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E42: The Financial Domain of Caffeine

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E42: The Financial Domain of Caffeine

Feb 02, 2024

Coffee is the most common hot caffeine source in the United States and ranks as the world's leading traded agricultural commodity. Statistically, American women outspend men on coffee, with some individuals dedicating upwards of $2,000 annually to their java fix.

In the financial domain of our caffeine consumption, Dr. Kirtly Jones discusses the economic impact of our coffee habits and raises the question of whether the enjoyment and benefits of a daily cup of coffee justify its financial expense.


    • Dr. Jones delved into the financial domain of caffeine consumption, exploring the costs associated with coffee and tea habits. From assessing personal spending habits to considering the variability in coffee bean costs and brewing methods, consumers have the flexibility to tailor their caffeine habits according to their financial priorities and preferences. This episode looks at the interconnectedness between financial decisions and the broader landscape of caffeine consumption.

    Financial Implications of Coffee Consumption

    • Exploring Personal Coffee Expenses: Understanding the financial implications of coffee consumption involves assessing personal spending habits. Daily coffee shop visits can quickly accumulate into significant yearly expenses. For instance, a $5 latte purchased seven days a week for 50 weeks amounts to $2,100 annually, emphasizing the substantial financial impact of a latte habit.
    • Variability in Coffee Bean Costs: Coffee bean prices vary widely depending on factors such as origin and processing methods. While some enthusiasts may opt for exotic and expensive varieties like kopi luwak or black ivory beans, others may prefer more budget-friendly options like bulk coffee from Costco. The cost disparity reflects diverse consumer preferences and purchasing power in the coffee market.

    Comparing Coffee and Tea Expenses

    • Affordability of Tea vs. Coffee: While coffee is often associated with higher costs, tea can also become a significant expense, especially for enthusiasts of premium tea varieties. However, compared to luxury coffee options like kopi luwak or black ivory beans, high-quality loose-leaf teas may offer a more budget-friendly alternative for caffeine enthusiasts.
    • Cost-Effective Brewing Methods: The financial aspect of caffeine consumption extends to brewing methods and equipment. Investing in quality coffee grinders, brewers, or espresso machines can incur substantial upfront costs, but may offer long-term savings compared to frequent coffee shop visits. Additionally, choosing cost-effective brewing methods like cone-filtered single cups or traditional drip coffee makers can contribute to more budget-conscious caffeine habits.


    • Assessing Personal Spending Habits: Understanding the financial implications of caffeine consumption involves evaluating personal spending habits, from daily coffee shop visits to the cost of brewing equipment and premium coffee beans.
    • Consideration of Bean Costs: Coffee enthusiasts can choose from a wide range of bean options, from exotic and expensive varieties to budget-friendly alternatives, highlighting the variability in coffee bean costs and consumer preferences.
    • Balancing Affordability and Quality: Consumers have the autonomy to balance affordability and quality in their caffeine habits, whether through cost-effective brewing methods or indulging in luxury coffee options, reflecting diverse preferences in the coffee market.

    This content was originally produced for audio. Certain elements such as tone, sound effects, and music, may not fully capture the intended experience in textual representation. Therefore, the following transcription has been modified for clarity. We recognize not everyone can access the audio podcast. However, for those who can, we encourage subscribing and listening to the original content for a more engaging and immersive experience.

    All thoughts and opinions expressed by hosts and guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views held by the institutions with which they are affiliated.



    When exploring the 7 Domains of Caffeine, we're spending most of our time on coffee. In the U.S., it's the most common way people are exposed to hot caffeine. But of course, cold caffeine in colas, caffeinated drinks, or iced tea have a huge following.

    Coffee is the number one traded agricultural commodity in the world. It is a very big business. So, in the financial domain of caffeine, it's a big business for our own personal budgets, and so are colas and the serious cola consumers out there. There are people who drink two big bottles of cola every day or more.

    Financial Implications of Coffee Consumption

    I will admit to having a large latte habit in my recent past. I went to work at least five days a week, and on the weekends, I did errands. Each day, I would stop at the coffee cart in the hospital and get a latte. It was about $5, and I left a $1 to $2 tip because I could, I liked the guy, and he knew what I wanted.

    Starbucks moved into the hospital at least a decade ago, but I still stopped at the coffee cart because the owner knew me, and he was just a sweet guy. So did the folks at the drive-through that I frequented on the weekend. It was a caffeine thing as well as a social thing, and somebody was making something yummy for me.

    Seven days a week times $6 a time, times 50 weeks a year, let's do the math. Seven times $6, times 50 is $2,100 a year for my latte habit. Is that right? It couldn't be that much, but maybe. Yeah, $2,100 a year for my latte habit is the math. That's a lot of money. What could you do with that money?

    Let's just say you want a big cup of coffee each day, but you could do it for cheaper. Can you make it at home and put it in a go cup for work?

