For many New Yorkers, there’s not much that is more essential to a productive workday than a nice hot cup of coffee (or three or four). In the so-called city that never sleeps, hard working natives need their caffeine fix, and the city offers almost limitless options to coffee drinkers. Sometimes it can seem as if there’s a Starbucks on every corner, with two food trucks waiting outside and a fancy fair-trade place a few doors down. It’s hard to imagine any better proof of New York’s collective coffee addiction than the fact that you can often get a coffee at three or four different places on any random block.
But like all addictions, an honest jones for caffeine can become costly. Even for the less serious coffee drinkers, who keep it down to a cup a day, if that cup is a $3.25 caramel macchiato, then your lunch money might end up in a Starbuck’s cash register. Although Starbuck’s may be everywhere, and it provides the quintessential overpriced coffee, New Yorkers have plenty of other opportunities to fork over a few dollars for a cup of steaming joe. For the privilege of standing in a long line and then carrying a recognizable paper cup, one can head to one of the city’s many gourmet to-go coffee joints, like Oren’s Daily Roast. Or if you really want to make that three dollar coffee worth it, you can pop into a café style coffee shop such as Think Coffee, where you can sit, text, pretend to read, and try to figure out what your neighbors are doing on their laptops. If you get really lucky, there might even be a ragtag hipster band performing in the corner (paid in free coffee).
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to spend your budget’s precious discretionary dollars on coffee, and outside of an expensive treat, the various and complex -ato and -ino drinks are probably not for you. Luckily, for anyone on a budget, there are better, cheaper ways to get that caffeine wake-up than spending two slices of pizza on your morning drink. The best way to save money on coffee is to brew your own. It’s easy enough, and with any cheap coffee maker you can fill your apartment with that delicious coffee smell in a few short minutes. And for the real New York coffee snobs, you can simply get your favorite neighborhood coffee shop’s beans and brew high quality coffee on your own time, on the cheap. My favorite is Mud coffee (of the Mud truck), which can be found at the truck, at the storefront on 9th street, and in many neighborhood markets in the East Village (I also love Dunkin’ Donuts coffee beans). Even if a particular shop’s beans may cost more than you could pay for them at the grocery store, the overall cost of brewing your own coffee is still far, far less than that of buying it by the cup. This method is most likely a budgetary necessity for any serious coffee drinkers, whose daily intake may exceed four or five cups, especially later in the semester.
But what to do without a coffee maker? I recently moved into a furnished sublet for the summer, and although I love having my own room and living in Brooklyn, I was appalled to find that “furnished New York apartment” does not necessarily include a coffee maker. I enjoy having a cup in the morning and when I’m working either on schoolwork or on the job, and although I love a nice frappuccino, I really can’t afford to spend a lot of money on coffee. After a couple weeks of testing my various options around the neighborhood (Bushwick) and around Manhattan, I came to a conclusion that may be startling to the true coffee lovers, who sneer at Starbuck’s chain coffee as viciously as at McDonald’s fast food roast. I found that my best, cheapest option for daily coffee was not just very cheap and incredibly convenient, but located on nearly every corner. This morning, I enjoyed a tasty cup from the breakfast cart next to the subway, for the price of $0.75. It took about twenty five seconds to order, pay, and receive my cup, and for the perpetually tardy, such service is greatly valued. I appreciate a good, fancy cup of coffee, but I am by no means a snob about the drink, and I’m perfectly happy to sacrifice that fresh-from-Nicaragua taste in order to be able to afford lunch. I don’t love Starbucks, but I do love Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonald’s coffee is really not bad at all (and it’s about as cheap as food truck coffee). I prefer to brew my own, since doing so is cheaper than paying by the cup, and I can buy whatever beans I want, but when it comes to convenience, price, and taste, I am convinced that there is no better place to grab your morning cup than at the corner breakfast truck.
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