Electric Earth manager Treena Hoffman: "Our most popular drink order now is definitely a medium coffee."
A recent poll from the National Coffee Association of U.S.A. explains that while daily coffee consumption has not changed this year, the number of people choosing at-home brewing over daily trips to Starbucks has increased. The survey shows daily consumption of espresso-based drinks has fallen as well. Despite this news, local coffee shops haven't taken much of a hit.
"Business is up since last year," says Ryan Baughn, training director of Ancora Coffee Roasters on King Street. "Where people are spending their dollar is looked at with a lot more detail, but I think people still want a treat."
Some shops, like Ancora on King Street, are doing better than they have in previous years, while others say business has not changed or slowed a bit. The main difference lies not in how often people are ordering coffee out, but in what they choose when they do order.
Ancora, Electric Earth, Froth House, Fair Trade and Cargo Coffee have all seen a decrease in sales of espresso drinks. Many consumers feel a cup of the day is a more economical way to still enjoy gourmet coffee, and possibly take advantage of a discounted refill.
"A medium latte used to be the most common order," says Electric Earth manager Treena Hoffman. "But our most popular drink order now is definitely a medium coffee."
Some stores offer special discounts or promotions to offset the cost of a daily coffee fix, and customers have come to appreciate these perks. Discounts for bringing your own cup and coffee punch cards are most common, but some stores make additional concessions. To celebrate its one-year anniversary (and Obama's inauguration), Bradbury's on Hamilton gave away double espressos to all their customers, a tactic they say has only helped business overall.
"It's gotten a lot of people to come check us out," says Josh Makoutz, co-owner of Bradbury's. "The days we give away free espresso, we have so many sales of other stuff that we actually increase overall sales."
Why choose a coffeehouse over Folgers? Madison coffee shop owners think their stores provide a unique environment. "I know my customers," says Froth House manager Terese Dietrich. "I talk with them, and our shop enriches a part of their lives. Our shop is community-oriented and we have very loyal customers."
While store owners acknowledge at-home brewing may be more cost-effective, they say there's definitely more to a trip to the café than just coffee.
"If you want to drink coffee at home, you're not going to get what you get here," says Lori Henn, owner of Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street. "People aren't just buying the coffee -- they're here for the whole experience."
And a cursory glance at any of the downtown coffeehouses proves Henn's point: Grad students draft their dissertations as couples share dessert and businesspeople meet for macchiatos. The Madison coffee shop scene is a culture in its own right, and it's one that patrons are not yet willing to give up.
Even so, local shop owners are well aware that they have to be on top of their game to survive in the current market. Staying afloat in the coffee business is no easy task, they say, and many supplement coffee with a breakfast or lunch menu. But even with seven-day work weeks and fourteen-hour days, they all say it's well worth the work.
"In the short term, I think you'll see fewer openings" of new coffeehouses, Hoffman says. "But in the long-run, people drink coffee, and I don't think that will change."