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Starbucks Coffee Cups Controversy Explained: What to Know!

starbucks cups tower

Starbucks is one of the most popular places to get a great cup of coffee, but anytime millions of people visit a particular establishment each day, there are sure to be naysayers that have a problem with how the business is run. However, Starbucks seems to stir up more controversy than its competitors, and much of that has to do with its coffee cups. Keep reading as we investigate the Starbucks coffee cup controversy to see what cups are causing the problems and why.

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Christmas Cups

starbucks holiday cup
Image Credit: Jasmin Schuler, Unsplash

One of the biggest Starbucks controversies involved the cups that it provided customers during the Christmas season. Starbucks started a holiday tradition in 1997 by releasing cups with illustrations related to Christmas or a winter theme, like a snowflake, reindeer, or snowman over a red background. The tradition continued until 2015, when Starbucks removed the images, so the cups were only red and had the traditional logo. This move caused an Arizona-based pastor to claim that Starbucks changed the tradition because “it hates Jesus,” which caused an uproar on the internet, and many people called for the boycott of Starbucks beverages.

Trump Cup

In 2016, actor Scott Baio started writing “Trump” on coffee cups purchased at Starbucks to make a statement about discrimination against Republicans, which started a trend. Many other people started to ask the baristas at Starbucks to do the same on their cups, and on one occasion, a barista refused to do so, getting into a heated argument with a customer. This action started a war on social media that caused “Trump” to be written on even more cups because people were encouraged to post videos if the barista refused to write it on their beverage. The strange thing about this controversy was that Republicans were rushing to the shops to purchase coffee to have the name written on the cup but in the process, were providing money to an organization that supported Democrats.

Unity Cup

One controversy that involved Starbucks in 2016 involved its unity cup, which featured an illustration of various figures embracing. The controversy quickly started when the cups were released because it was almost time for the tremendously popular red holiday cups, and many were worried that they would not appear. It was also meant to promote unity before the election season, and many people complained that Starbucks shouldn’t involve itself in politics.

Black Lives Matter

Yet another issue to involved Starbucks in 2016 was when a journalist asked to have the words “Black Lives Matter” written on her cup. This action would cause the barista to say the name out loud, so when the barista refused to write it, it caused controversy because the journalist claimed to have been rejected by at least three baristas during the encounter. Starbucks responded by stating that it doesn’t take a stand on racial matters, despite having released the Unity Cup the same year and “Race Together” cups a year earlier.

The Diabetes Cup

In April 2016, a customer ordered a Grand White Mocha from Starbucks, and the barista wrote, “Diabetes Here I Come” on the tag. This statement offended the customer, who had two sisters with diabetes, and reported them to the local news company. Starbucks responded by saying it was disappointed in the incident and added that it would make sure that it didn’t happen again.

Race Together

The “Race Together” cups were part of a campaign that Starbucks started in 2015 to help improve race relations. It encouraged baristas to start a conversation by writing “Race Together” on cups. Starbucks also provided the baristas with a list of questions that they could use to help get the ball rolling. However, it quickly became a national joke on social media, and the cups were even made fun of on “Saturday Night Live.” Starbucks ended the campaign after only 6 days.

Quotes on Cups

starbucks coffee cup on the dashboard
Image Credit: Erik Mclean, Unsplash

Starbucks began providing customers with cups that contained quotes on them in 2005. Each selection had a number and the words, “The way I see it,” before providing the customer with a quote from literature or an important figure. However, a Christian women’s organization called Concerned Women for America said that Starbucks was promoting a homosexual agenda with the quotes. Though they didn’t call for a boycott of the company, the controversy brought more attention to the quotes, and many people felt that large corporations shouldn’t attempt to direct people’s actions. Starbucks ended the quote cups a short time later.

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Starbucks is no stranger to controversy. While its Christmas cups get the most attention by far, several other notable disputes have occurred throughout the years. Luckily, Starbucks seems quick to acknowledge when it is on the wrong track and works to solve the problem.

Featured Image Credit: quan le, Unsplash


Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker, a veteran writer, has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming, and of course, coffee. He drinks a lot of it when he writes, making him an expert indeed. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.

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