• Janine Robertson & Paul Gordon

What is your daily coffee worth to you?

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Ben stood in the line waiting to order his coffee. The regular barista must be away today as the normally swift moving queue had been paused for what felt like an eternity. Ben’s caffeine headache was kicking in and the queue was getting antsy - shuffling, a few mumbled groans and a couple more vocal customers hoping to be heard and somehow get the line moving again through their complaints.

Ben’s first meeting would begin in 7 minutes, no make that 6. The urge for coffee was greater than the need to be there on time and he remained. The line moved forward one place and he noticed that like him, more heads were looking up from their phones than normal, trying to work out why there was such a wait.

As Ben approached the front of the queue he could see a small sign resting against the register. He now understood why the queue was moving so slowly, and it had nothing to do with the barista.

Coffee today was “pay what you feel it is worth” resulting in confusion and decisions for each customer.

Do I spend less than normal, knowing I can get it cheaper today? Should I pay more to make sure my favourite café stays in business? What is coffee really worth?

3 minutes left to get to that meeting. Ben paid and stepped aside waiting for the warm cup to be handed his way.


The price of the coffee is normally determined by things like wholesale coffee bean prices, rent and market competition. What if it was up to each of us to determine the price we pay? How would you make up your mind? What is a coffee worth to you? How do you decide?

Does time come into it? Flavour? Ritual? Your budget? Do you value one brand over another? How do you really decide what something is worth?

Value for one customer will be different than the next. Price is simply what you pay for something. Value is more expensive than price. Some people value the environmental impact of a purchase, or are willing to pay a premium for a brand or label.

Value is both a noun and a verb. It describes usefulness and standards of behaviour as well as worth.

Noun: (1) The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something, (2) principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life.

Verb: (1) estimate the monetary worth of, (2) consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.


Next time you are buying something, big or small, ponder the value to you. When we understand what we value in life we are better equipped to make choices with our money.

And remember, coffee is good - no one became a millionaire by simply giving up coffee.

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