NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I picked the wrong week to stop drinking coffee. In the past 25 years, I don't believe that I've gone more than 24 hours without a cup; today marks day three without java. I had not intended to quit; but the coffee pot stopped working, and I just decided to see if I could stop the four to six cup a day habit. Well, the pounding headache was non-stop yesterday, it was very difficult to concentrate, and I have no appetite. So, what better way today to face my caffeine struggle head-on, than with a column devoted to coffee?The most mainstream ways to get investment exposure to our love affair with coffee these days is via Starbucks (SBUX - Get Report) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR - Get Report). Starbucks, of course, has been an incredible success story, and shares purchased and held since the IPO in 1992 have returned more than 100 times the original investment. The stock is now trading at an all-time high, and with more than 18,000 stores in 62 countries, the company still has ambitious plans for growth, including 3,000 new stores in the Americas alone over the next five years.
Green Mountain, which took the coffee market by storm in its own right, has been my nemesis. I'd been of the opinion that single cup brewing was a fad, and that sooner or later, consumers would settle for the lower cost option of brewing full pots of coffee at home. While Green Mountain has had its share of issues, including an SEC investigation and questions about accounting practices, it has rebounded nicely since trading in the teens last July. It seems that consumers love their Keurig machines, and don't mind paying up for K cups. I still wonder whether ten years from now, Keurig machines will be collecting dust in the back of closets. My only exposure to Green Mountain has been on the short side, which was a mistake. Yet, I can't imagine going long, either. GMCR data by YCharts
Of course, there are other, less mainstream ways to get coffee exposure. I've followed the plight of Farmer Brothers (FARM - Get Report), a manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of coffee, for years. This company has been around since 1912, but has had its share of struggles in recent years, and has not had a profitable year since 2007. Yet recently, revenue has been improving, and the company is moving back toward profitability. Shares have doubled since this time last year, and the company is one to keep an eye on. Farmer Brothers, which has a $220 million market cap, is dwarfed by the bigger players and not well-known by investors. One intriguing factor about this company is that it owns significant real estate, including more than 50 branch warehouses, corporate headquarters in Torrance, Calif., and a distribution center in Houston. FARM data by YCharts
If nothing else, my attempt to break the coffee habit has brought with it the realization that for most people, coffee is probably not a discretionary purchase. It is a necessity. At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. Follow @JonMHellerCFA This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.