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Duke eateries kick Starbucks off campus

In the battle of the coffee beans, Starbucks is losing ground at Duke.

And it's the local coffee pygmies that have felled the bean-roasting giant.

Starbucks' sudden disappearing act on campus is a result of the change in food-service vendors that occurred this year. A number of eateries, including Chick-fil-A, are now opting for fair-trade coffee roasters over the bigger-name brand.

In the coffee world, fair trade is a growing social movement that promotes buying coffee from small bean farmers who use sustainable agricultural methods.

Bella Union, formerly known as the Blue Devil Beanery, is the latest eatery to choose alternatives to Starbucks.

"We moved away from Starbucks because we felt like it was better to use local vendors," said Sam Clowney, one of Bella Union's owners. "But I think that we've taken the right measures to present something that is just as good [in] quality, just a little bit more environmentally sound, just a little bit more profitable for the [coffee bean] farmers."

Bella Union uses a mix of two different coffee roasters, both based in North Carolina: Joe City Roasters, used for some coffees and exclusively for espressos, and S&D Coffee, which is Fair Trade Certified.

Bella Union itself will be undergoing more changes, this time in decor, to create a different atmosphere for students.

ARAMARK Corp., which formerly ran several food venues on East and West Campus, preferred to use Starbucks coffee products in their locations. Last year, ARAMARK did not renew its contract, and Chick-fil-A, which was managed by ARAMARK, stopped serving Starbucks coffee.

To fill its caffeine void, Chick-fil-A, which now serves coffee only for breakfast, uses Buffalo & Spring, a Fair Trade Certified brand.

Duke University Dining Services gives vendors the freedom to choose the coffee roasters they want, resulting in the existence of so many on-campus coffee roasters.

"Any of the vendors really have the option of picking [a coffee] vendor that they think will have a good product," Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst said. "But there's no initiative from my office to push Starbucks either in, or out of, campus."

Other eateries are taking a fair trade approach to coffee as well. Saladelia Cafe, which opened last month, proudly displays signs that advertise the fact that it buys its coffee through fair trade. Additionally, Alpine Bagels offers Larry's Beans, another Fair Trade Certified coffee company.

Larry's Beans prides itself on its high commitment to the environment, going so far as to deliver its coffee to Alpine in a truck that runs on used vegetable oil.

Duke Alpine has been using Larry's since 1999, ever since a strong student initiative was taken to push for fair trade and organic products.

"At Alpine, we felt like working with students towards awareness and change was worthwhile," Christopher Sullivan, co-founder of Alpine Bagels, wrote in an e-mail. "We decided that responding to the student initiatives and being a leader in the campus community on this issue was where we wanted to be."

On the other side of campus, Bon Appétit, which operates Trinity Cafe, the Marketplace and the Freeman Center, offers Pura Vida coffee, which is fair trade, organic and kosher.

Despite the campus-wide trend toward local fair trade brands, Twinnie's still stands, and brews, behind Starbucks and seems to have no intention of moving away from it.

Although there is growing buzz around the topic of fair trade coffee, for many customers, economics and politics are not as important as convenience.

"My classes are usually right around here," said senior Qi Liu, as he thumbed through his notebook at a Twinnie's coffee table. "It's the closest place I can get caffeine."

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