Local News

Tsunami Likely To Affect Price, Taste Of Coffee

Posted February 16, 2005

— Everyone has a favorite cup of coffee.

Soon, that java jolt may not taste or cost the same. A coffee crunch is brewing -- caused by the tsunami.

Coffee drinker Rod Hughes' enjoys drinking Sumatra -- a dark roast coffee.

"(It's) just real strong, robust, you know you are drinking a good cup of coffee."" Rod Hughes

But Sumatra is from Sumatra Indonesia -- one of the countries hardest hit by the tsunami.

Roast Master Branden Riggs says organic Sumatra could soon be hard to find at your favorite coffee shop.

"I think most roast masters are trying to stretch out their current supply of Sumatra so they don't have to substitute a lower quality or different bean all together," Riggs said.

Another concern is that the Sumatra being exported may not be the quality coffee drinkers are used to.

The tsunami hit Sumatra, the fourth largest specialty coffee producer in the world, during the peak of the harvest.

Workers were so busy looking for lost loved ones, they couldn't pick beans off the trees.

"The longer it sits on the tree -- it's kind of like a melon in a grocery store, it's just not going to be as good," said Jeff Vojta, a coffee roaster and distributor

And there were even more delays getting beans to the port because of infrastructure problems.

Vojta says without normal supplies and quality, he had to raise his prices by 27 cents a pound.

That means about a nickel more a mug at Mr. Toads, a coffee shop in Cary.

Owner Stephanie Lake Britt didn't raise prices when the cost of milk went up, but says she can't avoid an increase now.

"I have to be able to compensate for the rise in the coffee," said Lake Britt. "I have to be able to stay in business."

It's not just the price of specialty brands that is going up, even some grocery store brands have announced increases of more than 50 cents a pound.

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