    Comparing Coffee and Tea Expenses

    What does your coffee habit actually cost you? Well, let's start with the beans. There are expensive beans and cheap beans.

    The most expensive beans are kopi luwak from Indonesia. The palm civet, which is a little kind of catlike animal, also called the toddy cat, eats the sweetest coffee beans and they go through the digestive tract and are slightly fermented and then are pooped out. They're then cleaned up and roasted, and make coffee that is reportedly sweet with a taste of plum tea and rose, and apparently, no taste of civet poop. So that's good.

    According to the wine taster's equivalent of coffee taster, they say sweet with a taste of plum tea and rose. The cost is $600 a pound. Of course, the civets are caged and force-fed the coffee beans, which they may not actually like to eat. So you have to take that into consideration when you're choosing which beans to buy.

    There are black ivory beans, only slightly less expensive, from Northern Thailand. It uses minimal machinery, but it counts on the digestive tract of elephants to do the work, and the beans are sorted out of the elephant poop. The flavor is notes of chocolate and spices without the bitterness. I wonder what the elephant handlers and poop sorters are paid, but it's about $500 a pound.

    So if you're into expensive coffee, there you go. You've got civet poop or elephant poop. I'm not that big into poop really.

    My favorite expensive coffee is Kona coffee from the big island of Hawaii. At least I know that the workers are paid a living wage and a living wage to live in Hawaii. It costs $33 to $55 a pound, and that's about four times what Starbucks coffee per pound would cost. But when I'm drinking coffee without milk or sweetener, Kona coffee is just lovely. Now, my own taste buds say it's got hints of chocolate, and it's not bitter.

    I am a fan of Kona coffee, but I can't really justify it. I would rather give my money to something else. Of course, you can get cheap coffee in bulk at Costco, and it will taste just fine with milk and sweetener, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg.

    Then there's the grinder. You can get a cheap grinder or an expensive grinder. There are grinders that cost hundreds of dollars. People in the know say an expensive grinder makes better grinds that make better coffee.

    Or in my case, because grinders are too loud at 5:00 in the morning and wake up my husband, who is not a morning lark and doesn't drink coffee, so he doesn't appreciate hearing a grinder, you can do what I do and get the coffee pre-ground, and it doesn't cost anything more.

    Then there's the brewer. You can get the fancy grinder/brewer/mild foamer espresso machine for thousands of dollars, and they take up a lot of kitchen real estate. I'm sure that makes a really wonderful cup of coffee, and I would love to come over to your house and you make me one.

    Or you can get the individually-ground-and-packaged-in-aluminum-small-containers for individual cups and the machine that punctures the cups and pushes hot water through. That makes a nice cup of coffee.

    Of course, you're starting to get pretty pricey with the expensive homemade cups of coffee, but cheaper than a coffee shop. And if your machine doesn't break down and you can use it for a long time, you can even get your money out of it.

    Now, Mr. Coffee machines, which are a drip coffee kind, they're pretty indestructible and last for years, and they often taste like they've been brewed for years, but they're okay.

    My home coffee has always been a simple 40-year-old ceramic filter holder and those V-shaped filters. I don't buy really expensive coffee, because once I doctor it up with some whitener, milk, oat milk, or whatever, and sweetener, it barely matters. I can make what I consider a yummy enough cup of coffee for myself.

    Counting the coffee, the oat milk, and I'm skipping the sweetener nowadays, and the filter, I can make a 12-ounce cup for about 40 cents.

    People who judge coffee say that a cone-filtered single cup makes the best coffee. I can recycle the filters and the coffee in my green waste bin or in the compost heap, or I can stir the coffee grounds into my garden, into my tomatoes, and I swear my tomatoes don't taste like coffee.


    However you get your coffee fix, it's probably more expensive than a tea bag unless you want to go the really expensive tea route. There is some really expensive tea. Some people drink a lot of tea, and it can be a lot of money.

    For people who do energy drinks, energy drinks are a lot more expensive than just Coke or Pepsi. But when you put it all together, if you're drinking three or four a day, that really adds up.

    Is it worth it? You get to decide what you do with your money and how you fix your caffeine habit. With respect to your latte habit, you can change your latte habit and make it home, or you can just enjoy the smile of the barista and the beautiful art on your cup.

    Thanks for joining us in the financial domain of caffeine, or in this case, counting the cost of your coffee.

    Join us next week when we talk about the environmental aspects of the 7 Domains of Caffeine. It's important to think about, and it could be important even thinking in the financial domain, what are the environmental costs of the coffee, tea, or colas that you drink? And what's global warming actually going to do to the coffee supply?

    So stay tuned. We're talking about it. Talk to you later.

    Host: Kirtly Jones, MD

    Producer: Chloé Nguyễn

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