Are we coffee snobs? NW coffee drinkers prefer local cafes, fair trade beans



SEATTLE – With pumpkin spice latte season already upon us, a PEMCO Insurance poll reveals that half of Northwest residents who buy brewed coffee from coffee retailers prefer to get their caffeine fix from a local coffee shop, while just one in 10 say they'd rather frequent a national or global brand.

The latest PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds that most Washington and Oregon residents who purchased at least one cup of brewed coffee in the past month (53 percent) say they prefer to buy a cup of coffee from a regional or locally owned business. Meanwhile, just 14 percent say they'd choose a national or international chain if both types of establishments were equally convenient.

"There's no question we're passionate about coffee here, and we were curious about how our preferences might play out in a light-hearted poll. The responses seem to reflect a strong preference for local establishments like Dutch Brothers or Stumptown over more nationally recognized brands like Starbucks or Peet's," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. 

Of the two Northwestern states polled, Oregon has more "buy local" loyalists with 58 percent preferring a local brand compared to 48 percent of Washingtonians who say the same. Very few Oregonians would choose a national brand compared to Washingtonians, as well – just 11 percent prefer a chain compared to 16 percent in Washington.

On the other hand, exactly one-third of Northwest coffee drinkers aren't so particular – they say they don't have a preference of where they buy their coffee beverages.

The PEMCO poll also accounted for java junkies who prefer to brew their coffee at home. About seven out of 10 of all Northwest residents say they've purchased coffee beans or grounds in the past month, presumably for that purpose. But of the three-quarters of coffee drinkers who consume at least a cup a week, just 17 percent say they brew at home exclusively. Instead, a majority of coffee drinkers (55 percent) opt for a combination of home-brewed and coffee-shop java.

When it comes to the beans themselves, the poll shows that Northwest coffee consumers are serious about buying fair trade coffee. Though the poll didn't offer a definition of fair trade beans, 39 percent say it's very or extremely important to them to buy fair trade, and it's particularly important among younger coffee drinkers. In Washington, 48 percent of those under 55 think buying fair trade is very or extremely important, while 32 percent of those 55 and older say the same.

Just 7 percent of respondents said they didn't know the meaning behind fair trade coffee, which holds organizations accountable to giving farmers fair compensation and helping to promote sustainable growing practices. 

The poll shows that another growing method – shade-grown – is significantly less important among coffee buyers of all ages, with just 18 percent saying shade-grown is extremely or very important to them. In fact, coffee drinkers are significantly more likely to say it's not important to them (31 percent) or that they don't know what "shade-grown" coffee means (28 percent).

For those not in the know, shade-grown coffee beans are cultivated under a tree canopy, which experts say promotes the land's natural ecology. Some think shade-grown coffee beans have better flavor than those grown in full sun, too.

In the spirit of PEMCO's Northwest Profile, the "Super-Long Coffee Orderer," the poll also asked coffee enthusiasts to reveal how many additional instructions they typically give a barista when ordering their beverage.

It turns out about one-third of Northwesterners (34 percent) order coffee straight off the menu, with no additional instructions. An equal number (34 percent) say they offer one instruction, and another third (31 percent) offer two or more instructions.

Washington women top the charts with 17 percent admitting they customize their drink with three or more instructions, compared to just 7 percent of men who say the same.

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in March 2015.


About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.


About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Three Years in a Row." For J.D. Power award information, visit