Strategic Spending – Coffee

Not everything you buy needs to be the cheapest you can possibly find. In fact, in some cases, cheaper isn’t necessarily better.

This could be because the item you’ve bought is not as durable and the value for money is better at higher price points.

Sometimes it’s worth going to a higher price point because the lowest price point is not, actually, worth buying at all.

In my humble and totally biased, obsessive and neurotic opinion, coffee is a compromise-free consumable. If you’re going to insist on buying cheap coffee, I think you’re better off not drinking it at all.

I can’t imagine not drinking coffee, and life is too short to drink bad coffee (or wine). As a person with a carefully curated coffee dependency, I’ve been struggling with this for a while now.

If you want good coffee on a regular (daily) basis, then that’s almost a budget line-item in and of itself. The best way to ensure you understand the cost, guarantee the quality and avoid impulse-purchase situations is to get in on one of the many (oh my goodness so many) coffee subscription services out there.

In the new world of social distancing, coronavirus paranoia and responsible collective behaviour, getting your coffee delivered is also one more way to avoid running unnecessary errands and crowding public spaces.

If you’re looking for a discount on your coffee, scroll down to Pact Coffee, as I have a code for their service. Clicking on links in this article may, in a few cases, contribute to my coffee addiction.

I’m going to review them all below. Click to read on…

Coffee Subscription Services

I have yet to try many of these services, but given the likelihood that we’re going to be required to stay indoors for a few months, I expect to get through a few of them. I hope to find my optimum on the cost/quality tradeoff. I’ll list them below as a resource for you, along with the information I’ve been able to find that might help you make a choice.

Something most of these have in common is that they’re small-batch roasters who take great pride in how they source their coffees. I say this up front because I don’t want to repeat it under almost every title down below – it’s true for almost all of them.

Manumit Coffee Shop

Site: www.manumitcoffee.co.uk/shop

Manumit Coffee Logo

Manumit is a non-profit coffee company which invests in anti-modern-slavery initiatives with the money made from their coffee sales. They also employ primarily from a population of formerly-exploited people and you can sponsor the training of their employees directly from the website.

They sell a no-frills house roast that varies over time. Subscription prices prices vary from £6.00 to £7.50. Their more expensive Ugandan honey roasted coffee, called Zukuna Bora, is available by the 250g bag at £8.50, but not on subscription.

Coaltown Coffee

Site : www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk/pages/subscriptions

Coaltown coffee is based in the South of Wales, in a former mining town called Ammanford. Hence the name.

They’re a Registered B-Corp (click for more info). This means that they’ve legally and morally committed to making business decisions that take into account the effect of their business on the environment.

I like the regeneration story behind a coffee roastery in an old mining town, and I think the branding works well.

Their coffee will set you back between £8.00 and £12.00 per 227g bag, so it’s not the cheapest option on the menu.

Hundred House

Site : hundredhousecoffee.com/collections/subscriptions

Hundred House allocate a share of their profits to the arts, supporting design and artistic gatherings.

They’re based in Shropshire and roast their coffee in a converted barn.

Their subscriptions don’t decrease in price with quantity. Their single origin roasts are at £7.00 per 227g bag, and multiply from there. If you want their house blend, then it’s £6.50 per bag.

Hundred House deliver monthly, so you have to size your order to satisfy your monthly needs. In a world where we’re supposed to be reducing our environmental impact, perhaps it’s not a bad thing that they don’t have a weekly delivery option? On the other hand, I like my coffee fresh-roasted.

Origin Coffee

Site : www.origincoffee.co.uk/collections/subscriptions

Origin take their coffee, and their operations, seriously. This feels like an altogether weightier operation than some of the others on this page, although in the age of the internet, who knows?

They buy their coffee directly from growers, which results in the farmers getting a much higher price than even Fairtrade sourcing. They travel to the growers on sourcing trips and seem to take great pride in the effort they put into sourcing the beans. In fact, it looks like a lot of their cost base is travel to far-flung places! Probably a fun place to work…

Their subscription options start at £6.99 and rises to £8.50, which puts them square in the average of prices, with an option on the lower end. Delivery under 2kg in the UK is free, which makes a difference. Their bags are 250g instead of that annoying 227g size so often used.

They roast twice weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays) and ship the fresh stuff (yay!) and the higher-end subscription will get you a variety of origins, suppliers and processing methods, giving you a wide sampling of flavours from the coffeeverse.

Dog and Hat

Site : dogandhat.co.uk/pages/join-our-coffee-lovers-club

Dog and Hat is a family-run subscription service that supplies coffess from other, independent roasters. As such, while you won’t be directly plugged-in to the roaster, you’ll discover a greater variety of coffee and a broader selection of styles than you would if you stuck with a single company.

