Students at Emory love to hate on Kaldi’s Coffee for its prices, though they are certainly steep. The average espresso drink, latte or otherwise, will run you a bit more than similar drinks at competitors like Starbucks and Blue Donkey. A 16-ounce vanilla latte, for example, is about 50 cents more at Kaldi’s than the campus Starbucks. Take a look at the food prices and you may consider the idea that you aren’t that hungry after all. But, contrary to popular feeling, Kaldi’s is actually the good guy. We ought to support Kaldi’s Coffee with our patronage and reward it for its exemplary business practices.
Peek in the Kaldi’s kitchen and you will see true artisanship. A baker comes in every morning at 4 a.m. to prepare most of the items you see in the bakery display case. That avocado mash on your toast? It was made in-house from real avocados that have never been frozen. The almond butter in your smoothie? Locally sourced. Ever notice that your smoothie has actual fruit in it and not some fruit puree like that found in the Eagle Emporium? That espresso in your iced latte? Kaldi’s only purchases from farmers that it visits and verifies for itself, and the company pays 15 percent above the fair trade price for its coffee. Did I forget to mention that it’s organic? A trend begins to emerge: Kaldi’s is committed to bringing you high-quality, healthy products.
Part of Kaldi’s mission is to continually improve its sustainability. This commitment ranges from compostable trash bags to recyclable cup sleeves sourced using sustainable forestry, not to mention the added municipal fees of recycling (yes, recycling costs more than trash disposal). A new, compostable bag for take-home coffee beans is currently being rolled out. Clearly, Kaldi’s has a grasp on its environmental impact and takes steps to mitigate its waste output, protect its farmers and offer ways for patrons to get involved in the process.
Kaldi’s knows that a business is built on people. People run the registers, make your mochas and prepare your food. Rather than settle for the federally set minimum-wage, Kaldi’s is leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors in employee compensation. Team members at Kaldi’s are paid above the Georgia living wage ($12.46 for an unmarried worker with no dependents). Compare this to the average wage of a Starbucks worker in Atlanta ($9.48, according to Indeed), and the difference is clear. Not only does the compensation rate make for a competitive application process, but it gives people a hand-up without giving them a hand-out while still operating in the free market. And it translates to happier workers, which goes hand-in-hand with the customer-focused service you experience when you walk into one of its locations.
To demand companies to do something about climate change, offer healthy, local and sustainable food, and pay their employees enough to live on, then complain that the prices are too high is myopic and ignorant. Kaldi’s is a paragon of the ideal 21st-century business.
Many may ask, “What about low-income students?” I am one. Sure, I scoffed when I first saw that a turkey bacon sandwich was nearly $10. But Kaldi’s offers ways for students to make economically responsible choices, too. Their introduction of special drip-coffee pricing for Dooley Dollar purchases makes a drip coffee cheaper than nearly anywhere else on campus (bring your own mug and a 16-ounce coffee is 45 cents cheaper than either Starbucks or Blue Donkey). Making sustainable choices has a cost trade-off, but if we are going to address environmental problems, it’s a necessary first step. We can’t just wait for some new regulation or government intervention to force companies to adhere to increasingly controlling policies.
So next time you go into Kaldi’s, appreciate the ideals you are supporting by giving the company your business. Be patient if your food doesn’t come out just right. And please, stop bashing Kaldi’s for its prices.
Patrick Czabala (23C) is from Roswell, Ga. He is an employee at Kaldi’s Coffee.
Managing Editor Shreya Pabbaraju (21C) is a brand ambassador for Kaldi’s Coffee and was not involved in writing or editing this op-ed.