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Top Pot Vs. Top Pot: Their Own Worst Enemy?

When Seattle’s beloved Top Pot Doughnuts began selling wholesale to Seattle-area Starbucks retail locations a few years ago, it raised some concerns about the continued quality of the product. Now, the program has expanded: their doughnuts can be seen in Starbucks throughout the country! However, if you buy a Top Pot at Starbucks in Omaha or San Jose, are you really getting the same experience as if you were to buy it at the Top Pot Doughnut stores in Seattle? Or are they giving their own doughnuts a bad name?

Committed to finding out the truth, Cakespy recently staged a tasting between Top Pot doughnuts, both the same flavor (old-fashioned glazed)—one from the Belltown location, and one from a local Starbucks. Our Tasting Panel consisted of several Madison Park Greetings employees, as serious a collection of Cake Gumshoes as we’ve ever seen. The tasting was “blind” in that the tasters did not know which doughnut was from Top Pot and which came via Starbucks before rating them. Our overall object was to find out if Top Pot Doughnuts sold in Starbucks stores are of comparable quality to those sold in Top Pot Doughnut locations. So how did they stack up? Here’s our review:

Cost: Including tax, the Starbucks version was $1.75; the Top Pot version was $1.63. Not a huge difference, but a difference nonetheless.

Texture: The Starbucks version was lighter, and slightly less dense. It appeared the the Top Pot version had been fried longer; it was darker and more well-done.

Taste: Overall, the taste was similar, although the taste of the frying oil was more evident in the Top Pot version. However, as to whether this was a good thing or not was of some debate; some found the added frying made it taste more crisp/fresh and added a nice contrast and taste complexity, while others found the lighter texture of the Starbucks version to be more appetizing.

Freshness: Our panel was split on this one, but the overall consensus seemed to be that while neither was stale necessarily, neither seemed like it was just out of the fryer; one taster suspected that the Starbucks version had been refrigerated.

Which did you prefer: 75% of our panelists preferred...the Starbucks version!

To sum it up: While we can’t ignore the fact that certain aspects do throw off the scale (the fact that the Top Pot version was fried longer, in this case, which might not be the same case on a different day; the fact that transit time to different parts of the country may affect freshness), the overall review was quite positive for Top Pot doughnuts via Starbucks. Although they were not exactly the same, there weren’t any red-flag differences between the quality of the two versions, and both were overall quite good quality, classic doughnuts. Will you like the doughnuts? Well, that's for you to see; however, we can confidently say that readers over the US who are curious about trying Top Pot via Starbucks will have a fairly authentic Top Pot taste experience.

For more information on Top Pot Doughnuts or to find locations, visit toppotdoughnuts.com.

Cakespy Note: In all of the photos above, the Starbucks version appears on the left, and the Top Pot version on the right.
Top Pot Doughnuts (Belltown) in Seattle

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Reader Comments (13)

these doughnuts are making me have the worst cravings I've ever experienced. and I don't even like doughnuts that much! meep.
I have to say, the drawings on the left side of your layout are the cutest thing I've ever seen. especially the one with the bunny. are you the artist?

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterCeline

Very very interesting study! Are you going to let them know, or just keep the information for yourself and your readers?

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Ha! I am so glad you like the bunny one, for some reason that is my favorite one, like, ever. However, I have some pretty good ones going up later this week...stay tuned!

I (Jessie, "Head Spy" do the artwork).

Thank you for your kind words!

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I can't wait! kudos, Jessie. :D

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterCeline

Hey Leftover Queen...

Thank you for the kind words! Oh yes, I have let the Top Pot powers that be know all about this scientific study.

I was so happy to come across your blog and will be visiting often!

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

You know its interesting and terrible to know that let alone starbucks , we don't have a proper coffee shop in Ghana !!! The first mall is just comming up and still no coffee shop there either.
On the other hand these donuts look gr8 , haven't had a chance to taste them.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterKate

The Top Pot version looks better :)

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterTi

What about Chicago? Do they have these donuts at Starbucks? I am a donut lover but a not a Starbucks customer usually. However, I will go in if it means trying one of these donuts.

November 1 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline


I did a search and it does look like some Chicago locations do have Top Pot doughnuts. You can check it out by going to starbucks.com, and looking up the nutrition info PDF for your area (it prompts you to look by zip code). Although it's not pleasurable for me to look at calories and fat grams on a sheet like this, it will list every food they have so you can see if Top Pot doughnuts are available at your local Starbucks. I know that they are throughout the US--I have seen them in California and NYC Starbucks locations, and my husband said he saw them in Nebraska and Ohio locations. Aren't you glad you asked? :-)

November 1 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

uhh, god. So many people I know like/love Top Pot. I can't stand them. I live in N. Seattle, maybe four blocks from the Wedgwood store (any another 2 blocks from a Starbucks that has em, though I can't say I've tried them there). And the doughnuts have always made me feel rather sick. I'd honestly rather have the Safeway ones down the street. And I love those about as much as the next one. One Top Pot powdered sugar one made me so sick that I can't eat any powdered sugar ones any more. Can't imagine why.

April 6 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Rachel: ooh, doughnut gossip! What are your favorite doughnuts? Do you like Mighty-o?

April 6 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

If you want to know the truth about Top Pot donuts dig a little deeper than a taste test. Top Pot doesn't make the donuts that bare their name in Starbucks stores. In the Bay area there is a company named Sugar Bowl Bakery makes the donuts for Starbucks , but the donuts are called Top pot. In the Northwest(Seattle, Portland, ect) the donuts where made by an Oregon based company named Specialty Bakery, though they recently changed to some other company name. Around the country its more of the same.
What Starbucks and Top Pot have going is nation wide marketing campaign.
People are being duped out of their money and left to think they are part of something great. Do you really believe their website "Darn tootin, we make our own." What does this mean? Where are all of the Top Pot bakeries making donuts for the hundreds to thousands of Starbucks stores? And what does "Hand Forged" mean? Do you really believe they hand make all these donuts for Starbucks or anyone else? Do the math and think about all the low wage labor you would need to make the donuts let alone profit.
Ask Dawn Food Products (industrial supplier) about the mix they sell to Top Pot, very much the same as every other mass produced doughnut. Or read the ingredients, its the same old stuff. The big difference image and marketing.

December 1 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Brad: Where can I get in touch with you?? I would love to talk more about this with you. -jessie (jessieoleson@gmail.com)

December 7 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy
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