Caffeine is the drug of choice for most college students. With the emergence of Java City cafes and counters around campus, the daily fix now comes in more varieties.
Java City, which recently replaced the former Starbucks cafe at Barnes and Noble, has headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., and distributes wholesale coffee products around the United States. Yale students were first introduced to Java City’s specialty coffee two years ago with its emergence at Durfee’s, the School of Management, and the Divinity School.
But Yale is not the first campus to host the smaller coffee manufacturer, whose prices are comparable to its competition. The wholesale coffee chain can also be found at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University.
Java City is an approved vendor of Aramark, the distributor that provides Yale and many other universities with its food services. The coffee chain is a perfect fit for the college atmosphere, where the idea of the big corporation has a lot of stigma, said Kristi Kastros, the company’s sales operation manager.
“We don’t really have that ‘corporate’ identity,” she said.
Compared to coffee chains such as Starbucks, Java City is considerably smaller in size, a fact that allows the company to react to the needs of their customers, Kastros said.
Sancia Harvey, who sells coffee at the bookstore, said during the transition from Starbucks to Java City, the latter sent representatives to train the workers in a four-day workshop.
Henry Trotter GRD ’08 said he prefers Java City for just that reason. He commended the Java City workers for their ability to promote and defend their coffee to customers who are only familiar with Starbucks products.
“It is trying to win a fan base with a better quality product and a better trained staff,” Trotter said. “Java City seems a bit more hands-on — because it is competing with such a major institution — Starbucks.”
Plus, Trotter thinks Java City has better coffee, anyway.
Java City’s reputation as a smaller and more flexible coffee distributor is one of the reasons that Barnes and Noble is one of its wholesale customers, Kastros said. Compared to the Starbucks cafe, the new Java City cafe offers more options of flavors and brews, Harvey said.
Chuck Bennett, purchasing agent for Durfee’s, said he found this wide variety helpful in catering to a broad base of students, although the coffees’ first introduction to campus received mixed reviews.
“The folks who preferred a milder coffee initially were taken aback by the fact that we were selling a heartier brew,” Bennett said.
Other patrons could not tell the difference between the two companies’ brews.
Brian Marete, a patron who had never heard of Java City before he saw it at Barnes and Noble, said he had no complaints with the switch.
What began as a relatively unknown retail store in 1985 in Sacramento has turned into a corporation that now boasts 700-800 locations around the nation — and not just on college campuses. Java City caters caffeine to the Bank of New York, Goldman Sachs, Salomon Smith Barney, and various hospitals along the East Coast.
In the coffee industry, Java City has emerged as a national player, Bennett said.
“Everyone defines specialty coffee by Starbucks,” Kastros said. “A lot of our customers are looking to give their customers an alternative.”
For students like Trotter, an alternative to Starbucks is a welcome change.
“Starbucks is the McDonald’s of coffee,” Trotter said. “I like McDonald’s, but I do like to hit Burger King every once in a while.”