Consumers in SF are Willing to Pay Premium Prices for Coffee

The average American consumer drinks 3 cups of coffee a day and 83% of adults drink this beverage on a regular basis, according to a survey done by the National Coffee Association.

So it’s safe to say that the nation is hooked on coffee.

Not to mention, the demand for artisan coffee is on the rise, with the massive expansion of more roasthouses and café concepts. These gourmet coffee houses are serving cups of joe with specialty coffee beans that are usually locally sourced and minimally processed.

Like we said, Seattle isn’t the only place with wildly popular coffee houses, San Fran’s coffee industry is booming. So much so, that coffee connoisseurs are willing to pay $20 a cup.

Why this Roaster Sells the Most Expensive Coffee in the Bay

Headquartered in Oakland, CA, Blue Bottle Coffee Company offers specialty Yemeni coffee that goes for $16 for a pour-over cup and $20 for a siphon pot in the SF store.

Much like the craft beer industry, with limited quantities of a specialty brew being sold out in a short period of time, the coffee industry also attracts specialty bean aficionados who want to try a specific brew.

Blue Bottle isn’t the only player in the city charging these prices either. Other popular coffee houses including Verve, Equator and Ritual has sold high priced cups within the last year.

"Sixteen dollars, that's the cost of an appetizer at a pretty nice restaurant or a medium glass of wine — or one of the best coffees, hopefully, that people will ever taste," said James Freeman, owner of Blue Bottle, to the SFChronicle.

However, not every coffee house owner agrees. “The $15 cup is about hype unless there is some social mission to it,” said Jeremy Tooker, owner at Four Barrel to SFChronicle. “We’re not into novelty coffees. Our model is about long-term sustainability in every way we can think of.”

Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell of San Rafael’s Equator Coffees & Teas argue that $15 is appropriate considering how much work goes into the brew.

“When you see a $15 cup, this is a coffee that is not about prolific production,” said McDonnell to SFChronicle. These cups aren’t sourced and brewed with traditional practices. They are grown at certain altitudes, then picked, processed and roasted in small amounts. It is a time consuming practice.

Ritual’s owner, Eileen Hassi Rinaldi also defend the price. “I want to live in a world where we value every person’s contribution,” said Rinaldi to the SFChronicle. “and we start valuing the labor that goes in to labor-intensive products like coffee.” Read more