America's most caffeinated cities
The cities that spend the most at coffee chains
More than half of American adults drink coffee on a daily basis, according to a 2011 study by the National Coffee Association, and an even greater percentage drink coffee occasionally.
Although it's cheaper to make coffee at home, Americans on the go prefer to stop by their local coffee shop on their way to work. Coffeehouses are a blessing for those who hate the hassle of brewing coffee in the morning — especially for those who like their coffee extra complicated. Anybody remember Steve Martin’s “I'll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon” order from the 1991 romantic comedy “L.A. Story?”
To help Americans sustain their caffeine addiction, coffee chains like Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and Peet's Coffee & Tea have set up shop on every corner of America. So-called indie and mom and pop coffeehouses also have loyal coffee customers, propelling shops like Stumptown out of obscurity, and onto the mass market.
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And so we bring you our ranking of America's most caffeinated cities, otherwise known as the cities whose residents spend the most at coffee shops. To determine our list, we looked at consumer spending at 16 widely known coffee chains across the country during the second quarter of 2011 using data from 20 million anonymous Visa and Mastercard holders (you can see our methodology here).
Chicago, Illinois is the most caffeinated city in the U.S. with average households in the Windy City spending 2.94 times the national average. New York City, which is experiencing a coffee rebirth, ranked second on our list, spending 2.9 times the national average at coffeehouses. Seattle, Washington, home base for coffee giant Starbucks, ranked third with residents spending 2.37 times the national average. Two other big coffee cities, San Francisco (ranked 4th) and Portland (ranked 8th) also made the top 10.
Anchorage, Alaska ranked at the bottom of our list spending 68 percent less than the national average, but that isn't to say Alaskans aren't into coffee. One possible reason Anchorage ranks at the bottom might be because rather than ordering coffee from coffeehouses, Alaskans tend to buy their coffee from drive thru coffee stands. In addition, besides Starbucks, there are fewer nationally recognized coffeehouses in Alaska, which would result in less spending. And a cup of coffee is likely to be much cheaper in Anchorage than in cities like Chicago or New York.
And it's the places where residents are willing to shell out big for a cup of java that coffee chains want to set up shop. Stumptown, which is considered one of the best roasting companies in the country has set up shop in three coffee-centric cities that all rank on our top 10 list: Portland, Seattle, and New York. At Stumptown, it's possible to pay $5.50 for a single cup of coffee, which helps explains why those cities spend so much more than the national average.
But if you're a coffee lover, spending a little more for something that tastes better than your run of the mill supermarket coffee is more than worth it. Just ask Mike Phillips, a world barista champion who I interviewed last summer from Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee:
"If you think about it, coffee is the most affordable luxury that people have on hand," Phillips said. "You can get coffee that rivals the best of the other luxuries — the best wine, beer or food out there — for $5. It's ridiculous. You can spend a little bit of money and treat yourself extremely well. You can find a good shop that produces good coffee and prepare the coffee at home."