Being a regular coffee drinker myself, many news items in the past few weeks have made my ears perk up (pun absolutely intended). Starbucks changed the face of a daily American ritual, changing how we think about–and drink–our coffee; as the pendulum of collective tastes swings from the $5.90 cup of hyped and hyper-personalized cups of joe, a few diverging trends seem to be emerging.

First, a New York Times article (somewhat misleadingly) reported the $20,000 cup of coffee.  A few days ago, I came across an NPR story on the $22 dollar cup of coffee, highlighting the price people in LA are willing to pay for a gourmet cup. Can’t say I’m too surprised, its about time someone felt the need to push the beverage to the elitist heights usually reserved for wines and microbrews.

But what makes this trend really interesting are the other coffee-related stories hitting the newswaves.  Starbucks, fighting declining same-store sales and falling stock prices, decided to test-run a $1 cup. McDonalds is even getting in on the reasonably-priced coffee trend, building coffee counters and hiring baristas in an effort to give Starbucks and other dominant franchises a run for their money. (I, for one, would be glad to see one open up in my neighborhood. I avoid Starbucks as much as possible, not preferring over-roasted, highly bitter, burnt drip coffee, and I’ve actually enjoyed the coffee I’ve had at McDonalds.)

I wish I had some profound insight to offer on the two disparate trends named above, but, I think its pretty evident what’s going on. Per usual, some people feel the need to rise above the Starbucks-gulping proletariat, spending their money as connoisseurs. Good for them. I, however, will follow the other path, happy to have a decent caffeine fix for less.

Or, I’ll just make it at home, with the lovely Bodum french press I got for Christmas, with my trusty mini-grinder and a canister of Trader Joe’s beans.

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