I don't write this lightly. As a Bay Area kid, I grew up on Peet's Coffee. I had Peet's beans shipped to me by UPS when I lived in New York. When the first Peet's shops opened in LA, I would go out of my way to get to Beverly Hills or Manhattan Beach to get some of that deep, smoky brew. Back then, they didn't even carry syrups in their stores, it was just coffee.
I suppose it was bound to happen with expansion. It's simply hard to keep a product at a consistently high level of quality once you reach a certain point (take note, Intelligentsia, don't let this happen to you!). With hundreds of stores spanning six states, Peet's has simply overreached.
I still buy Peet's beans for my own use, but the in store service for the last few years has really gone down hill. Peet's used to be reliable for a thick, smoky espresso with a good crema or a cappuccino with a light head of milk. Now, my espressos often lack any real crema and the caps are drown in milk. The coffee sometimes tastes burnt (too long in the warmer for drip or bad temps for the espresso). Peet's in LA was always a chain, but it used to be a sizable step up from Starbucks; while I wouldn't say it's as bad as Starbucks had become, it's about as bad as Starbucks was five or ten years ago, which is not good.
It's not just the fact that the bar has been raised. Even a couple of years ago, when Intelligentsia and LA Mill were already on the scene, I still enjoyed the pleasures of a dark Peet's espresso. But now, when I crave an espresso drink, it's nearly always Intelligentsia I head to.
I would love to see Peet's reclaim its former glory, but I fear they have morphed into Starbucks Junior. Farewell, my dark and smoky friend, farewell.