By Sarah Skaluba, Opinion Columnist
Published November 29, 2012
Admit it, you enjoy nestling up at Starbucks just as much as I do. To escape the everyday headaches of college, you curl up in a soft chair with your favorite book and holiday latte — away from the anxiety-burdened Hatcher Reference Room, those creeping paper deadlines and the freezing Antarctic winds that torment our campus each winter. Although we really don’t have four dollars to throw down every time we want a sugary, caffeinated espresso drink, we continue to pay up. Our economy may be in turmoil and the price of our tuition an ever-increasing battle, but somehow, some way, we still manage to indulge ourselves with Starbucks, Sweetwaters, Comet Coffee, you name it.
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Earlier this month, Starbucks introduced their exclusive new Costa Rica Finca Palmilera roast, an exclusive blend of Geisha beans that sells for a mere $7 a pop. That’s right folks, a grande cup of joe that costs $7 and your dignity can now be found at your neighborhood Starbucks!
But seriously, how in the world could a single cup of coffee be almost 10 dollars when you can buy an entire meal for that price right down the street at Potbelly or Noodles and Company?
As an avid coffee drinker myself, I must admit the whole thing is absurd. Do I treat myself to a vanilla latte every now and then? Yes. But to expect customers to drop seven bucks on a cup of coffee before heading to class or work seems crazy. For all I know, this could be a new trend in coffee culture of offering a more luxurious, exclusive roast that truly separates the men from the boys and the coffee connoisseurs from the sleep-deprived college students needing only a basic brew before crawling to 8 a.m. lecture.
Our society today is quite literally fueled by coffee. The familiar slogan, “American runs on Dunkin’,” proves accurate, considering more than half of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee daily and not just one, but an average of three cups a day, according to the National Coffee Association. So remember, just when you thought your coffee addiction was reaching an all-time high this semester, chances are the majority of the population is right there beside you.
However, just because we rely so heavily on caffeine to power through the day doesn’t mean we need to throw down a casual seven dollars every time we want a quick caffeine fix. As late night host Jimmy Kimmel said on his show this week, “I feel like this is a test to find out just how stupid we are.” Unfortunately, I’d have to concur. A cup of joe is a cup of joe regardless of where you buy it. Granted, that sketchy diner down the road may keep the same pot festering for days on end, but when it comes down to your average, everyday cup I don’t see a drastic difference between the Folgers you brewed at home and the house roast you picked up at Amer’s.
Americans foster a spending culture. That’s definitely nothing new — just look at what transpired on Black Friday at stores across the nation. But at a certain point, we, as consumers need to take a step back and think a little more deeply about how we’re spending our money. The average American spends roughly $1,100 a year on coffee, and mind you, this number doesn’t include gingerbread lattes, caramel macchiatos and all the other guilty pleasures we indulge in over the holiday season. Increase the price of coffee to seven dollars a cup, however, and this number would skyrocket.
Trust me, I’d be the first to jump in line for a great brew, but not at such a price. Instead, let’s try to embrace the holiday spirit, shall we? Let’s replace venti lattes and luxury cups of coffee with an average cup of joe. Not only would your savings account thank you, but in return, you’d have change left over to donate to that freezing Salvation Army bell-ringer hovering outside Meijer in his Santa suit.
Sarah Skaluba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.