Noah J Nelson on Monday, Apr. 14th
The Coffee Wars are no joke, people.
While Starbucks is ubiquitous and Dunkin Donuts rules the East Coast, the long battle of the “Third Wave” coffee roasters has been coming to a head.
San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee has snapped up two Los Angeles based outfits–Handsome Coffee Roasters and the internet-coffee distributor Tonx–in their big to become the biggest name in indie coffee.
LA itself feels like the battleground in the Coffee War: Chicago’s Intelligencia, SF’s Blue Bottle, Santa Cruz’s Verve, Portland’s Stumptown, and SF’s Philz all have or are planning beachheads here. There’s also local stalwart Groundwork, and there’s likely to be something in the works from the former Handsome Coffee partners who went their separate ways before the buyout. (That’s just the brands I can recall off the top of my head.)
So now is the perfect time for an out of the box disruption. Now is the time for an app. Cue CUPS, a cafe subscription service.
Just launched in New York City this past Friday, CUPS is an app that offers users unlimited coffee from 40 different indie coffee houses for just $45/month. That’s for your basic brew/drip/pourover. Kick in another $40 for espresso based drinks.
Now unlimited may be stretching the truth a little bit. You can only get one cup every 30 minutes. Considering that I can blast through a 16oz latte in 3.5 minutes, that kind of pause could seriously cramp my style. Of course, two lattes in a half hour could cause different kinds of cramps, but I digress.
Given how much a cup of third wave can cost in LA–don’t expect much change from that fiver, mister–the math doesn’t add up in my head. Not for the cafes, not with how I drink the true gold.
The target here, of course, is Starbucks with its popular gift cards/pre-paid accounts. I can see fully independent shops not backed by a roaster–or second wave outfits like Groundwork who are fending off invasive third wave brands–giving a partnership with CUPS a whirl.
CUPS is just in NYC for now but the service, which got its start in Israel, is looking to expand. Just don’t hold your breath for the suspender-wearing barista set to be embracing this new disruption, there’s way too much profit in those little beans.