Measuring It In Coffees

03 Jul Measuring It In Coffees

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 3.7.23


Where would we be without coffee? Not just uncaffeinated but also unable to understand the value of anything from a gym membership to a charitable donation, it would seem.

“The equivalent of a coffee per week!” a journalist will tell us to help us get our collective head around an annual rates rise to the average Auckland household of nine per cent. Though I so rarely buy coffee by the takeaway cup I had to research what that meant.

This is not because I don’t like coffee – I very much do. But I work mostly from home so I am pre-loading on domestic caffeine which means at any subsequent visit to a café the best thing for my heartrate and anxiety levels is to order a soothing pot of chamomile tea and just look at it.

Indeed, the first thing I do each day – sometimes before I am awake – is grind coffee beans and fill the plunger, a procedure sneered at by coffee aficionados who tend to disapprove of a plunger. This is why in the privacy of my own head I refer to it instead as my “French press” to give it a little je ne sais quoi of a matin.

Anyhoo, my research (I googled “How much is a cup of coffee in NZ?”) reveals the going rate is around $5.50. Thrift-hounds, though, can find it for as little as a couple of bucks while those looking for single origin beans cold-brewed by someone with one of those inexplicable mini-beards known as “a soul patch” could pay triple that.

Armed with this information, I did a quick bit of reverse engineering on my annual rates bill and can confirm a nine per cent increase would indeed be the equivalent of a slightly-above-averagely-priced coffee.

The takeaway coffee trope exists to represent affordable luxury – something you could live without but can treat yourself to without totally blowing your budget.

But I feel we need more options for putting the price of things into perspective for non-coffee drinkers and those who lean towards other pleasures. You will be able to make your own list of little luxuries that bring you joy, that let you know life is not just about bread, but also roses.

Here are three of mine. Fresh dates (equals two coffees, sure, but the box lasts several days); good soap (equals two coffees if it is French milled, and mon dieu it should be); and comfy knickers made locally and sustainably in a way that is good for the environment (four to five coffees but they should last almost forever and not be at all prone to bunching).

So let’s all try more creative thinking and fresh perspectives. My potential rates rise, for example, of around $6.70 per week is also the equivalent, annually, of eighteen kilos of cheese. Now there’s an image I can get my head around.

Or at an annual level, my rates increase is roughly the equivalent of thirty-eight boxes of tampons, which would get a mother and two daughters through one year of menstrual cycles. These are not a luxury, obviously, but knowing the comparative cost of necessities is useful, too.

Or it’s around six bras. Or ten really good novels. Or ten bad novels – they cost the same, weirdly. Which is yet another reason I love my local library, and feel like paying my rates is a useful thing to do.