Some shops hold price steady as coffee fungus drives costs up - CBS46 News

Some shops hold price steady as coffee fungus drives costs up

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

A fungus attacking the coffee crop in Central America is costing coffee suppliers big bucks. The fungus, commonly referred to as Leaf Rust, kills the leaves of the tree, causing a lower fruit yield.

With supply down and demand the same, if not rising, price for coffee is spiking. Those costs inevitably get passed down the line as the coffee makes its long journey from plant to cup.

Small businesses like Taproom Coffee are stuck with a dilemma: raise prices or eat the loss. Taproom has opted to take on the margin-eating price increase for now.

"For us it's going to be hard in the long run, if coffee prices keep going up we will have to see menu price increases that we just can't avoid," said Jonathan Pascual, owner of Taproom Coffee.

The coffee-craft beer hybrid has been open for three weeks, Pascual says he has had great community support.

Luckily the price increase isn't hitting him as badly as some other small shops. This is due to his partnership with Counter Culture Coffee, the company out of Durham, NC, he uses for his coffee supply.

The company has a direct-to-farmer relationship with coffee producers around the world and uses long-term commitments to balance out the good years with the bad.

While they are still paying a premium for the beans from Central America, Ben Helfen who works in their training facility in Atlanta, is optimistic this is just a temporary problem.

"Leaf Rust is a hot topic of conversation right now, but I think as your average coffee prices might see a little bit of an increase, I think it's going to be a while before things are kind of through the roof," said Helfen.

Helfen does expect to see the cost of coffee increase, especially at the grocery store, but is hopeful it is only by pennies on the dollar and not a large jump in price.

As for Taproom Coffee and Pascual, his 12-ounce drip-coffee goes for $2 and isn't likely to change in the short term. And while he feels his prices may be a little higher than other mom-and-pop coffee shops, the experience they are selling with the cup of joe is worth the price tag.

A single cup hand-poured specialty coffee from Ethiopia, for instance, costs $4.25 for 16 ounces. It's a steep price, but the quality of the beans and the knowledge it was hand brewed is folded into the price.

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