As New Yorkers, we put up with our fair share of ridiculousness surrounding food, whether it’s hours-long lines for a cronut or a mob of people queuing up at Smorgasburg for the chance to sample the ramen burger. So, when the online world starts to buzz about New York’s most expensive latté (then $7, now $10), it’s easy to dismiss it as the latest fad. But unlike the cronuts, ramen burgers, chocolate chip cookie shot glasses and other edible commodities that have been elevated to almost mythical status– coffee already receives cult-like devotion in some circles, with aficionados debating everything from the merits of the beans’ provenance to the advantages of pour-over coffee systems. It isn’t far-fetched to imagine these same people happily plunking down a serious chunk of change for what is essentially frothy milk and coffee. So we headed over to Greenpoint’s Budin to give the city’s priciest cup of joe a test-drive, and find out if New York’s most expensive latté is truly worth it.
To start, Budin’s boasts a handsome looking place, with a distinctly Scandinavian, upscale-Ikea vibe. We could easily justify shelling out a dollar or two more on coffee just for the opportunity to sip it from an oversized mug at one of the sunlit wooden tables, surrounded by attractive people plugging away on their computers and pricy home goods imported from places like Finland and Norway. This attention to aesthetics transfers over to the latté itself. Once survived the sticker shock of ordering the Lakkrís latté (please don’t refer to it as “New York’s most expensive latté” when ordering if you want to be taken seriously), you’ll be graced with a silver platter, which houses the mug and saucer containing your liquid gold and a little globe of chocolate-covered licorice on a spoon. Generally, the pricier the coffee the fancier the latté art, and the Lakkrís is no exception. Your barista will outfit the drink with a swirly tree and a dusting of raw licorice powder from Denmark, the latter contributing to the latté’s hefty price tag.
Not for the licorice-averse, the latté features both this raw licorice powder and anise syrup imported from the Danes—a pricy undertaking that contributed to the drink’s initial three-dollar price hike. The beans are no slouch either. Grown in Ethiopia and roasted in Norway by a coffee master and world barista champion, they also have to be shipped to the U.S., presumably first class judging from the price (a 12-ounce bag rings in at $24). Don’t worry ¬– the milk saves us a bit o’ cash, as it is organic and sourced locally.
So do the imported beans, syrup, and licorice powder coalesce into a latté worth the $10? For the kind of person who cares about roasting processes and has a particular fondness for minimalist Scandinavian design, we have no doubt the Lakkrís would be worth every penny. And something about the nature of the $10 latté evokes a psychological desire to justify the price tag, and trick ourselves into believing the drink is so much more than coffee and milk. But in a city where we can grab a slice of pizza for a dollar and street cart coffee for a song, we suspect even the trendiest of foodies would look at us sideways when they hear how much we cash out for our caffeine fix. So the best way to appreciate the Lakkrís? Convincing ourselves it’s the best drink we’ve ever tasted. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and willful denial that we wasted a Hamilton on coffee is the sweetest kind.