Local Coffee Shop Selections Get a Jolt from Latin American Fungus

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

May 20, 2014

A fungus affecting farmers' coffee crops in Latin America could have an impact on coffee drinkers in the Charlottesville area.

"It takes a long time to grow a coffee tree to the point where it will harvest cherries," said Eric Mason, a professional barista at Milli Joe in Charlottesville.

Now, it could take longer because of the fungus known as coffee rust, or roya. It's destroying plants that supply many roasters in the U.S.

"It definitely affects the roaster and some of the relationships they have with farmers," Mason said. "They physically can't buy their lots."

In Charlottesville coffee shops, the impact likely won't drip down to customers' wallets.

"It might limit our menu a little bit," Mason said. "You'll see more coffees coming from regions that are more immune from this disease."

The places most likely to see impacts are the smaller, local or gourmet coffee shops. Larger chains like Starbucks likely won't see any price increases because they already have beans stocked.

Customers in Charlottesville say coffee is an important part of their day, so they'd be willing to shell out a few more dollars.

"It depends on the quality of the coffee and what the coffee is and if it's my favorite coffee shop, but maybe up to $5 if I really like the coffee," coffee drinker Silvia Blemker said.

"I've probably paid about 5 bucks for a cup of coffee," coffee drinker Jay Smethurst said. "That is excessive."

But even without the fungus, local shops are always striving to deliver the best product, which comes at a price.

"Quality is rising and we are always trying to pay people more to continue their good work and feel inspired to raise the quality," Mason said.

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