Peet’s Coffee

Peet’s Coffee—The Chieftain of Craft Coffee

In October, U.S. coffee chain Peet’s Coffee opened up its pop-up café in the middle of Jing’An district, Shanghai, bringing back its iconic 1966 California heritage store. Two years before in 2017, Peet’s coffee opened its first-ever international store, a 3,900-square-foot roastery flagship café in Shanghai. Through this “megastore”, the brand started to get noticed by Chinese people ever since. 

​Peet’s Coffee’s pop-up café in Shanghai
Peet’s Coffee’s pop-up café in Shanghai (source: Insider Retail Asia)

People tend to say that before having specialty coffee, there was Starbucks. But what might not be commonly known is that the brand that started the American specialty coffee industry was actually born before this household name. Actually Peet’s Coffee, a San Francisco Bay area-based specialty coffee roaster and retailer was at the forefront.

So, how did Peet’s Coffee become a principal in the coffee revolution? In this article, we’ll dive into the origin of this legendary brand by using the 4 Facets of Brand Positioning.

Truth: Top Notch Flavors Brought by Meticulous Attention to Details

Born in The Netherlands, the founder of Peet’s Coffee Alfred Peet grew up in the coffee trade. When he first visited America, he was shocked at the poor-quality coffee Americans were drinking. By opening his own coffee bar in 1966 in Berkeley, Peet introduced gourmet coffee to the Americans for the first time.

More pervasively, the 3 founders of Starbucks Zev Siegel, Gordon Bowker and Jerry Baldwin had once worked for Mr. Peet. They learned everything about running a coffee store from Mr. Peet and even sourced all the green coffee beans from Peet when they opened their own coffee shop in 1971. That’s why Peet’s Coffee is credited with being the “mentor” of Starbucks.

The original Peet's Coffee, Tea & Spices
The original Peet's Coffee, Tea & Spices (source: Culture Trip)

From the moment Peet opened his first store “The Peet’s Coffee, Tea & Spices” over 53 years ago, the brand has been committed to crafting the perfect cup for coffee enthusiasts, perfecting every step of the experience with coffee from bean to brew.

To make sure every cup of coffee is at its highest quality, Peet’s coffee only picks the certified coffees that meet social, environment and economic standards. All beans are roasted by hand, and to bring out the best flavor of each bean, the Peet’s roasters will carefully craft, fine-tune the nuances of each blend and single origin they roast.

Hand-roasted coffee beans
Hand-roasted coffee beans (source: Fortune)

Besides the high-quality beans and careful craftmanship, another secret behind a perfect cup of Peet’s Coffee is freshness. “We don't roast until you order, and then race the beans out the door.” quoted from Peet’s Coffee. Shortening the time between roasting and consuming allows customers to enjoy the coffee at its best.

Vision: The Uncompromised Cup

The very first Peet’s Coffee was opened with a promising mission—to bring people real good coffee. Today with meticulous attention to details, Peet’s Coffee transformed how people experience coffee from the selective source, hand-crafted coffee beans, fast and fresh delivery to the perfect brew. They even taste coffee samples three times before the beans arrive the roaster. Everything they do is to bring people the better experience with coffee.

The perfect brew of Peet’s Coffee
The perfect brew of Peet’s Coffee (source: Peet’s Coffee Official Website)

Universe: Safe-Guarding the Culture of Better Coffee

Unlike Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee did not rush to overly expand, but rather kept things relatively small. You can find their stores in a handful of states across the U.S., and in only 2 cities in China, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

If Starbucks is a third-space (besides your home and workplace) for people to spend their time, Peet’s Coffee is the safe-guard for coffee enthusiasts: you can enjoy tasting different bean samples and try the roaster’s recommendations before taking them home. Or you can take a sip of the freshly made coffee in the store, enjoying the rich goodness crafted by hand with love.

Sit and take a sip of Peet’s Coffee
Sit and take a sip of Peet’s Coffee (source: Peet’s Coffee Official Website)

When the brand entered in Shanghai in 2017, it launched the Shanghai limited flavor “Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere”, which turns out to be a flavor that appeals to the local market. Everything Peet’s Coffee does is dedicated to bringing customers as close to the best cup of coffee they could ever imagine.

The Peet’s Coffee store in Jing’An district, Shanghai
The Peet’s Coffee store in Jing’An district, Shanghai (source: WeChat Account 上海美食每刻)

Personality: The Chieftain of Craft Coffee

Deeply influenced by his father, who also happened to be a coffee roastery owner, Peet grew up at his father’s roastery as an assistant and once worked in London at a coffee and tea company. Later he traveled to Indonesia as a tea taster. Peet’s early experiences shaped his knowledge about the coffee culture, and more importantly, shaped the brand Peet’s Coffee as we know it today.

The founder Alfred Peet
The founder Alfred Peet (source: '56 Packard Man)

With Alfred’s profound knowledge in coffee, the brand Peet’s Coffee is undoubtedly “the chieftain of craft coffee”—the one who believes every step in the making and every sip in the drinking needs to be taken seriously. When you encounter into this coffee geek, its signature rich roast will deeply impress you.

Will Peet’s Coffee Lead the Specialty Coffee Market?

While other coffee chains are expanding their stores globally, Peet’s Coffee has always attached firstly to the importance to its commitment to high-quality coffee. But from a few years ago, the brand started to break through its status quo. In 2015, the brand acquired two specialty coffee companies named Intelligentsia and Stumptown, which marked a milestone in the specialty coffee industry. And according to Shawn Conway, Peet’s Coffee Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement, “Expanding internationally is a natural progression of our United States success, and Peet’s recognizes that China is a fast-growing market with a flourishing base of coffee lovers seeking distinctive experiences.”

The big acquisition and the not-so-long-ago debut in China say it all about Peet’s Coffee’s ambition to step into the global market and eventually on the way leading the specialty coffee market. It is exhilarating seeing such a long-lived beloved brand fostering coffee culture and creating distinctive coffee experience to the uncharted, and we hope it lives up to its brand mission—the pursuit of better coffee and to help people fall in love with great coffee.


  • Corporate Branding Team,

    Labbrand, Shanghai