College News

UW dining halls ditch Starbucks coffee in favor of Steep & Brew

On Aug. 1, Steep & Brew will replace Starbucks in campus dining halls.

Image By: Jon Yoon

Students looking for their morning caffeine fix on campus will be sipping freshly roasted, locally owned Steep & Brew coffee instead of Starbucks this fall.

Director of Dining and Culinary Services Peter Testory, who made the decision to pursue a new coffee vendor, hopes the new partnership with Steep & Brew will strengthen the university’s relationship with the surrounding community. It will also help to reduce the dining services’ environmental impact.

“While coffee will never be a ‘local’ product, the best quality cup of coffee you can get is when the bean was roasted, ground, packaged and delivered to you within 48 hours,” Testory said. “Being good stewards of the environment is all of our responsibility, and sustainability should be a topic in constant conversation.”

Most of the coffee served in UW dining halls through Steep & Brew will be fair trade and certified organic as well as certified through the Rainforest Alliance, according to Mark Ballering, founder and president of Steep & Brew.

This change comes two years after Steep & Brew closed their State Street location due to competition from coffee chains Starbucks and Colectivo. Steep & Brew will cost the university less, and Testory hopes to pass the lower cost of coffee onto students.

“We want to be great financial stewards for our students, and great partners with our community,” Testory said.

Although, as Director of University Housing Jeff Novak pointed out, cheaper coffee on the purchasing end may not translate to lower coffee prices for students. For example, the university’s savings on coffee could allow students to pay less for expensive fruits and vegetables instead.

UW Dining Services previously received Starbucks coffee along with other food in the dining hall through their prime food vendor, Martin Brothers, located in Iowa. Dining Services will continue all other purchases, including the food offered at The Bean and Creamery.

Besides Steep & Brew, Goldstar Coffee, Colectivo Coffee and Coffee Jar all competed for the bid to replace Starbucks. Steep & Brew achieved the highest score after a panel of students, employees and staff evaluated the businesses on taste, availability of fair trade coffee, marketing, equipment and cost.

Steep & Brew is currently offered at UW-Madison Badger Markets, the Crossroads Cafe in the School of Education and other cafés across campus. While Steep & Brew is local, most of their business comes from outside the state of Wisconsin, Ballering said.

“Currently we offer product in seven states and grocery stores, and also coffee programs for convenience stores in nine states,” Ballering said. “At this point most of our business is actually outside of Dane County, but we definitely take our responsibility to our local community seriously.”

Students can expect a fresh cup of Steep & Brew coffee in dining halls across campus starting Aug. 1.

UPDATE July 17, 8:53 a.m.: A previous version of this article referred to the president of Steep & Brew as Mark Belling. The president is Mark Ballering. 

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