Whenever I hear home budget experts on TV talking about ways to save yourself money in this crappy economy, coffee always seems to get the shaft. You know how it goes–stop purchasing that mocha latte on the way to work, and you’ll save yourself seventy dollars a month. The economics certainly make plenty of sense, but a few things about these segments bother me:
1. They’re not really talking about coffee. They’re talking about half-and-half, whipped cream, mediocre chocolate and flavored corn syrup. I’d prefer that “coffee” be dropped from the conversation altogether. (Of course, the big chains to which these segments usually refer generally don’t serve very good coffee straight up. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.)
2. Excellent coffee is, generally speaking, a steal. There’s a lot of work and expense that goes into growing, picking, processing, transporting, roasting, packaging, grinding and brewing the coffee that ends up in your cup. (Much, much more on this in this blog over the course of this year.) Want to talk about overvalued products and services? Start with that same morning show talking head reading the teleprompter. . . .
3. This goes doubly so for a well-made espresso drink. While folks won’t think twice about ordering an eight dollar glass of wine to accompany their dinner out–apparently, we’re cool with the ten second wielding a corkscrew magically doubling or tripling the value of the product in the bottle–the idea of a four dollar coffee drink seems absurd. But a beautifully textured cappuccino generally requires not only good coffee, but quality milk, ten grand in equipment, and some skills.
So, what to do? The bottom line is that, with a tea kettle and a Melitta filter, or an Aeropress, or a French press, you can make a cup of coffee for your commute that will beat the pants off of drive-thru swill, at a quarter of the cost. You won’t even have to add whipped cream and fake white chocolate sprinkles to make it palatable. But you should also treat yourself to a quality espresso drink at your local coffee house, when you get the urge. And don’t take it to go. Drink it there, in a real cup. If it’s especially good, drop something in the tip jar; if it’s not, let them know.
Five bucks for a cappuccino, a Times and a table. A waste of money? Nope. That’s a bargain.