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Does Coffee Have To Be Expensive To Be Great?

November 25, 2010

Does coffee have to be expensive to be great?  Why does the price, of one roaster’s coffee vary, from that of another roaster’s, for the exact same coffee?  My coffee loving friends, and I, have debated these questions over many a cup of expensive and inexpensive coffee.  I have had expensive coffee, that was absolutely terrible, inexpensive coffee, that made me want to weep, because it was so flavorful, and vice-versa.

Why does one roaster sell a pound of coffee, for $12, and another roaster sells the exact same coffee for $16?   Is it due to the initial market price for green coffee, exceptional coffee quality, company overhead, or just that some roasters take a "What the market will bear attitude" to selling their product?

Many of us know, by now, that green coffee prices have increased over the past several months.  This directly affects which beans roasters are buying, roasting, and at what price they will ultimately sell their finished product.  Of course, many other things factor into what the final price of the coffee will eventually be sold for. The world’s supply, and demand for coffee, being one of them. The fact that, a large roaster, buys coffee in greater quantities, thus, receiving better pricing on their purchases of unroasted, green, beans.  Smaller roasters, who cannot afford to buy thousands of pounds, at a time, have to pay more for their green beans initially. Company overhead (i.e.) equipment, payroll, utilities, shipping costs, etc. all factor into what the final price will be as well.  Obviously, the quality of the coffee that was grown affects price.  Was it tended to properly in the fields?  Was it picked at the peak of ripeness?  Was it processed, packaged and shipped properly?  Are the beans being sold in full pound quantity or in a smaller quantity just to make it “appear” more affordable?  Is the coffee “blended” with a lesser grade coffee, to make it more affordable, while sacrificing flavor and quality?  Lastly, profit margin, as determined by each individual roaster, plays a major role in what you, the consumer, will eventually pay.  Is the coffee fairly priced or are some companies just being greedy?

With all this in mind, does coffee have to be expensive to be great?  I say, no, not overall.  A few coffees are very expensive, and rightly so.  Many times though, such as with Kona, and Jamaican Blue Mountain, companies go overboard with their pricing, or blend it, to make it appear that you are getting more, for your money, than you really are.  Yet, there are many treasures, out there in the vast world, of retail coffee, staring us right in the face.  Simply do a little research.  Go to various web sites that rate coffee.  One of my favorites is Coffee Review.  Look at what professionals, aficionados, regular "Joes", and your own friends, and family, are saying about the coffee market, origin, roaster, and each individual coffee.  Then, make an informed decision as to what will give you the most for your hard earned dollars.

Sure, what you eventually purchase will depend on what you can afford, but that is up to each individual person.  People are always telling me “You get what you pay for”.  But I believe that, often times, you can get far more for what you are willing to pay.  There are truly great coffees, on the market, at affordable prices.  Knowing your particular tastes, understanding what it takes to bring coffee beans, from the farm to your cup, and doing some simple research will help you to find them. 





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