As coffee prices skyrocket, local coffee shops struggle with financial burden

WASHINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Coffee lovers are in for a rude awakening as coffee prices are on the rise.

“Coffee is, on the world market, it’s the second-largest commodity. It’s traded next to petroleum,” said Yvonne Andresen.

Andresen is the owner of The Blend in Washington. She said she first noticed a spike in prices back in April 2021.

“It soared to a five-year high,” Andresen said.

The hike in prices has plenty of causes. The market is primarily controlled by Brazil, responsible for 30% of global coffee exports. Brazil experienced a severe drought, the “worst dry spell in 91 years,” causing a shortage in the crop itself.

Transportation costs have impacted almost every global export as the world faces a massive shipping container shortage. With so many shipments coming, our country’s ports are overloaded, creating a bottleneck.

Andresen said her coffee, which she ordered back in March from her grower in Uganda, was shipped to the U.S. But, she said, she recently was notified again that the delivery is delayed.

“I still haven’t gotten my coffee. It’s stuck somewhere in the ocean,” Andresen said.

Andresen said labor costs also contribute to the rise in prices, and that most of these reasons are byproducts of the pandemic.

“It’s happening to me; it’s happening to everybody,” Andresen said.

According to Andresen’s averages, the price to import her Ugandan coffee went up three percent in January, so she rose prices at her shop by three percent. Then again in April, her coffee order went up eight percent. She still only raised prices by three percent. She said she didn’t want to put too much of the burden on the customer.

“I’m having to find ways to cut costs,” Andresen said. “Yeah, we’re in a dilemma. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen by the end of the year. I don’t know.”

She said, however, she is not too worried about the future of her shop.

“Our customers are so loyal,” Andresen said.

Coffee prices aside, coffee shops are also plagued by shortages and raised prices of paper and plastic. The reasons for these spikes are also due to the transportation costs and bottlenecks in our ports.

Emily Hartter, owner and founder of FaireCoffee in Peoria and Washington, is facing similar struggles trying to restock some materials.

“Our cups, our lids, straws, napkins, all of those things are costing more,” Hartter said.

She said she considered raising prices to maintain profit margins, but so far, she has not done so.

“We’ve decided to look at some more creative options to get our sales higher in general and just to provide new value to the community,” Hartter said.

This means offering more options and utilizing the mobile FaireCoffee café. Hartter said she is aware that they may have to raise prices eventually, but she hopes they can continue to pivot and make it work.