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The Value of a Great Cup of Coffee

by | Jan 6, 2006 | Travel and Dining, Weekly Column | 4 comments

If you were at a Safeway store in Rapid City sometime in the past couple of weeks, you may have seen me skulking toward the checkout line, hunched over suspiciously, with something hidden under my coat. No, I wasn’t shoplifting. I was just buying cheap coffee.

Most of you know that I enjoy really good food. That also extends to what I drink, including coffee. Only recently I discovered a new “Money Script” that I had about coffee. I guess you could call it a “Coffee Script.” It had two parts: "You’ve got to pay a lot of money to get good coffee," and, "You can’t buy good coffee at Safeway." After reading these pink coffee makers reviews, I decided to buy one, to save me a little money in the long run.

I recently discovered irrefutable evidence that those two scripts are dead wrong. Even though it has been painful, I have accepted the truth and begun to change.

The bursting of my coffee money scripts came at the hands of Consumer Reports magazine and a website called rateitall.com. Consumer Reports tested 42 varieties of various brands of coffee. Their choices for the three best coffees were: First, Caribou, an expensive brand from a chain coffee shop; second, plain old inexpensive Eight O’Clock coffee that is available in grocery stores, and third, the coffee served at Dunkin’ Donuts.

As I processed this information in light of my “coffee scripts,” the pain got worse. The coffee ranking dead last in the survey was the prestigious Starbucks. Just above it were the Millstone and Seattle’s Best brands.

Once I had worked through the difficult emotions associated with uncovering and revising my coffee money scripts, though, I began to appreciate the good news. Not only does Eight O’Clock taste good, it’s one of the cheapest coffees available, selling for half to a third the price of the premium brands. On my next visit to the grocery store, then, I overcame my previous beliefs and reached for the Eight O’Clock coffee. We now proudly feature it here at KFG’s dining room.

However, while I was persuaded that 8 O’Clock was the best grocery store coffee, I was not convinced it was better than fresh roasted coffee from a local company like Dunn’s or Black Hills Coffee. Neither was Michele Powers, my financial planning assistant, who is a coffee aficionado.

We tested 8 O’Clock against Dunn’s fresh roasted Columbian. Michele’s verdict was that Dunn’s won hands down and she wouldn’t hesitate to pay three times as much for it. As for me, I noticed a difference, but not one worth three times the price.

What makes a good cup of coffee, of course, is bound to be subjective. True coffee connoisseurs could debate endlessly over the finer points of dark or medium roast, robusta or arabica beans, and whole bean vs. ground.

The point is that it makes sense, whether buying coffee or anything else, to pay attention to what works best for you instead of assuming that if you spend more you will automatically get something better. It’s a matter of value.

There are times when a higher price does mean a better value. Sometimes, though, the only thing you get for a higher price is a higher price. The important thing is to keep an open mind and decide whether something is a good value to you. Your assessment of value may be completely different from someone else’s.

When you do find a great value, go ahead and enjoy it. Let it warm your heart—or as the case may be, your stomach—like a great cup of coffee at a bargain price.

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