me a small bag of beans, saying he was sure I would prefer Peet’s over any other coffee, even Starbucks.

The interesting aspect was that the original partners in what eventually became Starbucks based in Seattle, bought their beans and learned their roasting techniques from San Francisco coffee entrepreneur Alfred Peet.

In the 1980s, one of the Starbucks partners and a group of investors bought Peet’s and a few years later, believing that staying small would help ensure the continuing quality of their product, they sold the Starbucks chain to a former employee so they could focus on the four Peet’s Coffee, Tea and Spices San Francisco locations. It was nearly two decades before the company went public and opened its first store outside of San Francisco.

The story of what happened to Starbucks is well known.


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