(Photo courtesy of Starbucks)Not long ago, $7 was the price of a hearty lunch. Now it's the price of a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee, but a Grande-sized cup of Starbucks' new Costa Rica Finca Palmilera.
Here we stand on a fiscal cliff, drinking $7 coffees. Is there any way to explain it?
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"[The] price is based on rarity, demand, and green coffee prices," a Starbucks spokesperson told Yahoo! Shine. "This coffee is not widely available, so, like an opportunity to try a wine where there is limited production, demand is high."
For coffee snobs the price point can be justified with one word: Geisha.
Geisha is a rare varietal of coffee beans, grown in parts of Central America, coveted for its delicate fruity aroma. Because only a small amount of farms produce the red-berry-colored beans—which were native to Ethiopia before importation to Costa Rica in 1953—distributors are able to jack up the price.
Currently, a half-pound bag of Starbuck's Finca Palmilera beans is selling for $40. Make that selling out. Online customers bought out the bags in the first 24 hours. Starbucks' $40 bag is actually a bargain compared to other Geisha-coffee products, which retail for up to $60 per half pound.
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"We have loyal Reserve customers who are interested in any opportunity to try something as rare and exquisite as the Geisha varietal," a Starbucks spokesperson explained in an email to Shine.
If a $7 cup suddenly sounds more reasonable, Starbucks is brewing Geisha beans (sourced from a different Costa Rican farm from those sold by the bag) in 48 stores throughout Oregon and Washington—the hub of Starbucks loyalists and coffee purists. The select shops all boast "Clover" coffee machines, a $13,000 mechanical barista, reserved for Starbucks fancier "reserve" lines.
Yes, ordering this simple, foam-free cup of coffee involves a lot of money, labor and fanfare. Is it worth it?
If a 75-cent deli coffee is more your thing, probably not. But if you're addicted to complicated coffee brews, this may be your $7 ticket to paradise.
During a taste test, "coffee specialist" Leslie Wolford described a kaleidoscope of flavor.
"Lush, tropical, hints of white, not yellow, peach," she told SeattlePI.com . "A little bit of pineapple. Herbal complexity. Super-clean. Vibrant. Sparklingness."
"It's a soft juicy coffee," writes Melanie Overton, a Seattle-based lawyer who keeps a Starbucks-themed blog, but is not affiliated with the chain (because that's how into coffee she is).
Overton describes the coffee as lighter-bodied than the usual Starbucks blend. She also tasted a "a little sparkle to it…[with the] sweeter tropical notes as the primary flavor, and then a complex, lush herbal flavor as the coffee cooled."
In recent years, Starbucks has rolled out everything from energy drinks to limited-edition seasonal flavored coffees. The clamor for candy-coated dessert drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Lattes (and its recent ice-cream version) could have alienated the coffee purists who started the Starbucks movement back in the seventies and eighties. But with Costa Rican Geisha beans, the chain is reeling the loyalists back in.
Wolford justified the price of the brew as the equivalent to investing in a fine wine. Another comparison one could make is to a drug. Caffeine used to be one of the cheapest on the market. Now the good stuff goes for $80 a pound. If you're a true coffee addict, you might find it hard to just say no.
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