by Joseph Molloy November 03, 2021 4 min read
We’ve all heard the same old same old that, “I won’t pay that much for a coffee!” But the $6 question is how much is too much? Let’s add up the costs of what goes into a good coffee in 2021 and see the full picture in a brand new light.
BECAUSE IT’S MORE THAN JUST A GOOD CUP OF COFFEE
It’s the galaxy of milks requested. It’s the sparkling water chaser to refresh the palate. It’s the coffee specific crockery (not to mention thick, soft but recyclable napkins and artisanal coffee sugar). It’s the atmosphere — from the DJ-curated playlist to the architectural fit-out).
And that’s all before we talk about the staff who welcome you in and warm your heart.
BECAUSE BARISTAS AND STAFF DESERVE TO GET PAID MORE
You may or may not be aware, but hospitality workers have been paid under the table for much of the past two decades! Even though staff and owners were happy (cash in hand for one and avoiding tax for the other), it’s all snowballed into gross underpayment, minimal super payments, and a general disregard for doing things properly.
But now that everything is above board thanks to cash being pretty much dead, staff are now (and finally) receiving proper wages, penalty rates, and super.
So is it any wonder that $6 for a coffee is no longer too much to ask.
BECAUSE YOUR FAVOURITE CAFE IS MORE SUSTAINABLE
Covid tells the story. Small cafe owners with no money-buffer struggled, sacked staff, closed their doors, never to be seen again. Business 101 — you need to make a profit to sustain a business and survive unforeseen circumstances and events. In short, profit is not a dirty word when it comes to a damn good coffee in a nice little cafe. It’s the reason any business great or small exists.
Would $6 coffee allow owners to pay themselves properly, invest in their staff, try new and interesting things with coffee and food, and keep the doors open during the bad times?
Yes? Or no?
BECAUSE GOOD COFFEE IS WORTH MORE THAN IT COSTS
From the coffee grower to the roaster to the barista, every coffee you enjoy has passed through a long chain of hands that spans the world. Every step along the way is hands-on, labour intensive, and highly skilful. And there’s a chance of ruining the coffee at each of these steps. By knowing how to treat each type of coffee in its own way, every single person in the chain (which could be hundreds according to A.J. Jacobs Author of Thanks a Thousand) adds value to that precious cup of black gold in your hands.
BECAUSE MELBOURNE’S GLOBAL CAFE REPUTATION DEMANDS MORE
Not long ago, Melburnians could wake with the knowledge that their home city had some of the best coffee and cafes in the world. People in New York, London, and Paris were opening ‘Melbourne style’ cafes and espresso bar chains to replicate our highly acclaimed coffee culture. Sadly, the word in coffee-producing countries now is that Melbourne coffee roasteries aren’t after the good stuff anymore — they want cheaper, not better. So long as we pay the minimum for a coffee, we’ll end up winning the race to the bottom. Only a fair price will raise our coffee culture reputation back to where it was — the top.
BECAUSE PRICE HASN’T CHANGED FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS
In 2011, specialty coffee was around $3.70. In 2021, specialty coffee is around $3.96. That’s 26 cents in 10 years (or 2.6 cents per year). Talk to any cafe owner and you will find them scared to charge more than the place down the road. But their greatest fear is going out of business because the cost of production is approximately 23.6% more than it was ten years ago.
By raising the price, we’re signalling to partner cafes to have no fear of serving a good coffee at a good price. Customers will happily pay the premium knowing they are sustaining the livelihoods of everybody in the cafe industry.
So what can you do to sustain our renowned cafe culture in Melbourne and beyond? Well here are six steps to get you started:
(1) Search out great cafes serving locally roasted coffee at a price that matches the end-cup enjoyment.
(2) Keep your eyes open to everything else these cafes provide — a welcoming atmosphere, personalised attention, and a friendly attitude.
(3) Avoid the siren call of the 7/11 dollar cup of cheap and cheerless coffee.
(4) Think of the huge chain of people involved in bringing that specialty cup of coffee into your hands.
(5) Save a few dollars by buying a bag of locally roasted coffee to brew at home.
And (6), be glad for amazing coffee, an everyday luxury so good that even at $6 it would be a bargain.
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