Who has the best priced latte? Starbucks, Tully's, Seattle's Best or Café Ladro?

I drink a lot of coffee. I’ll grab a latte every once and a while and don’t have loyalty to any particular company. I like most coffee brands and could easy grab a Costco latte and be content. This post isn’t about coffee flavor. It’s about getting the most caffeine for the least amount of money and where to find the best deal for your favorite size. Skip down to the “OVERALL OBSERVATIONS” section at the end if you just want the wrap up info.

I was recently wondering…which coffee company out there has the best price to espresso ratio? So, on my way to work the other day I called a bunch of coffee shops to get some price and shot count per size. I compared Starbucks, Tully’s, Seattle’s Best and Café Ladro. I chose those companies because they are close to my office. They were all very cool about giving me the info, so I thought I’d share. No ulterior motive here, just sharing my research and thoughts. For each company, I called two different stores so I could verify the prices were correct. The prices do not include tax. I called locations in the Seattle, WA area.

Taste is a big factor when it comes to selecting your coffee. To remove subjectivity from this post, I don’t talk about my taste preference, just the numbers. Taste is subjective, numbers aren’t. As a side note, Seattle’s Best and Café Ladro use whole milk by default. Everyone else uses 2%. So if you were wondering why Seattle’s Best and Café Ladro are so thick and frothy, that is why.

I compare them in two ways. The first is how they compare by default. That’s is what you would get if you were to go into all of these coffee shops and ask for a normal latte. The second is how they compare when they all use the same espresso to milk ratio. Café Ladro puts more shots in the smaller sizes than the others, so I wanted to see how a 2 shot Tall latte from Starbucks compares to a 2 shot Tall latte from Café Ladro.

If you want the absolute best deal then get a Costco latte. $1 for 12oz. Maybe not the greatest tasting, but it’s a great deal. I excluded them from the data below because they are an anomaly.

THE DATA

Green = Least Expensive, Red = Most Expensive

DEFAULT COMPARISON OBSERVATIONS

Observations in this list are for the “DEFAULT” data above. The numbers to the left of the “Extra Shot Price” column. That’s what you would get if you were to go into all of these coffee shops and ask for a normal latte.

  1. Café Ladro is always the most expensive overall price, but their Short and Tall sizes have 2 shots whereas everyone else only has one shot, so their “price/shot” is the lowest in those sizes.
  2. Café Ladro has the best price per shot in Short and Tall. Seattle’s Best has the best price per shot in Grande and Venti.
  3. A Tall at Seattle’s Best is the same price as Starbucks Small. That’s 4oz of milk for free if you go with Seattle’s Best.
  4. All companies put 2 shots of espresso in Grande. So, if you order a Grande you will get the same espresso/milk ratio from all.
  5. Seattle’s Best is always the least expensive, except the Short size, which is Starbucks. That is because Seattle’s Best doesn’t make a Short latte.
  6. The strongest espresso to milk ratio is Café Ladro’s Short latte.
  7. The only reason you’d ever want to get a Short latte is if you like the “.33” espresso/milk taste from Café Latte. At Starbucks it is only 10 cents more for a Tall and 30 cents more for a Tall at the others. You get 4 more ounces of milk for pennies by going with a Tall.
  8. The least expensive price / shot is Seattle’s Best Venti latte. It’s 3 shots for $3.40 or $1.13 a shot.

MATCH COMPARISON OBSERVATIONS

Observations in this list are for the “MATCH” data above. The numbers to the right of the “Extra Shot Price” column. That’s what you would get if you were to add shots to each size to match the espresso/milk ratio to the highest in the list.

  1. The most obvious observation is that when all things are equal Seattle’s Best is the least expensive in Tall, Grande and Venti sizes.
  2. For the Short size, Café Ladro is the least expensive. They were the most expensive in the DEFAULT comparison, but when all things are equal they are least expensive.
  3. Tully’s has the most expensive double Tall latte at $3.50.
  4. Starbucks has the most expensive Venti latte at $4.50 total or $1.50 per shot.

OVERALL OBSERVATIONS

  1. If you want a Short and only one shot then go to Starbucks. If you want 2 shots then go to Café Ladro.

  2. If you want a Tall, either one or two shots, then go to Seattle’s Best. It’s $2.55 for one shot and $3.20 for two.
  3. If you want a Grande then go to Seattle’s Best for $3.10 or Starbucks for $3.35.
  4. If you want a Venti then go to Seattle’s Best. It’s 3 shots for $3.40, which is 55 cents less expensive than Tully’s, the next least expensive Venti in the list.
  5. If you go to Starbucks you can save 5 cents if you order a Grande instead of a 2 shot Tall, but the espresso milk ratio will be different. 5 cents isn’t a big deal, so try them both and see which one you prefer. Since you are getting the same amount of espresso with either of them it will come down to taste.
  6. It doesn’t look like a Short latte is a wise decision, unless you like that espresso to milk ratio. You can get a Tall for 10 cents more at Starbucks.
  7. A “Double Tall” latte doesn’t make much sense either. You can get a Grande (which already comes with 2 shots) for the same or less money. But if you prefer the espresso/milk ratio of a “Double Tall” then go for it. Just know you can get 4oz of milk for free you go with Grande.
  8. The Starbucks Venti latte doesn’t ever look like a good option. It only has 2 shots by default and the price jumps to $4.50 if you add a shot. That’s even more expensive than Café Ladro.
  9. If you like the intensity of Café Ladro then you’ll need to order 2 shot Short or Tall or a 3 shot Venti from the other places.
  10. The most expensive shot of coffee you can buy is from Tully’s. Their 1 shot Tall latte is $2.90
  11. The least expensive shot of coffee you can buy is from Seattle’s Best. Their 3 shot Venti latte comes out to $1.13 per shot.

I hope this helps any one else out there with the same kind of questions that I had.

Jon