The $10 Latte Is NOT the Point: Budin Serves Scandinavian Coffee
All photos by Lauren Mowery
Ask and ye shall receive? As if on cue, my request for a Nordic coffee shop to open in New York was answered a month later when Budin (114 Greenpoint Avenue), pronounced "booth-in" (and Icelandic for shop), opened in mid-February. The owners are a motley trio of artists; two are serious Scandinavia-philes, and one is an Icelander.
The shop immediately gained notoriety not for its ambitious, quality-driven concept, but for a $10 specialty drink that is not its standard latte (the averaged price of which is $4.50). Several sensationalist publications suggested that the owners are brazen opportunists gouging customers with record pricing.
That's not fair, though. The $10 latte is not the most expensive cup of coffee served in New York -- that honor belongs to the Blue Bottle Chelsea siphon bar just south of Chelsea Market. And check the brew bar prices at Stumptown on West 8th Street, where certain, limited quantity coffee sources result in consonant pricing.
Second, the markup is not exorbitant. The Nordic beans used in the drink are sold for $25 per pound, which requires a higher priced latte than others in the city. And that's before you consider the cost of the additions like imported syrup and licorice powder.
That $1.25 street vendor coffee? It's the most profitable good sold on the street, at roughly 10 times its cost (and street vendors need to turn a profit like that, with the fines and limits on licenses).
Third, what does a Starbucks latte cost in Oslo, where these beans are roasted? According to the Wall Street Journal, $9.83. That's the highest price in the world, much higher than in Moscow, Tokyo, or other cities where the dollar stretches the least. Budin's beans for its specialty latte are from Oslo.
The $10 latte is not what I want to talk about, though. Budin is a serious entry into the specialty coffee world of New York. The shop is large, bright, beautiful, and uncluttered. It keeps its counter scrupulously clean, manned by baristas who sought out the owners. What more can you ask from an independent coffee house? I sat down with owners Elliot Rayman and Crystal Pei to hear more.