1. a beverage made by percolation, infusion, or decoction from the roasted and ground seeds of a coffee plant

Coffee Costs

Specialty coffee shops such as Starbucks get grief for their overpriced coffee drinks, but as meeting professionals know, major meeting hotels and resorts are the real rascals, typically charging $45 to $90 per gallon of coffee, plus service charges and tax. Most planners figure a gallon serves 20 cups of coffee, so if you divide that into a typical big-city hotel coffee price of $75 a gallon, that's $3.75 per cup, plus, plus. And that's no half-fat-soy-double-mocha latte you're getting.

Bring in the Barista

If your attendees are the sort to appreciate designer coffee drinks, consider barista stations for your next coffee break. Many catering and event companies can bring in the equipment to wow your guests with hot cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos made on the spot. They can also have teas, chai, and cocoa so that the folks who don't drink coffee can have something special, too.

Fair Trade

With organizations doing more and more to promote socially conscious practices, some planners are considering Fair Trade coffees for their meetings. Fair trade-certified coffees are purchased at prices considered economically just (currently $1.26 per pound) and ground under environmentally sound conditions.

Cups and Saucers

Doilies may seem old-fashioned and a waste of paper, but keep them in mind when the coffee service at the end of your banquet overlaps with a speaker or entertainer. The doilies cut way down on the clank of cups and saucers.

The Buzz

Coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine per 6 oz., compared to brewed tea, which is typically about 70 mg for the same amount, or cola at about 50 mg per 12 oz. Caffeine-enhanced colas, such as Jolt (72 mg per 12 oz. can) and Red Bull (80 mg in 8 oz.), and caffeinated water, such as Water Joe (60 mg in 17 oz.) are a cold way to deliver the afternoon pep-in-a-cup.

Hold the Sugar

Even your coffee addicts might appreciate an energy-boost alternative. A company called Oxygen Plus, Mahtomedi, Minn., has a new product called the O+ Stick, a portable container of enriched oxygen. The company claims that breathing the oxygen gives users a burst of energy and combats fatigue.

Sources: Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com; Special Events magazine, www.specialevents.com; Global Exchange, www.globalexchange.org