481: Cup of Coffee

How much do you think is too much to pay for a cup of coffee?

Full episode script

It’s only about 7 months until National Coffee Day — a holiday that, given the United States’ appetite for coffee — is understandably important to many. No matter if you celebrate or not, though, there’s a seemingly near-constant discussion of what the “right” price for a cup of coffee might be. Or, if you’ve listened to anyone discussing financial management lately, you’ve likely heard a cup of coffee used as a financial measuring stick — something that costs about the same as 4 lattes, for example.

There’s several different ways and places that the financial cost of a cup of coffee is invoked – and it’s a much more complex interplay than simple supply and demand.

Square, the credit card processing provider that is used by many independent and small businesses, released a report in 2015 that compared quite a bit of the data that it had on-hand from coffee shops. They found that an Americano averaged between $2.51 and $2.93 per cup around the US. Mochas were by far the most expensive treat, topping out at $4.14 in New England states. Cappuccinos ranged from $3.39 to $3.64.

The cappuccino was also the measuring stick that app CUPS – which creates mobile order infrastructure for small coffee shops – was measured on in Barista Magazine when they were talking about the average cost of coffee. That was between $3.50 in Philadelphia and Austin to $3.90 in New York City — pretty in-line with Square’s data.

All of this also is measuring the cost of a cuppa when it’s purchased at a coffee shop. As many budgeting advice-givers point out, it can be an expensive habit. As one author wrote on You Need A Budget, “when one can get eight cups of drip coffee for the price of four lattes, well, you understand.”

At home or out and about, there’s a lot more than just the price of beans to take in to consideration. As with a lot of food, the price is as much about the experience, the environment, the convenience, or the ritual as it is about the food or drink itself. I say as I’m writing this from a local coffee shop, $5 soy toffee nut latte in hand.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.