How Much is That Coffee in the Window?

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JUST A BUCK | Starbucks offers $1 cup

Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee retailer, normally charges about $1.50 for an 8-ounce cup o’ joe. But with fast-food outlets getting more involved in the coffee game, and with all the other stuff that goes along with increasing competition, Starbucks has announced it’s doing a test: a small cup of coffee for just a buck…with free refills.

AP reports that McDonald’s charges $1.07 for a 12-ounce cup, as a comparison…

It’ll be interesting to see how the test goes. Starbucks has conditioned much of the coffee-drinking public to willingly pay $5 or $6 for a grande skinny cinnamon dolce latte (non-fat milk, hold the whipped cream) or something just as esoteric.

No question Starbucks has lost some of its luster. The company announced this week it’s closing 100 underperforming stores and will open fewer new stores (1,175 vs. 1,600) in 2008. Sales have fallen in the last quarter – a first – and transactions decreased 3 percent.

Competition is to blame, rather than a move away from premium coffees. It’s hard to say whether anyone’s making just a simple pot of coffee (black, strong, simple) anymore. Go to Mr. Bean or Java Express in Sanford (which I do often…as well as many of our crowd here at The Herald), and you’re forking out similar prices for their custom-made brews. I can’t say it’s not worth it…it takes Barbara over at Mr. Bean a few minutes to whip up my current favorite (sugar-free frozen mocha) and it takes a lot of skill to get it perfect…but man, the taste! I wish I liked the plain “roasts” that she and the folks over at Java serve just as much, but it’s gotta be well below freezing before I move in that direction.

Just recently one of our front-office gals brought in a new coffee maker to help the hot-coffee drinkers save some dough. I’m not sure what they’re chipping in for a cup, but I’m sure it’s far south of a dollar. And they say the coffee’s good…but when I offer to go out and pick up for anyone who’s craving something more akin to what Starbucks serves, I have plenty of takers…

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