How Your Daily Cup of Coffee Became a Luxury—With Prices to Match

A cup of coffee is becoming more of a luxury item than ever before—and not just those made in your favorite cafe.

If you opt for a homemade cup, bean prices at grocery stores have jumped a whopping 22 percent over the past three years, the Washington Post reported on Friday. At cafes and bakeries, customers are spending $6 on average for a drink, according to Toast data cited by the outlet. Those increased costs are due to every little thing that goes into your Joe, from the coffee itself to the milk you add in to the labor it takes to put it all together.

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“Every cup of coffee is a small miracle,” Lauren Crabbe, the owner of the San Francisco coffee shop Andytown told the Post. “Just everything that goes into it.”

The price of coffee beans themselves are the first pain point: Crops have been affected by climate change and extreme weather, with reduced Brazilian harvests in 2021 leading wholesale prices to reach their highest level in years, according to the Post. And since the pandemic began, the commodity price of arabica beans has risen more than 40 percent, dropping slightly this year to $1.46 a pound in September. By the time those beans make it to market, though, they can cost $10 or more a pound, Crabbe said.

Unless you take your coffee black, you’re also likely adding ingredients that jack up the price even further. Dairy milk currently costs about $4.36 a gallon, up $1 from four years ago, according to USDA data cited by the Post. Plant-based milks—like soy, almond, and oat—can cost twice as much. And flavored drinks have skyrocketed in popularity: Starbucks’ love-it-or-hate-it Pumpkin Spice Latte has been sold more than 600 million times over the past 20 years. Whether you opt for that confection or another specialty flavor, you’re paying extra for the sweetness.

And if you’re grabbing a cup of joe from a coffee shop or other establishment, business costs find their way into your total, too. The cost of labor has risen substantially in recent years, with Crabbe saying that wages and benefits for her employees make up 40 percent of an Andytown latte’s price. Other costs have jumped as well, such as rent and electricity, and the price of your coffee needs to be able to help cover those expenses.

That’s a lot of factors that go into a $6 mug of fuel, and those in the industry hope customers realize how that can justify a higher price tag.

“People don’t treat [coffee] as a luxury item,” Lowell Powell, the co-founder of Catracha Coffee, told the Post. “And they should.”

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