The Great Coffee War of 2009: McDonald's prepares to trash Starbucks


McDonald's (MCD) has launched a $100 million assault on the boutique coffee industry, a media blitz pushing its McCafe brand as an alternative to offerings of the Starbucks (SBUX) franchise. It if has its way, you will leave the green-and-black and never look back. But Starbucks and others hoping to grab or maintain market share are not going down without a fight.

Six months ago, when I last had a McDonald's latte, it bore the same resemblance to coffee that grape Kool-aid does to Chateau LaTour. The gloppy, overly sweet sludge tasted like an instant mix. That has changed. Now the lattes are made in an automated machine that makes espresso on command, heats milk and dispenses both in the proper proportions at the push of a button. The one I tried yesterday was surprisingly palatable. In fact, it was better than the one I bought from SBUX for my own scientific comparison. It also cost less, $2.39 vs. $2.80.