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NEWS: Prepare to pay more for a cup of coffee

Java lovers could be in for a jolt this month with the price of coffee set to rise at many local coffee shops.
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Java lovers could be in for a jolt this month with the price of coffee set to rise at many local coffee shops. After months of absorbing the increasing price of beans, now at a 30-year high, several coffee roasters in Vancouver report they have no choice but to start passing the cost on to customers.

Prices have essentially doubled for us, said Ethical Bean CEO Lloyd Bernhardt, noting his company has gone from paying US$2.30 a pound for green coffee in July to about $4 today.

Bernhardt said its not unusual for coffee prices to rise and fall with fluctuations in the commodities market so hed been holding off on increasing prices. But with cost of coffee steadily increasing for the past six months and no sign of reversal, his company gave notice last week it would be raising its prices by five cents a cup, starting next month.

The increase is due to several factors influencing the price of beans, Bernhardt said.

First, coffee producing countries such as Columbia and Indonesia have experienced lower than normal harvests this year due to natural disasters and erratic weather.

At the same time, Bernhardt continued, a growing middle class market in traditionally exporting countries such as Brazil have increased demand for premium beans in the domestic market. And the weak U.S. economy continues to drive speculators to invest in commodities, such as coffee, tea, wheat and sugar, driving up the price.

Its created a bizarre cascade effect where, as prices continue to rise, farmers are holding out for an even better price, which drives down supply and puts on more pressure, said Bernhardt. Its not a fun time to be a coffee roaster.

John Neate, CEO of JJ Bean Coffee Roasters said his company already increased prices on its whole bean coffee by $1 per pound in December and is now considering another 75-cent increase. Neate said hes also looking at tacking five-10 cents on the price of drip coffee in his cafes.

The reality is, the price has gone up, all the roasters have to pay more and if we dont pass it on then were going to be hooped, he said, adding that since November, the price he pays for green coffee has increased by 70 cents.

Both Neate and Bernhardt said theyre concerned about the impact the price increase will have on their customers, who are likely dealing with rising food prices in other commodities as well.

Were concerned about our customers because we passed on the HST... so we already increased our price to our customers in July, said Neate. Were going to have to do it again.

Independent coffee shop owners who dont roast their own beans seem to be faring better, however. Aaron Kafka, owner of Kafkas Coffee and Tea on Main Street said hes not overly concerned about the price increases.

Thats just the general cycle of business, said Kafka, who wouldnt say how much prices have increased on his end. Its enough to notice, not enough to close my doors.

Kafka said he plans to add about 25 cents to the price of some specialty drinks, but drip coffee will remain the same.

Its a cup of coffee. Everybody should be able to have a really good cup of coffee for a really good price, he said.

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