December 31, 2005

Why I Don't Order Coffee Out

I FULLY ADMIT that I'm not much of a coffee drinker, preferring instead the sweet artificial goodness of Diet Cherry Coke. However, that's not because I dislike the taste of coffee. I actually rather like it. It's just that Diet Cherry Coke is cold (a plus) and easier to procure (just open the fridge), leaving coffee as an occasional drink.

As such, I only rarely have coffee at home, and almost never have it out. In fact, the last time I remember buying coffee for the sake of buying coffee -- or, more accurately, a sweetened coffee-flavored hot beverage -- was in 2003. Then, I had something called a caramel macchiato, something which I had enjoyed when I had been in Washington the year earlier. (In both cases, I had to pay more than $3 for it, which I did not enjoy).

However, it turns out my shock and amazement at being asked to pay $3 for coffee was well-founded. Dig what former coffee-shop owner Michael Idov wrote regarding the markup on coffee:

Thanks to the trail blazed by Starbucks, the world of coffee retail is now a rogue's playground of jaw-dropping markups. An espresso that required about 18 cents worth of beans (and we used very good beans) was sold for $2.50 with nary an eyebrow raised on either side of the counter. A dab of milk froth or a splash of hot water transformed the drink into a macchiato or an Americano, respectively, and raised the price to $3. The house brew too cold to be sold for $1 a cup was chilled further and reborn at $2.50 a cup as iced coffee, a drink whose appeal I do not even pretend to grasp.

I know that when life hands you a lemon, you're supposed to make lemonade. But that's just wrong.

In any event, I can see paying $1 per cup for coffee, based on the following:

We know, thanks to clever people on the Internet, that one pound of coffee beans will produce roughly 240 liquid ounces of coffee. We also know that Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, considered among the best coffee in the world, runs about $40 per pound. Thus, it's nearly impossible to spend more than $1 per cup of coffee if one prepares it at home.

From that, we can deduce that $1 is a fair price to pay for decent coffee while out, because of overhead, labor, those plastic stirrer thingies, and liability insurance. Furthermore, we can deduce that any price above $1 for decent coffee is tantamount to highway robbery and price gouging after a natural disaster.

OK, well, maybe not. But it still pains me to fork over more than $1 per cup of coffee, and I can't ever see myself paying $3 or $4 unless I'm in a social situation and I must buy the stuff. I mean, it's not as if the poor coffee growers are getting any of the markup, and the guys behind the counter probably aren't doing all that great either. Actually, in Mr Idov's case, his own little coffee shop ended up destroying his life. But that's another story.

(via Sheila O'Malley)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 31, 2005 12:35 PM | TrackBack

Tantamount, indeedy. Nice post, Ben.

Posted by: herbert at January 1, 2006 02:35 PM