A familiar morning ritual might become more expensive, as the price of coffee continues to inch upward.
Local coffeehouses and roasters have seen the price of coffee rise steadily for the past eight months, and while no dramatic price increases have hit consumers yet, the option remains under consideration.
“I hate to pass everything on to the consumer, but one more spike and I will have to,” said Karen’s Kitchen owner Karen Walton, who added she’s seen prices spike three times since she opened her main street restaurant and coffee shop in October of 2009.
“My distributor told me I should go up now,” Walton said.
According to a January 2011 monthly report by the International Coffee Organization, “Market movements, coffee prices and market reports continue to be dominated by weather problems affecting many exporting countries. Consequently, coffee prices recorded further increases during the month of January, reflecting the current fragility of the supply/demand balance.”
However, there has not been an increase for Fair Trade Coffee offered by Ten Thousand Villages — at least not yet.
“Our coffee hasn’t gone up yet, but tea has,” said store manager DawnEna Wiebe. “I expect coffee to go up at any time.”
For Ten Thousand Villages, the price of coffee is a big deal — Wiebe said coffee is one of the store’s biggest sellers.
The report goes on to state the price of coffee is the highest since September 1994.
However, an area roaster has his own theory.
“Global demand is increasing as emerging economies ‘discover’ the joy of coffee,” Lindsborg’s Blacksmith Coffee Roastery Owner Mark Galloway stated in a blog post. “I say "discover" because in many third world countries, robusta bean coffee has been heavily consumed in the form of instant coffee. That's because it's cheap. As the global middle class increases in size, so will it's tastes, and that includes coffee.”
In an interview, Galloway said he’s seen coffee prices rise 70 percent since June 2010.
“It’s going to get worse. It’s been underpriced for a long time,” Galloway said.
Yet, even with the rising prices, coffee still remains inexpensive compared to other beverages.
“It’s still a bargain compared to what people pay for soda pop,” Galloway said. “The value of a cup of coffee is relative. People can spend $4 or more for a latte at Starbucks, but drip coffee doesn’t have to be that expensive, and it’s not going to be that expensive even if prices double or triple.”
His statement rings true with Walton, who has resisted raising prices on regular coffee — but just added a quarter to the price of specialty coffees.
She said the move was forced by not only an increase in coffee prices — but a spike in milk prices and syrups.
“I think people will slow down on the specialty coffees,” Walton said.