It’s a trade-off, but if you haven’t dialled-in that specific coffee you desperately need to have, or if you’re just earlier in your coffee journey. Even if you just want to add a little variety to your coffee supply. This company probably has something to offer.

Since they order from the roasters for their subscriers, then forward the coffee to you, there’s a slight loss of freshness (3 days, apparently), if you’re obsessive about that sort of thing. If you’re not a complete coffee nut-job (checks mirror), then you’ll never notice.

Coffee subscriptions start at £17 for 500g (£8.50 per 250g) and drop as your monthly volume increases, to £31 for 1kg (£7.75 per 250g). Based on a quick comparison of direct prices from the roasters they’re currently showcasing, that’s a very (very) slight increase in price compared to what you would pay to source direct, but you get the variety and you get to support two different coffee businesses at the same time, so that’s pretty cool.

Also, you get to buy your coffee from a company called “Dog and Hat”.

Extract Coffee Roasters

Site : extractcoffee.co.uk/shop/coffee/cast-iron-espresso/

Extract_Coffee_Cast_Iron_250G

Based in Bristol, Extract coffee roasters are a no-nonsense coffee subscription company. When you get to the homepage of their website, it talks about subscriptions – not sourcing, not how they discovered a love of roasting coffee after a backpacking trip through ecuador, just coffee.

Their FAQ is brutally honest about what they think of FairTrade and Organic certification – that great coffee can usually do better than the FairTrade price anyway and that many of their smaller producers could never afford the certification cost for an organic label to slap on their coffee, but that this doesn’t get in the way of quality. As a person who often tries to cut through the chaff of these modern labels, I actually liked this.

Their coffee will set you back between £6.95 and £7.65 per 250g bag (no 227g units here), and shipping is free.

Pact Coffee

Site : www.pactcoffee.com

SPECIAL OFFER

I have some discounts for you as I am a subscriber to Pact Coffee. If you use my code, you’ll get £5 off your first purchase, and I’ll get £5 off my next bag of coffee. Think of it like you’re getting a discount and saving my life at the same time.

The code, to use at checkout, is : NICOLAS-C913F8

Image result for pact coffee logo

Another company that focuses on coffee subscriptions (or ‘plans’, as they like to call them here), Pact Coffee has quite a high profile in terms of marketing and awareness in the UK.

The website provides many options for how you would like your coffee delivered, with grind sizes, roasting styles and even pods catered for.

If you’re buying pods, this is not the right article for you…

Delivery is free, and you can tailor the delivery frequency to the day (want coffee every 9 days, no problem!). That’s pretty funky, and implies a solid business operation in the background. Their plans are flexible and you can change at any time.

They source their coffee through direct trade, like many of the other roasters here, which provides a better price to the coffee grower.

Coffees start at £6.95 per 250g bag, and rise to £9.95 if you go for their “micro-lot” menu option. The intermediate option is at £7.95 and I assume that’s what most people get.

Cricklewood Coffee Roasters

Site : cricklewoodcoffee.co/product/weekly-subscription/

A fairly new company (3 years old) that prides itself on the awards it’s already received, they appear to operate out of a little truck at Cricklewood tube station in London.

Their subscription options start at £7 per delivery, with discounts for larger volumes per delivery (it’s £6 per 250g if you buy a kilo). There’s no choice of coffees – it’s their subscription roast.

For a teeny tiny company, they provide a surprising variety of options in their subscription plan, from sizes to frequencies to grind sizes to the extent they roast the beans.

Independent Coffee Box

Site : indycoffeebox.co.uk/

With the same business model as Dog & Hat above, Independent Coffee Box sell coffees roasted by other companies on a subscription model, giving you breadth and variety from a single subscription plan.

At £18.99 per month for two bags of 250g each, they’re not the cheapest coffee option on the market. They also only sell whole beans, which is probably because they respect the coffee enough to not sell it to you pre-ground and therefore already some way down the slippery slope to tastelessness.

Cafe Direct

Site : handpicked.cafedirect.co.uk

Image result for cafe direct images

Cafe Direct don’t give a lot away on their website, but they promise you a selection of different specialty coffees over time on their subscription plan.

They claim to travel to many regions around the world sourcing their coffee and they roast the coffee themselves in East London.

They price at £7.95 per 250g bag but you’ll have to order monthly because they don’t offer different delivery frequencies. Obviously it’ll cost you less if you buy larger quantities, but the options are 250g or 1kg.

Union Hand Roasted Coffee

Site : coffeeclub.unionroasted.com

Image result for union hand roasted coffee logo

Union are passionate about coffee, and trace their story back to an experience in San Francisco. They’re also passionate about coffee growers, and their story is centered around this.

They have a wide variety of coffees to choose from (13 when I checked) and you can ask them to choose for you, either randomly or based on a preferred taste profile.

