ST. LOUIS – On one of the hottest weeks of the year in St. Louis, snow fell in Brazil. It’s winter in Brazil right now, but the weather there this week is unusual. Brazil’s average winter temperature range is 65-75 degrees.
The country’s worst drought in nearly a century preceded the cold. A catastrophic combination for the world’s largest producer of Arabica coffee beans.
Experts predict the overall coffee harvest in Brazil will be the lowest since 2003. It’s causing the cost of arabica coffee beans to rise by the highest amount in five years.
At Sweet Em’s Coffee and Ice Cream in Dogtown, the beans remain bountiful. But the bad news from Brazil is on management’s radar.
“It’s really too early to say right now what’s going on,” Sweet Em’s Manager Griffin Volner said.
Volner says there’s not much they can do should demand to outpace supply.
“If you try to stockpile a bunch of coffee, over time the quality would degrade. You don’t want to be serving up a mediocre cup of coffee. Coffee is a lifestyle item,” Volner said.
“People who drink it often will be able to tell right away when it’s not up to speed. That’s definitely not the image we’re trying to have.”
He says there are no plans to raise prices, but it’s still a developing situation for coffee shops like Sweet Em’s.
“Coffee beans and milk are two of the most important things for a coffee and ice cream business. If those prices go up too drastically, there really would be no other option than to increase the price a little bit,” Volner said.
“How expensive would coffee have to be for you to not buy coffee?” asked Fox 2’s Mike Colombo.
“Probably up to like $10 a cup, I think. It’s pretty important to me,” coffee drinker Emma Hensley said.
“It’s definitely worth paying more money because you’re also getting the experience and supporting the local businesses,” coffee drinker Taryn Alstat said.
When it comes to big companies, Starbucks CEO said Tuesday the company is able to avoid raising prices because of its purchasing strategy.
Fox 2 also checked in locally with Ronnoco Coffee.
In a statement, its CEO said, “We are doing everything we can to try to mitigate a price increase for customers. Although we are concerned about the increase in cost, we are not concerned with being able to get supply.”