What’s the Value of a Cup of Coffee vs. a Glass of Wine?

Posted: September 6, 2012

Observations from California

Last week, I was traveling around California, a land where great wine and coffee coexist. It’s all really good here. While high quality options exist for both beverages, I’m struck by the pricing differences. Menus regularly list a glass of wine for anywhere from $8 to $18—yes, that’s for one five-ounce glass. Coffee, on the other hand, is still available for $0.99 in some places. Of course, really nice beans prepared by trained professionals (like those I met at Blue Bottle Coffee) can reach the $3.50-$6.00 range, but are still not even close to the price of a glass of wine made with grapes grown just down the street. Is this price discrepancy simply a matter of marketing?

While I am no expert, I am pretty sure there are fewer human touches and accessories necessary for a glass of wine than a cup of coffee. Coffee beans must be picked in distant countries, depulped, fermented, dried for days, hand-sorted, bagged, sea-shipped, stored, hand-blended, roasted, packaged and ground brewed. If baristas impart this knowledge of coffee at restaurants just like sommeliers share their wine expertise, perhaps the value of the coffee service will increase and consequently, the coffee’s price.

Until that happens, remember the tremendous value you’re receiving in each cup.