If you want to experience their coffees without plumping for the subscription model first, you can also get some of their coffees from Waitrose. From them, the cost is £8.09 to £9.34 per 250g. The reason the prices are strange numbers is that I converted from 200g to 250g because they sell in 200g bags.

The website is slick, the operation looks professional. Although I have bought their coffees from Waitrose in the past, I honestly can’t remember if I liked them or not.

Clumsy Goat

Site : clumsygoat.co.uk

Image result for clumsy goat coffee logo

A very affordable option, Clumsy Goat offer a selection of 6 specialty coffees and one decaf option.

Their prices range from £6.50 per 250g bag up to £9.60, but significant discounts exist if you subscribe or buy larger quantities as a time. For example, their £6.50 FairTrade Peruvian coffee is £5.20 if you get the subscription discount (20% off). It’s £17.90 per kg (£4.48 for 250g). If you subscribe to a kilogram per month, then it’ll set you back £14.32 per kg (both the volume and the subscription discount) which works out at £3.58 per 250g. No other company in this list comes anywhere close to this price.

To these prices you’ll have to add £4.99 delivery cost, but if you’re buying a kilo at a time, the prices remain the most competitive around. For smaller quantities, this delivery cost makes it much less attractive.

Django

Site : djangocoffeeco.com

Image result for django coffee logo

According to Django’s website, “Django” means “I awake” in the Romany language, which matches the business of coffee supply fairly well.

They’re focused, like several others in this list, on direct trade. That means they buy their beans directly from the growers rather than through middlemen, and this usually means the growers get much better rates.

Their subscription options include one-month (£30), three months (£42 fortnightly and £80 monthly) and a rolling monthly subscription at £7.25 per 250g with discounts as you increase the quantity you buy.

Django has great feedback and I’m quite tempted to try them.

Perky Blenders

Site : perkyblenders.com

Image result for perky blenders coffee logo

Perky has 5 coffees to choose from and will grind to the fineness required by your coffee preparation method (or leave it to you to grind if you prefer).

They’re a family-owned business focused on quality coffee and quality customer service. They have two roasteries and four cafes spotted around the UK.

They have a number of options for subscriptions including a six-week club that they’ve launched in honour of the coronavirus self-isolation so many people are going through. Their standard rolling subscription will set you back £6.50 for 250g.

Hasbean

Site : hasbean.co.uk

Hasbean wouldn’t have been my first choice of name for a business, but there you go.

The price here is £7.50 per 250g bag and you get a coffee decided upon by the founder of the company on a weekly basis. The price of first class postage is included in the £7.50.

I’m always a little wary of subscriptions where I don’t have any control or guarantees over what’s in the bag, because there’s no way of ensuring that the company won’t just milk the subscribers for all they’re worth by sending them the coffee with the highest margins. That said, I wouldn#t want to judge before trying and it’s worth looking at this company’s excellent feedback before moving on.

Third wave coffee aficionados swear by some of the Hasbean coffees, and if you can be picky about which one you have, there’s plenty of people out there who’ll tell you there’s nothing better.

Weanie Beans

Site : weaniebeans.com

Image result for weanie beans logo

Weanie Beans only sell by the kilo, and only offer monthly subscriptions. They also add postage to the overall cost.

Despite this, they work out at one of the more affordable sellers in this crowded marketplace, if you can consume the quantities they will ship.

The cost per kilo is £20, which works out at £5 per 250g, with an additional pound or so for the delivery no doubt. I couldn’t work it out because they require you to create an account to calculate the final shipping charge.

This is another rotating random selection of coffee dependent on someone else’s taste preferences. I’m not a super fan of this process although it certainly lends itself to a discovery of new aromas. It’s just that some light roasted coffee is sometimes super acidic and with taste profiles that seem more suited to niche coffee drinkers than to more middle-of-the-road coaffeine fiends like me.

I haven’t tried them so I stand ready to be corrected!


Conclusion

I’m not going to judge these companies based on their marketing. I have no way to tell you what the quality of their coffee is. I’m not going to start telling you one is better. The most expensive may also have the most kick-ass coffee and it could be totally worth it. The one with the most dreadful marketing could be that way because they’re too busy roasting the best coffee in the world to fiddle with a website. Who knows?

I’m going to try a few. It’s not like I have anything else to do and I’m about to run out of beans.

The cheapest appears to be Clumsy Goat if you’re willing to buy quantities and keep them. The most expensive is Independent Coffee Box. The most professional-looking are Union and Pact.

If you care about your coffee and this is a budget line-item where quality features in the mix, then you can do worse than set a monthly number to your addiction and make sure the energy from the caffeine allows you to make up for the cost of the habit.

They’re all flexible and they all seem pretty passionate about what they’re doing.

They all deserve your attention.

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