At Pier 7, a seafood restaurant overlooking the Washington Channel, the price of tea - hot or iced was halved, yesterday to 25 cents. The cost of a pot of coffee has been boosted to 60 cents.
"We are encouraging our customers to change their habits," said Manuel Fernandez, who owns the restaurant. The whole sale price of coffee, he noted, "is really getting out of hand."
The Pier 7 Restaurnant on Southwest Washington's waterfront was the seeting yesterday for a news conference staged by four national and local consumer groups to urge coffee drinkers to drink less coffee in an attempt to bring down soaring coffee prices.
They are not, the consumer group's leaders stressed, calling for a coffee boycott. To propose a boycott, they said, would be socially unrealistic, economically unnecessary, and likely to spur coffee hoarding.
Instead, the consumer advocated announced, they hope to persuade coffee drinkers to cut their coffee intake by the "modest" proportion of 20 to 30 per cent. They urged coffee drinkers to buy a little less coffee, drink fewer cups a day, and take tea breaks instead of coffee breaks.
The "cut coffee consumption campaign" was commenced by the Consumer Federation of America. Community Nutrition Institute, consumer affairs committee of Americans for Demoncratic Action and Maryland Citizens Consumer Council. Their backdrop was a sign saying, "Shaft Coffee - Shift to Tea."
Similar coffee protests have already been started in cities across the United States, though it is as yet unclear whether they have had a significant effect on American coffee drinking. The price of ground coffee at U. S. supermarkets is already nearing and sometimes exceeds $3 a pound - almost double what it was a year ago.
The steep price increases were initially triggered in 1975 by a freeze in Brazil's southern coffee belt that killed and damaged hundreds of millions of trees. Coffee production has also recently been distrupted in other South American and African nations
At yesterday's news conference, it was also disclosed that A & P, the second largest American supermarket chain , was planning a move on the coffee front. A & P later iussued a statement, saying it would soon announce a program to help shoppers "make more efficient use of their coffee dollar." An A & P official declined to elaborate, except to say A & P would not urge a boycott.
Spokesmen for Safeway, the nation's largest supermarket chain, and Kroger, the third largest, said no anti-coffee moves are planned,
Pier 7 was apparently the first Washington restaurant to join the growing national campaign to challenge rising coffee prices. Fernandez, Pier 7's owner, said he plans to meet this week with six or seven other local restauranteurs to discuss similar steps. Pier 7 cut its prices by half to 25 cents for milk and soft drinks as well as tea.
At yesterday's news conference leaders of the consumer groups also demanded a congressional investigation of coffee price rises, asserted that coffee lacks nutritional worth, and urged supermarkets in the Washington area to reduce their coffee prices. Shoppers in the Washington area pay more for ground coffee on average than in any other major metropolitan area in the United States, according to date recently compiled by the Bureau of Labor Stastics.
"There is consumer power and consumer clout in the marketplace," said Ann Brown, who heads the consumer affairs committee of Americans for Demoncratic Action. "We're asking people to change their habits a little bit. Take a tea break instead of a coffee break." She added,when brewing a pot of coffee, "don't add one for the pot."