$12 Cup Joe in New York? Same Coffee Goes for $2.69 in Seattle

Above: Fonte Coffee Roaster in Seattle sells the drink made
from Ethiopian Nekisse beans for $2.69 a cup. The same cup
drink goes for $12 a cup at the Chelsea spot of Cafe Grumpy.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Sunday, June 6, 2010

New York (Tadias) – You may remember the recent amusing news story about $12 cup of Ethiopian coffee at Café Grumpy, a local coffee shop chain here in New York.

In her recent article, Melissa Allison, who “tracks Seattle’s — and the world’s — caffeine addiction” for The Seattle Times, writes the same cup of joe costs much less in America’s coffee capital.

“Trabant Coffee & Chai will soon carry one of the hottest tickets in coffee, a Nekisse micro-lot selection from Ethiopia, which recently sold for $12 a cup in New York and has appeared for considerably less — $2.69 a cup — at Seattle’s Fonte Coffee Roaster,” Allison points out. “Trabant’s roaster, 49th Parallel Coffee in Vancouver, is giving all the proceeds from its Nekisse sales to a non-profit called imagine1day to build classrooms in Ethiopia, said 49th Parallel owner Vince Piccolo.”

But New Yorkers have mixed opinions about Café Grumpy’s price. “There are flavors you would expect in a really nice glass of wine — it’s a cacophony of nuances,” Steve Holt, vice president of Ninety Plus Coffee, the company distributing the beans, told The NY Post. “You detect flavors of apricot, pineapple, bergamot, kiwi and lime. The deeper tones are levels of chocolate, and the finish is super clean.”

And why is it so pricey?

“It is a higher-end coffee, and you have to take a lot of time developing and processing it,” said Holt. “Once the coffee is harvested, it is dried on a raised African drying bed — the actual coffee cherries never sit on the ground.”

“People have had bad reactions to the prices,” Colleen Duhamel, a coffee buyer and barista at the cafe, told The New York Post. “They will think, ‘This place isn’t for me,’ and storm out.” “I’ve spent $12 on a cocktail, but I’d be reticent to pay that much for a cup of coffee,” said Whitney Reuling, 25, after tasting samples provided by the newspaper. “It’s good — but I can’t taste the difference. My palate is not at an advanced level for coffee — a $2.50 cup is fine.”


11 Responses to “$12 Cup Joe in New York? Same Coffee Goes for $2.69 in Seattle”

  1. 1 Michael Jun 5th, 2010 at 8:07 am

    When it comes to any purchase folks want a value. That doesn’t mean cheap! With all the hipe about some roasters touting that they have such a refined pallet that they can taste specific fruits and vegetables it doesn’t surprise me that some folks are willing to give it a try. But in the end the truth will be apparent. For myself, I have been roasting fine coffees for coffee houses throughout the U. S. and beyond for over 30 yrs now and the hipe that has shown up in this industry in the last 5-8 yrs is beyond any drama you can see in the finest theaters! The fact is some regions in East Africa, like Harrar, Yergachief and Gimbi let the cherry fruit dry on the pit before picking. So in some cases this may give the coffee a more fruity taste, but tasting santa rosa plum or hood strawberries…give me a break! What is that old saying……”the truth will set you free”.

    This new over dramatized lot of coffee roasters need to get a dose of reality!

  2. 2 Tazabi Jun 5th, 2010 at 10:53 am


    With all due respect, let us not put the horse before the cart or mix apples and oranges here. It is correct that people pay for most things based on value. But how is value determined? For example, water is technically free, but bottled-water can not be free because somebody bottled it. One bottle of water may have cost the owners less than .25 cents to package, but it will cost the consumer at least one dollar to buy it at a convenient store. Why? Because it has to be transported from the creek, mountain-top to cities and towns. By the time the water hits your local Seven Elven, the value has more than doubled. And if you come to my restaurant, right across the Seven Elven, to buy the same water, it will cost you $4.50. Why? Because I had to cool it, pour it in a glass for you, add Ice (if requested) and serve you with a white-glove and a big smile :) That is a value money can’t buy, but more than justify, from my perspective, the $4.50 per bottle price. The same concept applies to the coffee industry too. At end of the day though, it is all rests on basic economics: supply and demand. Plus, cost of living in New York is considerably more expensive than Seattle. Let’s compare the monthly rent and expenses of operating business for the two companies: Cafe Grumpy in New York and the Fonte Coffee Roaster in the Northwest. I bet you there is not even comparison.

  3. 3 swag Jun 6th, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Why do people refuse to understand the basic economics of coffee — and any other food service business for that matter? The primary expense is labor, not the coffee.

    This bit of news is meaningless unless you can do a comparison of how Grumpy prepares their Nekisse versus how Trabant handles it. Not to mention insurance, rent, and other costs comparing the two.

    Just because reporters get paid like migrant farm workers doesn’t mean they should have to provide the same level of critical thinking.

  4. 4 Brooks Jun 6th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I don’t know why people compare New York City with other places. NYC is not like other places where people talk Jesus & Taxes in well synchronized life. We New Yorkers are overstimulated & overwhelmed intensely stressed people including the Pigeons the Sparrow & the Starling birds. Our big City apathy is the well known story in the life of Kitty Genovese & Hugo Alfredo Tale Yax. Who cares. Even the street sign says no standing, no stopping, life in the city is don’t look right/left just move. Oh!! about $12 coffee who cares.The Eye glasses worn by Sara Jessika Parker in “Sex in the City”costs $525 at Bergdorf Goodman.The same yellow color sun glasses costs $5 at street vendor already copied.You can buy a $14.95 Bikini at H&M/$180 at Malia Mills(NYT) who cares.I buy my regular coffee at Greek diner for $0.75,if I want the same cup of coffee costs $1.75 across the street at Oren’s.

    Please leave us alone we are comfortable with our Sardine life.Thanks.

  5. 5 Kedist Jun 8th, 2010 at 7:28 am

    What a joke ! No coffee could cost that much. Amazing $12 . I can buy a kilo of my own Ethiopian coffee, roast and serve the best Ethiopian coffee to all my freinds and family for that price . No coffee can beat the way we make it . It is a mockery $12 .

  6. 6 Ethiopia4ever Jun 8th, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Ethiopian coffee is a highly treasured commodity, similar in its prestige to Beluga caviar and to many consumers, more delicious (and palatable) than Indonesia’s Kopi Luwak which sells for far more. It’s no surprise that our coffee should be sold at a high price and if you’ve read any of the numerous coffee industry blogs, you’d find that most experts and caffeine junkies think our coffee is woefully underpriced.

  7. 7 Observer Jun 8th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    As they say, Ignorance leads to misplaced (fake) patriotism. How much do you think the poor Ethiopian farmer is getting out of $12 a cup? Probably peanuts. The “experts and caffeine junkies” most likely get a bigger pay check than the poor farmer. Is that okay?

  8. 8 Ethiopia4ever Jun 9th, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Observer, your idea of patriotism is as lopsided as your grasp of basic economics. When Ethiopian coffee sells for a higher price, it is then understood to be the luxury brand that it always has been, thus causing the average price of the coffee to rise. Now, when the price becomes fairer, it becomes easier for farmers to demand higher prices, which they will begin to receive as demand heightens.

  9. 9 Ray Nov 9th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    When you pay $5k a month rent, you get charged $12. If you want a $2 cup move to Vancouver.

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