Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Cold Shoulder to that Iced Café

I’m a New Yorker; I know what it means to pay for quality.

It’s not that the iced cappuccino was $4.25 a pop, it’s that it wasn’t good enough to be $4.25 a pop. Though the leaves have begun to turn shades of sunset, it still felt like summer in the city on Monday as Celest and I sat down to cool our palates and our flushed faces with the tempting relief iced coffee promises. Promise broken. The iced cappuccinos we sipped at Bruno Bakery on LaGuardia Place were not cold, nor were they good enough to fork over $4.25.

When sitting down for a caffeine break in a city like New York, it’s expected that (a) you can get a great cup of coffee, and (b) it’ll cost you. But just because a great cup of coffee from 9th Street Espresso (Double Iced Americano $5), The Mud Truck (Small Iced Coffee $2.75) or Joe (Large Iced Latte $4.30) can cost as much as cab fare, doesn’t mean that your average mug of joe from your average American drip machine can cost the same! I’ll pay for quality, but price does not bring prestige.

Due to sheer volume of experience, I might argue that Celest and I are iced coffee connoisseurs. We drink iced coffee all the time, all over the place, are often disappointed, but keep shelling out and complaining. Why? We’ve had great experiences that keep us returning to those special places that charge a lot and deliver a lot. But the mediocre places charge the same as the artisans and require a taste test before revealing themselves to be shabby imitations—therein lies the disgrace. 9th Street Espresso can charge whatever they want and I’ll be happy to pony up because their product is so outstanding, but their $4.25 iced latte allows every uninspired place in the city to think they can charge the same high price for crappy coffee, hence my disapproval.

The Amateur Gourmet seems to agree. Two weeks ago on his blog he asked why iced coffee is always more expensive than the hot variety. He shouted from rooftops, “…we must demand fair prices for iced coffee beverages. Who’s with me?” I am Adam, I am! And I’m not alone. Several like-minded readers posted comments to second the notion of a price hike. Others wrote in with explanations to temper the price discrepancy and offered well-argued suggestions for why iced coffee can sometimes–if cold brewed, if doubly brewed, or if supply and demand allows it–deservedly cost $4.25. Again I couldn’t agree more, the trouble is my Monday experience does not fit that bill. Charging $4.25 for warm-watered-down-coffee-flavored-milk is disingenuous.

When the heat beats the New York street I’m shuffling down come mid-afternoon, I don’t even insist on the cold-brewing techniques championed by the Times earlier this summer; just give me what I’ve paid for. And if that’s $4.25, give me a perfectly brewed, chilled cup of coffee poured over a full glass of ice, with my choice of milk, cream or soy, and simple syrup on the side to sweeten the deal. Is that that so much to ask?

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