There’s a jolt hitting coffee drinkers, and it isn’t just the caffeine.

The price of coffee beans is at a historic high, as droughts and heavy rain in the world’s leading coffee-producing regions limit supply, while a growing taste for coffee over tea in Asia fuels demand.

Restaurants and cafes have raised their prices, tacking on anywhere from 5 to 20 cents a cup in recent weeks. The escalating price of the popular Arabica bean has affected almost all coffees, from Maxwell House to organic blends.

“I’ve been here for five years, and this is the most significant increase,’’ said Dave Maffucci, a barista for a Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Wellesley, one of five locations the chain has in Massachusetts. Two weeks ago the price of a large cup of joe went up 20 cents to $2.25, a 10 percent jump.

So far, few business owners have reported a decline in sales or a customer backlash. Coffee drinkers, it seems, are a loyal — or addicted — bunch.

“Even during the Great Depression, coffee sales didn’t drop,’’ said Meghan Hubbs, co-owner at Equal Exchange, a West Bridgewater fair-trade roaster and importer that supplies beans to 70 cafes and restaurants in the state and owns cafes in Boston and Seattle.

Last week, at its own cafe in Boston, the price of an eight-ounce cup of coffee went up 10 cents, to $1.60, and 25 cents for a small latte, to $2.50, as the price of milk has also soared.

“In the long run, a specialty coffee drink is not going to be the thing people are going to take a hard look at,’’ Hubbs added.

The price hike is the result of more than just floods and droughts in coffee-growing areas. Also contributing is a weak US dollar, rising prices for fuel and fertilizer, and speculation in the coffee bean market.

And as emerging markets like Asia develop a java jones, global demand skyrockets. Starbucks, for example, plans to open 1,500 stores in China by 2015.

Last week the price of Arabica bean per pound surged to $2.88 on the C market, the global commodity futures market that sets prices for green Arabica beans, compared to $1.38 a year ago.

Coffee experts say the increase indicates that the beverage has become more valuable.

“We’ve gotten used to a really cheap cup of coffee. It’s not really an accurate reflection of someone’s labor,’’ said Daniele Giovannucci, cofounder of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment, a consortium that measures the impact of agricultural practices across the globe. “This price level is a way of finally valuing what is an extraordinary crop.’’

A decade ago, “you could never sell a cup of coffee for more than a dollar,’’ said Giovannucci. “Now we have $4 lattes. People are surprised by the evolution of what consumers are willing to pay.’’

To read the complete article go to: http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2011/05/09/coffee_prices_hitting_historic_highs/

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