The End of Cheap Coffee


GOOD Magazine recently published a great article about the end of cheap coffee—due to things like climate change and a growing global demand—and the impending shift to coffee as a luxury. The author, Zak Stone, sets the tone for luxury coffee with a visit to the slow bar at Intelligentsia’s Venice location, before talking with a list of industry experts—including Ben Kaminsky (Ritual), Peter Giuliano (Counter Culture), Geoff Watts (Intelligentsia) and Dub Hay (Starbucks)—to get their perspective on the changes ahead.

If you haven’t read it yet, definitely take the time to check out the full article.

“We think our coffee is ridiculously cheap,” says Ben Kaminsky, director of quality control at Ritual Roasters in San Francisco, where a pound of beans starts at $19.95. His sentiment is echoed by many working in high-end coffee. “It’s interesting to me that the same consumer that will go to 7-11 and buy a bottle of Fiji Water for five dollars will go crazy and complain about a cup of coffee,” says Geoff Watts, Intelligentsia’s vice president and green (unroasted, that is) coffee buyer. “This is a meticulously grown agricultural product from halfway around the world that was hand-harvested, hand-picked, and roasted and brewed. It’s got all these different flavor characteristics. It’s got antioxidants. It’s got all the things you could want in a drink.”

A luxury drink, that is. “Coffee as cheap fuel for the masses is a historical anomaly,” says Peter Giuliano, director of coffee at the North Carolina-based roaster Counter Culture. “There’s no nutritive value. It’s drunk just for the pleasure of it. It’s a total miracle of global agriculture, a feat that spans cultures and countries.” –GOOD

Illustration by Dan Matutina

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1 Comment

  • Reply Zavida Coffee Company 11/30/2011 at 12:03 pm

    “Coffee as cheap fuel for the masses is a historical anomaly” We couldn’t have said it any better. Global demand and coffee shortages have definitely played a huge role in the end of cheap coffee. It’s sad, but true…

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