How Coffee Subscriptions Changed My Life
Coffee Subscriptions changed your life? Really? Aren’t you being a little dramatic?
Stay with me and I will explain that in fact, it is absolutely true.
Greenwell Farms has a Coffee Club and a very active coffee subscription service that we are proud of — and we send coffee all over the world, every week. However, it is not my purpose to promote the Greenwell Farms Coffee Club in today’s blog.
Instead, I’m sharing with you why coffee subscriptions have exploded in every part of the world during the last decade. They bring value, quality, and convenience as well as many unintended benefits.
In our last 2 blogs, we talked about basics like whole bean versus ground coffee and how best to store your coffee. Both of those topics deal with getting the freshest possible coffee.
You might think that a leap to coffee subscriptions goes from basics to luxuries, but my point is that if you love coffee, a subscription service makes incredible sense, both economically and from the quality standpoint. This is, in fact, a shift in consumer behavior that is happening for good reason.
Another Shift Long Ago (The First Coffee Subscription)
15-year-old James Folger arrived in San Francisco in 1850 from Nantucket. His two older brothers immediately set out to pan for gold but young James got a job with the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mill.
When he had saved enough to get a stake in the company and go out to the mining camps himself, he brought samples with him and took custom orders.
In that era, most consumers bought green coffee and roasted it themselves. Now this young man could use professional roasting gear, roast the coffee to very high standards and deliver it fresh to the mining camps per pre-order. That was in fact a coffee subscription. They got better quality, freshly roasted, delivered to the camp and they didn’t have to worry about messing up the roast or wasting time cooking coffee when they could be panning for gold. James made enough money to buy out his partners.
Sorry to bring up Folgers in a specialty coffee blog but hopefully my point is clear. There are certain moments in time when a new and better way comes along and it evolves into the standard.
Innovation and Keeping with the Times
We are in the midst of another such transformation. Now that we live in a globalized society, and we can literally buy coffee directly from farmers and roasters all over the world, why wouldn’t we?
Knowing that I can send in an order, have it freshly roasted, sent to me (sometimes with no shipping charge), and often with a discount for having a subscription, makes my coffee taste better.
At the same time, I am helping small businesses, supporting farmers, trying a variety of coffees from all over the world, and never have to worry if I have fresh coffee in the house because I can buy in small quantities, knowing that another fresh order is on its way.
When I decided I wanted to know more about coffee and wandered the aisles of Target or my local supermarket, thinking that the choices between Costa Rican, Columbian, and Ethiopian gave me a lot of options I didn’t realize how wrong I was. You just don’t know what you don’t know.
Trying all of those coffees and finding them universally mediocre, I began to question my shopping habits. Upon speaking with a very experienced coffee broker, it was explained to me that most of those supermarket shelf coffees are an amalgamation of coffee from within the region, have no distinguishing origin character, mostly use lower grade coffee, may have sat from roaster, truck, stockroom to shelf for several weeks before my purchase.
“What?” I cried. “Are you kidding me?” How can I get fresh, delicious, unique coffee so that I am drinking the really good stuff? Then the answer appeared.
Like a Lighthouse in the Dark Distance
Then, I got my first coffee subscription. This one sent me freshly roasted coffee from a region of their choosing every 3 weeks. My wife and I looked forward to trying each one tremendously, knowing only a couple of weeks in advance what the next coffee was.
We filled out a profile so that the company knew our preferences (light/dark roast, fruity/chocolatey, etc.) and magically the coffee arrived in the mail roasted to order.
Now of those coffees that we received, some were definitely better than others, but it was always fresh, always convenient, always an adventure. We were hooked.
The best part was that with free shipping and a subscription discount we weren’t really paying more for our coffee. It is a point frequently made but a pound of coffee can make roughly 48, 6-ounce cups of coffee. That first subscription was sending us 12-ounce bags for about $18-22 a bag, or about 50-60 cents a cup.
As time went on, we began to explore a higher class of coffee, started to explore the offerings of individual farms. When we found a coffee we really loved we could “subscribe” to it and create a shipping interval that suited our consumption. Still, it never topped 90 cents a cup for some really amazing coffee.
Getting Better All the Time
As these services have evolved, they offer even more flexibility. For example, one time by a fluke of order timing, a gift from a friend, an order we had forgotten about, we ended up with 3 pounds of coffee arriving within days of each other.
We were able to go into our subscription and skip the next shipment. It was easy as could be. Many services are now offering the ability to switch products so that if you want to try something new, they will send you a different coffee from your usual with the click of a button.
So again, I ask, if you enjoy really good coffee, with all of those benefits, why wouldn’t you get a coffee subscription?
One of my friends told me he prefers to go to the local roaster. Awesome. A great place to go. In a sense though, in a globalized world, local roasters can be accessed from anywhere.
A Sentimental Reflection
My mind goes back to Jimmy Folgers roasting coffee for the gold mining camps. To my grandmother waiting eagerly for her morning Milk delivery. To the Ice Cream truck that used to drive through the neighborhood bringing treats to all the kids.
Fresh, fun, personal, and memorable. That joy has returned to our coffee consumption. We know we are getting the best, for a great price, sent right to our door, and have the ability to control how we receive it. Except for roasting it yourself, is there any fresher way to get coffee?
These subscriptions truly have transformed the way we drink coffee in my house and have brought us a lot of joy. These are the reasons I believe coffee subscriptions are now basic to specialty coffee. Also, why I believe this is a modern trend for how artisanal products are purchased and consumed globally, which gives the artist the control over quality rather than the distributor, and that can make all the difference.
About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), a part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.