February 15th, 2007

Very expensive coffee, or very hyberbolic rhetoric

I don't know why this bothers me so much, but it does:

I heard some guy on either WHYY or NPR this morning talking about Ethiopian coffee, and how Starbucks pays $1.60 a pound to the growers, just 1% of what the consumer pays.

Starbucks customers pay $160 for a pound of coffee?!? That's funny, it looks to me like they pay $10.45.

Perhaps the speaker meant that a cup of coffee, using a fraction of a pound of grounds, would cost the consumer a couple bucks. But it is misleading to equate that purchase with the price of beans in Ethiopia (or the price of tea in China, for that matter), since the coffee has to be shipped, roasted, packaged, distributed, ground, brewed, and dispensed, where Starbucks incurs additional costs, such as rent, marketing, and labor.

Not that I think Starbucks is A-OK, or anything: Starbucks opposes Ethiopia's plan to trademark certain coffee names, which would bring in extra money to Ethiopia and their coffee-growers. I'm just fed up with the media for either themselves saying things that are completely inaccurate, or for airing things that are completely inaccurate without comment.

The only coffee that is $160 a pound is Kopi Luwak, the coffee bean that is eaten and excreted by palm civets before making its way to your cup.