My year in beans: 2009

by JulieCraves on January 3, 2010

Last year I kept track how much I paid for coffee over the course of 2008. This year, I kept even more precise numbers. Here are my 2009 stats:

  • 81 bags of coffee totaling 63 pounds; I probably gave away or shared 5 to 8 pounds.
  • Total retail price = $1031. I purchased very few bags locally, so I also spent $129 on shipping, for a grand total of $1160 for the year.
  • This still works out to only $0.45 per six-ounce cup.

This isn’t even a good example of how little you have to spend to drink great, sustainably-grown coffee, because I’m pretty self-indulgent. I drink a lot of fine coffees, with 13 in 2009 retailing over $20/lb. The most expensive was a Bolivian Flor de Mayo from Terroir Coffee, which was the equivalent of $55.90/lb. All but 6 of the coffees were single-origin, and they came from 19 countries and 20 roasters. I know I’m not a typical coffee drinker.

Let’s say you order from Birds & Beans, which only sells organic, SMBC Bird-Friendly certified coffees, and donates a portion of profits to bird research and conservation. Their coffees retail for $19.95 for 2 pounds. If you drink (and gift) as much coffee as I do, that’s $618 a year in coffee. They charge a flat rate of $8 for shipping, so even if you order twice a month (they have a handy subscription service so no matter what you want or how often you want it, you don’t even have to think about it), that’s
another $192, for a total of $810 a year, or $0.31 per six-ounce cup. Amber at Birder’s Lounge decided to keep track of her shade-grown coffee consumption last year, too, and only spent $0.40 a cup.

For most people, it’s a myth that environmentally-friendly, sustainably-grown coffee is too expensive. And given the number of great roasters providing subscription services similar to the one described above, it’s also a myth that environmentally-friendly, sustainably-grown coffee is too hard or inconvenient to get.

I’ll conclude my New Year’s crusade against cheap coffee with the words of Geoff Watts, which appeared in a comment in a post at Hungry Magazine (which may now be defunct). Geoff is Vice President of Coffee and the green coffee buyer for Intelligentsia Coffee, spending the bulk of his year on coffee farms with producers. My emphasis added.

“The mainstream first-world consumer has held stubbornly to the idea that coffee is a cheap luxury, that  the $1.00 bottomless mug is somehow a right or a deserved privilege. It is this very attitude that will continue to ensure that the modern smallholder coffee farmer has little hope of escaping a life of extreme poverty. Cheap coffee (and by ”cheap” I mean low cost, which typically equates to low quality) is one of the many forces shackling the developing world and suppressing opportunity for advancement for a huge chunk of the planet’s population who depend on coffee to make a living.

And while of course it makes sense to be thrifty in difficult economic times, we still need to realize that the decisions we make will have an impact further down the line. For a consumer the choice to purchase cheaper coffee has ramifications that extend far beyond the personal sacrifice of taste in favor of lower cost. It impacts the way coffee is produced, the way it will be produced in the future, and the ability of those who produce it to earn a living wage from their efforts.”

How can you not afford to drink environmentally-friendly, sustainably-grown coffee? Make this your resolution for 2010.

Revised on November 25, 2020

Posted in Coffee news and miscellany

wbc January 6, 2010 at 4:01 am

This year had been a not so good for almost all of us but I am happy that still we did not lose hope and we continue to live with it. Happy New Year!

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