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Get your caffeine fix — at McDonald’s

For those of us sick of paying $3.50 for a latte, hope may be right around the corner, across the street, and in plenty of other convenient locations. The ubiquitous burger-and-fries chain McDonald’s is expanding its fast food repertoire to include lattes, cappuccinos, and other specialty coffee beverages, potentially putting a run on Starbucks.

Call us caffeinated, but we’re excited to see McDonald’s emerging as a competitor to the Starbucks behemoth. The rivalry should be good for both companies, encouraging McDonald’s to soften its atmosphere and Starbucks to lower its prices.

McDonald’s coffee has been selling well since the company switched to premium blend in 2006, a fact confirmed by the success of iced coffee, one of the newest menu options. To the average consumer palate, McDonald’s coffee tastes just as good as Starbucks coffee; it’s also cheaper and faster.

The new specialty drinks are likely to fare just as well. According to a Wall Street Journal article published March 1, McDonald’s has already begun selling lattes at restaurants in Europe, along with locations in select U.S. states, including New York and New Jersey. The lattes sell for between $2 and $3. Meanwhile, Starbucks lattes cost over $3, and the company has increased its prices twice this year.

McDonald’s specialty beverages should help customers save time as well as money; the chain uses push-button machines to brew the drink — considerably faster than the baristas at Starbucks.

That being said, the McDonald’s/Starbucks battle is not one-sided. To retaliate against McDonald’s premium coffee, Starbucks started selling breakfast sandwiches, a calculated strike against the former’s much-loved breakfast menu. Over the years, the company has inflated its domain to include everything from non-breakfast sandwiches to satellite radio; even company Chairman Howard Schultz admitted that such efforts contributed to “a watering down of the Starbucks experience” in a Nov. 6 article in the Journal. We like coffeehouses the way we like our coffee — not watered-down. Starbucks needs to get its act together and remain coffee-centric.

As for McDonald’s, keep up the good work.