Sunday, September 21, 2008

Twisted Jammies

I read an article this morning that got my jammies in a Sunday morning twist. The basics of the news regards new coffee products that are soon going to be marketed to consumers. Ok fine.

Now, mind you, this news comes from the makers of Folgers, Maxwell House and others: Proctor & Gamble.

First off, the whole world knows that they use "ultra-cheap", inferior Robusta coffee beans, vs Arabica. Second, they pay substandard wages for the picking of those beans. (These are NOT fair trade coffees, people. Have a cup [of something better] and wake up.)

The article says that Proctor & Gamble has divised a new step to the roasting process, called "pre-drying". Basically, they're trying to pull palatable taste from the same inferior beans.

Tell me that the extra step that will slow production from lesser quality tree to diner coffee cup isn't going to cause a price increase too. Right? ha.

You [P&G] want to pre-dry your coffee beans thinking they might not be the same thin bodied, cardboard tasting, slave wage encouraging, bitter brew, repackage/label it, and market it to the new generation of coffee drinkers (at what will undoubtedly be a higher price than what you have on the shelves now)? Have fun. I won't be buying it, but g'head.

What got my jammies in a twist was this quote from the article:

"consumers looking to save cash turn to their daily coffee beverage so often that saving $4 a day has a name: The Starbuck's Factor, or The Latte Factor"

What the heck?!

I have no idea what a pound of Maxwell House costs these days. The last time it was purchased or made in my house was when we sat shiva (a tradition of mourning) at the passing of my mother-in-law, nearly 7 years ago. But let's compare apples to apples and cup to cup.

Looking at the coffee itself... Quoting the same article: "Robusta beans thrive at lower altitudes and produce far more beans per plant, and have twice the caffeinne of Arabica beans: but their flavor, according to connoisseurs, is extremely inadequate."

Looking at the companies themselves... Caribou Coffee, Starbucks and others have spent millions of dollars in establishing fairtrade agreements with coffee plantation owners, raising awareness of the fairtrade issue, and bringing consumers that product. Fairtrade comes with fair cost. In my opinion, a more balanced world economy is worth it. Proctor & Gamble advertise no such ethic on their website or packaging.

Starbucks is routinely named one of the best employers in the US. They stimulate both the world and the local economies.

As for the comparison of a cup of generic home brew vs the $4/day made-to-order figure: That's not a case that can be made.

Compare apples to apples, home brewing to home brewing.

In my coffee maker 4 oz. (1/2 C.) of grounds yields 12 cups of coffee. That's 4 pots, or 48 cups, to the 16 oz. pound. At $10 per pound ~ last I did the math (just now) ~ it costs less than 42 cents a serving to have a pretty large, roughly 16 oz. mug, of $10/lb. coffee at home.

People pay for convenience, for location, for time-savings, for the training, roasting, brewing and concocting in which the big coffee houses specialize.

It's more a statement of affluence (or frivolity, depending on how jealous you are) that some choose to have their coffee made to order. They choose to pay a portion of their salary to have someone making an honest wage make them a cup of coffee they'll actually enjoy in a time-effective manner. Problem is?

Yep, they could have gotten up that morning early enough to brew it themselves. It would have been less expensive. That's their choice to make.

If someone wants to save more than $4 a day? Bring a sack lunch to work. Problem solved.

If you can afford it, buy the Mercedes. If not, don't. If you have access to fruit trees and canning equipment, make jam. If you don't, pay a company that farms thousands of acres, buys the sugar and pays the people to make, transport and market it. I don't see an article bashing Knotts Berry Farm for $3/jar jam. And don't get me started on gourmet marmalades!

You pay more for convenience and quality when and if you can. It's US economics 101.

You can buy a couple potatoes and some oil cheaper than you can buy a bag of chips, but it's not fair to say that the price of a potato compares to the convenience of buying those peeled, sliced, fried, seasoned, packaged bags of chips.

And now, I'm getting out of my twisted jammies and heading for a good cuppa joe in the sunshine. If enjoying your day means splurging on something you enjoy and can afford, so be it.

As for me and my house, we will serve whatever .42/mug GOOD coffee we choose!


Spiral said...

Preach it sista!!

(Says the girl who continues to stop at McEvils for her carmel iced latte daily, even though they have yet to get it right even once)

Irisi said...

I'm all over the fair trade stuff. It tastes better when it's made with love... or at least fair wages.