Starbucks begins selling its new brewed coffee today, one day after McDonald's officially announced the sale of espresso drinks at restaurants...

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Starbucks begins selling its new brewed coffee today, one day after McDonald’s officially announced the sale of espresso drinks at restaurants in the Puget Sound area and Spokane.

The new products bring the chains a step closer to competing head-on in the coffee category, although both sides deny it.

“This is not about competition. This is about Starbucks, and we believe we control our own destiny,” Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in a telephone interview with reporters. He also pointed out that Starbucks sources and roasts its own coffee, unlike “others that are buying coffee from a second or third party.”

Alan Finkelstein, who owns four McDonald’s restaurants in King County, said the company is offering espresso in response to customers, not Starbucks.

McDonald’s promotes the new drinks at www.UnsnobbyCoffee.com, where it says, “No crazy names or sizes. No second language required.”

A 12-ounce latte at McDonald’s in King County costs $1.99, compared to $2.55 at a Starbucks store in downtown Seattle.

Coffee is already an almost $900 million-a-year business for McDonald’s, a Deutsche Bank analyst report said last year, when the burger chain began rolling out espresso drinks at U.S. stores.

McDonald’s now has McCafes — separate production areas with baristas — in more than 800 of its nearly 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

McDonald’s rollout includes an online coupon for a free 12-ounce espresso drink and an online pinball-machine game. Finkelstein said local McDonald’s will give away free lattes for the next four Fridays during breakfast hours.

Starbucks’ promotional event happens at 9 a.m. today when 7,100 U.S. stores will celebrate the introduction of Pike Place Roast with a simultaneous half-hour tasting that includes a free 8-ounce cup of the new coffee.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com