The Starbucks Cup Controversy

Holiday Issue


Ashley Brooks, Entertainment Writer

Many people love starting off their day with a hot cup of coffee. It is that time of the year again when Starbucks introduces their holiday cup for the winter season. The popular worldwide coffee chain has been serving their holiday beverages in a unique cup for the past decade. The release of the new cup design informs customers that the holiday season is near. Every year the cup captures the joy of the holiday season with festive illustrations around the outside.

Last year, Starbucks produced a plain red ombre design to be inclusive towards all religions and celebrations during the holiday season. In years prior, Starbucks mainly focused on Christmas in its design. So in 2015, the company composed a more versatile design to be non-exclusive. However, this resulted in dissatisfaction as well, as Christian customers argued that because there were no specific designs pertaining to the Christmas holiday, Starbucks was “waging a war on Christianity” when they removed illustrations of reindeer, snowflakes, and ornaments.

In 2015, the fight over the Starbucks cup began with a man named Joshua Feuerstein. It all started when he claimed, in a video that soon became viral, that Starbucks could not celebrate Christmas anymore. He stated that every year Christians are persecuted by companies. Therefore, the non-specific design caused some consumers to complain. After the video was released, Starbucks defended themselves by explaining that the cup imitated a canvas that welcomes everyone’s stories, and not just one religion.

Some people believed the cup with no designs was against Christianity, while others were not bothered by the change at all. Coffee-lover Emma Davis ’18 shared her thoughts that she does not think “Starbucks should not make the cup specific to a certain holiday, but it can have a snowflake or some type of design to make it for everyone.” Davis believes that the color red of the cup still represents Christmas colors. Davis points out that Starbucks could make the cup a different color, one that is not directly associated with Christmas. She makes a clear point on how the cup shouldn’t necessarily be a blank canvas like Starbucks had originally in 2015. Davis instead wants to see a design that relates to everyone, which this year, Starbucks has not failed to produce.

For the United States Presidential Election, Starbucks produced a green cup that was released the same day as the holiday drinks. This resulted in confusion and even rage from avid Starbucks consumers. Customers believed that the green cups were the new holiday cups, and this furthered the belief for some that Starbucks aimed to persecute Christians. The new green cups display sketches of people and lack holiday designs. This design was meant to be a signal of unity for the country. An anonymous student from Wilmington Friends shares, “Personally, I’m offended. I arrive at Starbucks after a rough day expecting a hot mocha latte in a nice red holiday cup to cheer me up for Christmas. Instead, I receive a cup that urges me to be united with America.” This student is frustrated by the current spotlight on politics, and just wants to enjoy a nice cup of coffee to prepare for the holidays. However, Starbucks soon clarified that this was not their holiday cup for 2016. The cups that Starbucks made for the 2016 indeed returned to the Christmas look.

The 2016 design was created by people all over the world. Starbucks received submissions by advertising a contest through Instagram. As a result, Starbucks has over 13 different cup designs for the holidays that they are using in stores now. Some of the cups have designs with birds, holly, trees, and ornaments promoting the Christmas spirit. Instead of a plain cup like last year, they decided to go all out and make several designs. A few people believe the designs are favoring Christmas, and always have been. Keisha Clark, a barista at the Java Nook coffee shop at Friends, expressed her feelings on the subject, “I don’t think it matters what kind of cup I drink out of. As long as it has coffee in it, I’m happy. Maybe a little design on it to make it look pretty, but besides that it doesn’t really bother me.” This is a view from someone who is around coffee every day. All that matters to her at the end of the day is that she can enjoy the content inside.

The new holiday cup for 2016 arrived in stores November 10th for the season. One of the ideas Starbucks had this holiday season was to celebrate the return of the red holiday cups by allowing customers who purchase one holiday beverage to get another one free, from November 10 to 14. The beverages included in this holiday deal were the Chestnut Praline Latte, Peppermint Mocha and Skinny Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulee Latte, Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, Teavana Joy Brewed Tea, and Spiced Sweet Cream Narino 70 Cold Brew. What better way to start the holiday season than with a free drink?