That’s Using the Old Bean

How much do you spend per year on coffee? The total is bound to be very different if you brew your own at home (or even roast your own beans) than if you attain your fix at your local coffee shop.

Polly Vernon, a UK Guardian writer, does the latter, and after totaling her “four-large-branded-paper-cups-minimum-a-day,” discovers she has a £2,000-a-year habit.

Vernon delves deep into the pleasures and terrors of caffeine addiction, describing how she first got hooked, while working in an office that featured a Starbucks in the lobby of the building:

Three cups, four cups, all of them grande, some of them with an extra shot of espresso… I learnt to love the caffeine high intensely. The edge, the angst, the rushy, gushy giddiness. The gibbering, the post-coffee sulks. I was transformed, so was my lifestyle.

Lately, she’s choosing to have those cups be full of fair-trade coffee, which, reports fellow Guardian columnist Andrew Purvis in a harrowing piece in the same issue, has made a real difference in the lives of Ugandan coffee growers. At the end of Vernon’s piece, the Guardian sums up how much of her annual expenditure makes it back to the farmer. And while it’s a disappointingly small percentage of her total caffeinated outlay, in many coffee-growing countries these small amounts can be enough to pull families out of poverty.