Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Mary Alice Powell

I’m saying ‘No thank you’ to the high price of coffee


Mary Alice Powell.

The Blade
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My breakfast of two pancakes with a basted egg on top was OK and I sipped ice water while eating it.

I did miss having a cup of coffee, or maybe two cups. The day before I also missed coffee with my bowl of oatmeal and an English muffin. That day I ordered tomato juice.

For nearly a month, I have abstained from ordering coffee with breakfast in a restaurant because I am making a point about the high prices.

I began steaming when the price for a cup of coffee climbed to $2 and more. At the breakfast chain that I most often patronize, it is $2.19.

Now in many lunch and dinner places it is $2.50. And that’s plus tax and tip, of course.

Consumers may not know a lot about overall institutional food costs, but we have a good idea about the price of coffee and the yield per pound because it is a grocery staple.

If I am paying $2 a cup and the restaurant gets 40 cups from a pound, which is the general rule, that tallies to $80 from a pound.

I rarely think about coffee with lunch and can easily do without it at night, but it’s a morning wake-up tonic that’s difficult to go without.

Breakfast is my favorite meal and I have a long-established habit of eating it in a restaurant where I can kibitz with other loners. I have discussed the high coffee prices with breakfast acquaintances in some of my favorite stops, but they order it anyway and chuckle when I don’t.

Even though I am quite certain that my boycott has little affect, I feel good when I respond to “coffee?” with an emphatic no, thank you, it’s too expensive.

In some of my breakfast places, no one asks if you want coffee. From 7 to 9 a.m. it is assumed that everyone is drooling for that first cup so the server puts a cup in front of you.

Then you either have to make a fuss to have it and the price from the ticket removed, or just drink it politely.

Fast food places are an exception to the higher coffee prices. I favor McDonald’s coffee not just because it’s about 50 cents for seniors at the several places I stop in Michigan and Ohio, but also because it has a deep, robust flavor. I wish it were sold by the pound. Do I dare say McDonald’s coffee is better than Starbucks?

One argument from the high-ticket places that specialize in breakfast is that they feature a bottomless cup, meaning they will pour it as long as customers can drink it and some people, they say, spend the morning doing just that.

Refills are not the rule in fast food places. If you want seconds and thirds you must step to the counter and pay for them.

Dunkin’ Donuts, known for coffees, prices according to the sizes of the cups, starting at $1.09 for 12 ounces.

Last weekend after I refused to order coffee at one of my favorite weekend places, I told the owner why.

She explained that the waiters are instructed to pay attention to customers who only have one cup and to charge them 50 cents. Otherwise, the price is $1.85.

Then she added a tip I will remember. Coffee is free with breakfast from 6 to 8 a.m.

Shades of the ’50s. Email me and I will tell you the name.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at:

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