I received an email flyer from an e-commerce store flogging home espresso machines late last week. Its rather eye-catching heading read “All I Want for Christmas is my Damn Coffee!” Now, I usually delete anything that even remotely resembles annoying spam but on this occasion I spared it from being ejected into the bottomless chamber that is my junk mail box and vowed to return to it later after my morning espresso.
The email piqued my interest not because I want an espresso machine (I already have one, and to be quite honest, couldn’t live without it). It caught my attention because as I read this email title I immediately pondered…is coffee now considered so much of an essential – such an entrenched way of life – that we cannot do without it, so that like beer, bread and milk, demand for it will remain high despite the economic slowdown?
When you hear people on buses and trains talking about cutting back on excessive spending on restaurants and overseas holidays and listen to how holiday plans have “downgraded” to local camping trips and day trips from home, you realise that even in the land of plenty here in Australia, belts are tightening for luxury items.
The questions is though, is coffee one of those luxuries that people will be cutting down on or has it gone beyond that now, into the “essential” category that will mean it is immune from being subject to belt-tightening?
Now I’m pretty sure that there are no academics sweating over any PhD theses concerning coffee consumption and its connection to economic wellbeing, so I figured that I’d have to self-collect evidence of the anecdotal kind to find out if I could answer my nagging question of whether coffee is still a luxury or now an essential.
Piece of anecdotal evidence #1
I went to a new café with my family last Saturday morning for breakfast. When the gentleman serving me asked me how my week was I made sure I returned the question (as he looked like the owner, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders). He looked worn out and a tad dishevelled. He said the past week was crazy and that he was glad to see the end of the week. Now how is it, if our economy is apparently slipping into the doldrums, that a café owner could be complaining that he was tired of too much business? Crazy stuff, but true. My first piece of anecdotal evidence that coffee was still going strong.
Piece of anecdotal evidence #2
My next piece of anecdotal evidence came as I got off the train in the city to go to work. I’ve been making sure these last few days that I take notice of either side of the subway as I make way from the train station to the outside world. Business is apparently booming. Café Mio, Michels Patisserie, no-name-café-with-7-employees-working-at-the-front-counter….all seemed on fire. Seeing employees sweating at 8am over taking coffee orders indicates that we’re still drinking coffee…and plenty of it.
Piece of anecdotal evidence #3
We run a coffee training business and we are busier than ever. Cafes are still needing staff because people are still obviously buying coffee. I spoke to the company that supplies the coffee beans that we use in our classes, to see how their business was faring. “Business as usual” was the response.
Piece of anecdotal evidence #4
As he quaffed his red wine the other night, a lawyer friend of mine told the gathered throng how he was going to withdraw his money from a financial institution and curtail all unnecessary spending, despite his business increasing (more bankruptcies and insolvencies always mean boomtime for barristers). It just didn’t seem to make sense to me. His income was going to rise and he was still in panic mode! It is this sort of panic that results in a snowballing, Great Depression-like downward spiral that the media are so fond of telling us is around the corner. I told him to go out and keep spending, as someone who really needs the money down the chain is going to be relying on it. Interestingly, despite all of this, I found out by walking into his kitchen that my friend had just purchased a new Nespresso coffee machine. A ha! Another example of coffee’s immunity to economic crisis!
Piece of anecdotal evidence #5
Yesterday in the afternoon I received an email from a Mum of one of my young son’s preschool friends. Rather apologetically she enquired about getting some advice on coffee machines as theirs had just broken down and the family had turned into chaos zone as a result. It was the final piece of evidence that I needed.
Coffee is a luxury and as such, will survive the economic downturn. Well, that’s my prediction anyhow, and I’m sticking to it. Try to prove me wrong and go without yours tomorrow morning….bet you can’t!
© Barista Brothers 2008
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