Coffee chains ripoff their customers

Last week, The Mail on Sunday had an article Barista bandits on how the coffee chains are ripping off their customers.

Caffe Nero and Starbucks dodge tax, Costa owned by Coca-Cola, Pret a manger by Vulture Capitalists, all serve disgusting cheap undrinkable coffee, but as the MoS points out, we are paying a high price for this undrinkable coffee, at least those with no taste for coffee are, those of us who appreciate coffee, seek out the nearest local speciality coffee shop. To this list of reasons to avoid the chains could also add poor working conditions, soul destroying low paid McShit jobs, drain money out of the local economy.

MoS describe how the wholesale price of coffee has fallen, in the meantime the price charged by the chains has risen. By wholesale price, it is assumed they are referring to the coffee exchange price for commodity coffee in London and New York.

According to MoS, price of beans on the international markets has dropped 67% since 2011, from £2.23 per pound to a low of 74p last month. In the same period, a ‘tall’ cappuccino in Starbucks that cost £2.15 in 2011 now costs £2.60 in most outlets – a 20% increase.

It is not only Starbucks ripping off their customers, other chains are also ripping off their customers too:

  • tax dodging Caffe Nero – regular cappuccino has risen 40p from £2.30 in 2011
  • Pret a Manger – from £2.19 to £2.45
  • Costa – the £2.15 ‘primo’ now costs £2.35

The usual excuses, we have heard them all before with ratchet pricing from energy companies, cost of Brent Crude goes up, electricity prices rise, cost of oil drops, electricity price stays the same.

  • Starbucks: ‘Many factors contribute to pricing decisions, including rents, labour, competition, distribution, commodities – and coffee.’
  • Costa: ‘The price of a cup of coffee does not simply reflect the cost of the beans.’
  • Pret a Manger: ‘Our coffee prices take into account the cost of our ingredients, as well as operational costs such as wages.’
  • Cafe Nero: declined to comment.

That low price on the international commodity exchange translates as bigger margins for the chains, poverty for the growers, the difference between sending the kids to school or not, a nutritinal meal every day.

The world of the speciality coffee shop is different, they engage in Direct Trade. Yes you are paying a higher price for your cappuccino, usually somewhere between £2-50 and £3-00, though often less than will pay in a chain.

There are though very good reasons for this price, and unlike the chains, it can be more than justified.

Investment by the coffee shop, decor, ambience, employment of skilled baristas, quality espresso machine and grinder, a choice of brew methods, V60 or Chemex pour over filter coffee, cold brew coffee. They are buying quality speciality coffee, not cheap commodity coffee, a far higher price is paid to the growers.

We have a choice, no one is forced to drink coffee from a corporate chain, to pay through the nose for undrinkable cheap coffee. There are speciality coffee shops, where the baristas and owner will be passionate about coffee, where can relax with a quality coffee served in glass or ceramic, where can drink with a clear conscience knowing a higher price is being paid to the coffee grower.

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