Thursday, August 3, 2006


Yes, I admit, I'm a coffee achiever. I drink about 3 cups a day, the first one being the most important one, which I've found I can't cope without. I guess I've turned into a coffee snob as well, being that I refuse to drink the coffee-like swill that's offered for "free" at work, and I tend to buy the more expensive stuff when I grind and brew it at home. The bottom line is that I enjoy drinking coffee. I don't drink enough of it to make me jittery, it doesn't keep me awake at night, and although I use half-and-half I don't add sugar (which is the main problem I have with 13 year olds starting the habit). It also reportedly helps your memory, which could always use a boost.

I'm not at all worried about my caffeine intake, but somewhere in the Far East those crazy people have come up with a labeling system, much like our Homeland Security terrorist alert scale, with red indicating "high" levels of caffeine (200 mg or more), and "yellow" (100-200 mg) and "green" (< 100 mg) indicating lower levels. For my money, I want as much caffeine as they can possibly fit in those little beans and eventually drain into my cup. Although, that might change if turn into Cicely Tyson and slap someone full in the mouth after a particularly rich tasting cup of Ethiopia Sidamo:

Hey, if David Bowie, the Wilson sisters and Ken Anderson are coffee achievers, just think what I can do! The main problem is that although coffee providers are finding cheaper ways to produce coffee (i.e. obtaining inferior Vietnamese robustica beans instead of quality arabaca ones), the price of coffee is rising steadily. Starbucks was initially criticized for their outrageous prices, but it didn't take everyone else (including Dunkin' Donuts, who used to be a bargain) to fall in line. But honestly, is there anything that IS getting cheaper anymore?

(Allow me to digress: when the media talks about the price of a barrel of light sweet crude being "at a record high", why don't they bother to adjust for inflation? Okay, it's $xx a barrel today, but how does that compare to 1980? Relatively speaking, I bet it was way more expensive then.)

Regardless, I'm willing to bet that with or without inflation, the price of coffee is at an all-time high.

On Monday, the NY Daily News had a USA Today-style "infographic" illustrating how the price of drinking a 3.4 cups of coffee a day (the national average) adds up over the course of a year. They compared the price of Starbucks (8 oz cup), Dunkin' Donuts (10 oz cup) in 10 cities, and compared it to home brewed "supermarket" coffee (8 oz cup), and determined the yearly cost was approx. $1700/$1500/$56, respectively. How is that possible? I understand the Starbucks/DD prices (and even that sounds low to me, since 3 cups x 365 days @ $1.79 each is almost $2000), but how did they come up with only $56 a year if you make coffee yourself? Even without factoring in the price of milk/sugar/filtered water, etc. that STILL can't be right. Conveniently, the numbers aren't in the online version of the article, but that smells like a steaming pile of bad math to me. I wish someone would by a calculator before printing this crap in a major newspaper (that is if you consider the Daily News to be a "newspaper"). Personally, I'm looking forward to their next hard-hitting article: over one year, the price of buying popcorn at the movie theater once a week vs. popping it at home using feed-grade kernels over a campfire amounts to $860 vs. $0.17! Fantastic!

This info-tastic blurb made me want to determine how much I spend on coffee, which we've narrowed down to somewhere between $56 and $2000 a year. In my case, David's Bagels alone gets about $350-400 from me every year just from my lunch time coffee purchasing. I only buy a cup of coffee from Starbucks or DD maybe once or twice a week, which is about $150-200 a year. All of my morning coffee I brew myself at home, mostly from whole bean Peet's and Starbucks varieties. Now, I realize that this is not the cheapest way to go, but as much as I want to enjoy cheaper "store brands" like Eight O'Clock 100% Colombian (Consumer Reports top rated), they just don't do it for me. Overall, I would estimate that I spend about $250-350 on home-brewed coffee, adding on $50 for half-and-half and Brita water filters. All told, that's about $800-1000 a year I spend on coffee. Wow. That's a lot.

Despite their high prices, I have to admit that I like Starbucks, and the burnt roasted taste of their beans. Plus, I've never had bad service or a bad cup of coffee there (and I've been to hundreds of them). And I'm sure a billion other people have brought this up, but it's an interesting side note in this whole conversation. The official Starbucks terminology for their coffee sizes is: tall = small, grande = medium, venti = large. This makes perfect sense, since "tall" is their shortest cup, and in Italian "venti" means 20, and "grande" means large. Wait, that makes no sense at all. Who came up with this? I'd gather that some marketing types just started reading off words in an Italian dictionary until they found ones that sounded "marketable". (See, it wouldn't have been a proper blog rant unless I took a shot at marketing.)

In conclusion, unless there's some "mad bean" disease directly attributable to cofree, I'm going to continue to drink it. It gives me the time to dream it, then I'll be ready to do it! I'm a coffee achiever! Now where the hell is my triple espresso, I ordered it over 30 seconds ago?!

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