Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poor Man's Latte

Some days, I feel kind of sorry for Starbucks.  After all, they built a business by selling an experience:  for a few minutes every morning, you could go somewhere and have things just as you like them.  If you want a triple shot of espresso, extra raspberry syrup, but no whipped cream, you just told the barista, preferrably speaking that special little code that put the ingredients in just the right order.  Part quirky hangout, part predictable chain, part special club, Starbucks was never really about the coffee.

But the recession hit, and soon frugality and finance writers made a great deal of hay out of what you could save by giving up that daily latte.  I think I've been guilty of that one at least once myself.  (If you are curious, giving up a $3.50 latte every work day for a year, minus two weeks' vacation, will save you $875.)  I'll bet the PR department at Starbucks groans every time they read a frugality article, because they know they will be the first suggestion for a cut.

Working at home is a great deterrent to getting a daily coffee at a coffee house, but one thing will send me cruising back, at least temporarily, into the arms of Seattle's best-known export:  the annual arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte, and its cousin, Gingerbread Latte.  Good heavens, these things are like drinking cookies!

In an effort to provide the same experience for less cost, I experimented, and I have come up with my "Poor Man's Latte."  Coffee snobs will turn up their noses, but this recipe seems to provide just the right hint of extravagance without the high price.  You will need:

1 large mug coffee
1 scant spoonful instant pudding mix (I use Jello's seasonal Pumpkin Spice flavor)
1 scant spoonful honey (I buy raw honey from a local provider; see caution below.)

That's it!  The pudding is currently on sale here for $0.39 a box, and I get about 8 servings out of it, so that's 4.9 cents per cup.  The honey I buy in bulk, $15.95 for 80 oz, and I'll probably use about a third of an ounce, so that is 6.6 cents a cup.  You will adjust for your tastes, so you may use more or less of each, but let's call my coffee flavorings cost 11.5 cents per mug.  Of course, yours will be a bit higher if you like a splash of milk, but try this first; the pudding mix gives a bit of that latte mouthfeel to the coffee, so you may need less milk than you usually use.  We should be able to satisfy our latte cravings for about 50 cents a mug, counting our coffee and water costs.

Starbucks will be thrilled that I point out the overall savings of $750 per year over their tall latte.

Raw honey has not been pasturized, so you should not feed it to anyone you think is immuno-compromised.  And, of course, never give honey to an infant under the age of one, because their immune systems are not mature enough to handle the risk of injesting trace amounts of botulism spores.  Older than that, and we build up our immunity to these spores and can handle them just fine if our immune systems are healthy.

The Assessment:

Fast:  Yep.  Yes, it takes an extra moment to add in the flavorings to your coffee, but it sure takes less time than standing in line in a coffee house.

Cheap:  Yep.  As shown above, the flavoring mix is only pennies per cup.

Good:  Your call.  I have a sweet tooth, and I'm not much of a coffee snob, so I'm not going to get worked up about masking the refined flavors of the beans or some such.  If brewing fine coffee is one of your passions, you won't be making your budget cuts in this area.  Then again, if that is the case, you are probably already grinding beans and brewing at home anyway, and you never set foot in a chain coffee house.
Pin It!

No comments :

Post a Comment