Sara's Column: Confessions of a costly coffee addiction

Coffee is a special kind of weakness for me.
Apr 25, 2014
Sara McManamy-Johnson

Coffee is a special kind of weakness for me.

French press, espresso, latte, cappuccino and just straight-up Folgers, it doesn’t matter. Sure I have my preferences depending on what mood I’m in, but all-in-all, as long as I get some kind of java fix, I’m good to go.

For years, I laughed at people who would spend $5 for a cup of coffee. You can get one for less than a buck at almost any gas station or even cheaper if you brew it at home. 

And then I tried Starbucks for the first time while I was in college. It was a close call, but as a typically broke college student, I couldn’t afford it anyway.

And then I started working full time with a long commute, to boot. And my route took me right by one of the local Starbucks.

It started out innocently enough – just a quick roll through the drive through once or twice a week, and the rest of the time just brew some at home for the road. No harm, no foul. And then I started “forgetting” to set the auto-brew on my coffee maker. Pretty soon the once or twice a week turned into five days a week.

Whoops.

I continued on that track for several months until I decided I needed to get my budget under control. When you’re looking to slash expenses, $5 coffee drinks seem like a pretty good place to start.

But by that point, I was ruined. Sure, Folgers is fine, but a caramel macchiato is even better. A lot of people brew their own espresso at home, why couldn’t I? 

So I dropped a couple hundred bucks on a halfway-decent espresso maker. 

And of course you can’t use pre-ground coffee for espresso – at least not for good espresso – so I had to pick up a coffee grinder. 

Well, it seemed I’d also developed an attachment to Starbucks coffee bean varieties, actually one in particular (Espresso Roast, conveniently enough, for those who may be curious). Fortunately for my addiction, I could buy those particular beans from my local grocery store most of the time. 

Unfortunately for my price-slashing, they also cost about three times as much as my Folgers per ounce. 

But I persevered. Sure, I was still spending more than I would had I just brewed my trusty Folgers, but I didn’t feel as deprived. I could still have my caramel macchiato, and I could even experiment with other fun concoctions. And peppermint mocha? Didn’t even have to wait for the Christmas season; I could indulge year-round. 

I’d found a way to get my Starbucks fix without paying $5 per drink.

So imagine the bitter irony when I stumbled across a story Thursday about rising coffee prices.

According to The Washington Post, coffee bean prices rose 50 percent, just between January and February and it’s only expected to continue. The culprit: the worst draught Brazil has seen in almost 50 years cost about 30 percent of the country’s crop, according to one estimate.

Combine that with the sheer number of people across the globe who are developing that coffee habit, and you’ve got a case-study-worthy model of the basic supply-and-demand premise.

But here’s where the bitter irony comes in – forecasters expect that prices will be slower to rise for coffee shop customers (including Starbucks fans) because the cost of beans is a smaller part of a coffee shop’s expenses.

So for a while at least, thrifty coffee addicts like me won’t be saving as much by going the homemade route. 

Oh well. I guess I foresee a quick roll through the Starbucks drive-thru in my future.

Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

 

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