December 8, 2010

Victoria's Coffee

Coffee, apparently, has something in common with lingerie.

At first, I might not have guessed that. The former, coffee, is a beverage of course, and consumed ritually by millions around the world. Lingerie, well, is none of those things - though it could be a consumable, given the right set of circumstances and ... um ... materials.

But both, at least according the Washington Post here, are luxury items. And both experienced slumping sales during our recent economic downturn. Starbucks is making money again, however, and so are lingerie companies. This is taken to mean that people have a little more money now, and are thus more able to indulge in things they might otherwise eschew.

This is all presented so matter-of-factly that it almost skirts any argument, and passes easily to the real of accepted truths. But there is a dichotomy to be struck here, though it may seem derived from a perversion of semantics.

Starbucks may well be a "luxury item", an expense to be embraced in times of plenty, and abandoned when things resources are more scarce. But Starbucks, despite its omnipresence in the coffee sphere, is not coffee itself. This is to say that coffee, itself, is not really a luxury item.

One can make coffee at home with a three dollar plastic cone, or a twenty dollar french press, that will be at least as good as the coffee sold at Starbucks. (Or most any other cafe, for that matter. I'm not trying to pick on anyone here.) Even the best beans can be had for little more than ten dollars for a 3/4 lb bag.

Thus the lesson here, I think, is twofold: First, that coffee itself needn't be expensive; And second, that "eating out", whether it be for coffee, sandwiches or pizza, is always more expensive than satisfying your fix at home.

"But wait," you might ask, "Aren't most people visiting Starbucks buying something other than coffee?" On this point, I have to agree. A large soy vanilla latte is going to be expensive, and more difficult to prepare well at home. A real espresso machine, the type that can produce crema and properly texture milk, can't be had on the cheap. And so yes, I think it goes without saying that lattes, mochas, etc, are luxury items. But these things, while coffee based, and certainly coffee related, are not coffee per se. Just another reason, as I see it, to drink coffee - just coffee.


  1. I basically really want to be your friend. It's like reading from a much more confident, funnier, boy version of me. I'm reading your posts between customers and they have me alternating between contemplating and giggling.
    Do you prefer the pour-over or the press at home?

  2. Well, thanks for the comment, and the compliments as well.

    As for my preferred home brewing system, I have to admit partiality for the pour over. There are a litany of reasons to use a press, of course. And if anyone wants to tell me that you only really taste the coffee when you cut the filter out, I won't argue too much. But I like my cheap little Melitta cone.