Maybe it was the joy of waking up at the house of two close friends, or the fact that I did not need to prepare it myself, but when presented with a cup of coffee this past Saturday morning I found myself in absolute elation. Now to be frank, this is not far from my normal reaction to my first cup of coffee of the day, but this cup indeed tasted rich and dark and perfect.
I wrapped my hands around it and breathed in its smoky aroma. I asked where this coffee was from – expecting one of Columbus’ many excellent coffee roasters to be named – and was faced with the name of an old addiction: Starbucks. Starbuck’s espresso blend to be exact. Starbuck’s espresso blend on sale for $7.99 to be really exact.
I will further set the context of this moment by telling you that earlier that week I realized I had been spending almost $75 a month on coffee. And not single cup lattes or cappuccinos, just bags of coffee beans. Somehow I had continued to purchase bags of $18 coffee from my local roaster without doing some quick math as to how much this would add up in a household that goes through a bag a week.
I had convinced myself that this luxury was important, because I love coffee. I mean, yes, almost everyone loves coffee (one only need to take only a glance at the decorative mug industry to see 500 iterations of this sentiment), but I swear my love is different. Coffee is my security blanket. My always there for me friend. And as someone who has recently committed herself to waking up at 5AM everyday without regard to my bedtime of 11:30PM, a really important part of not crashing my car during my one hour commute.
So yes, coffee is important to me. But here I was last Saturday morning, enjoying the best cup of coffee I’d had in a long time, and it came at the low price of $8 a bag. Still, web articles and the localavore movement nagged at my enjoyment. “But what about the local coffee shops!” cried some long lost NPR piece in my mind. “Starbucks burns their coffee!” echoed Chris Kimball from a rerun of America’s Test Kitchen.
Like most things in life, there comes a time when you learn to push through the crowds and to take the advice of experts with a grain of salt. If you like something, then the choral cries against it should not distract from said enjoyment. You know yourself best, and if it tastes good, then please ignore external critics and take a second helping of that canned green bean casserole. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not constantly analyzed.
In the world of food and consumption, however, I do think some attention needs to be paid to the bigger picture as our decisions are not made in a vacuum. When every food choice impacts environments and economies (i.e. other human beings and living creatures), we cannot simply decide, for example, that we are fine with the unrestrained eating of animal proteins from major corporations because we like it. Sure, enjoy a crappy hot dog with a well deserved wild abandon (I know I do every summer), but remember that attention and more importantly money should be paid to those local and/or sustainably ethical producers of meat when it is financially possible.
With this in mind, it is time I change my coffee consumer ways. Yes, I will still continue to buy from my local roaster, but perhaps these bags can be a weekend only treat. During the week, I will embrace my love of Starbucks and my boyfriend’s even more economical love of Dunkin Donuts. My budget will thank me, the local economy will forgive me, and my caffeine intake can remain at its normal level of medium high to “oh no I’ve had too much coffee” levels.