EUROPEANS CAN'T STAND THE HEAT, STAY OUT OF THE COFFEE KLATCH

EUROPEANS CAN'T STAND THE HEAT, STAY OUT OF THE COFFEE KLATCH

Coffee is staying on European supermarket and kitchen shelves this summer as a heatwave scorches the continent.

Britain had one of its hottest Julys this century and searing temperatures killed 30 people in Spain."Summer sales have fallen again - as is usual in this heat," said Kishor Patel, manager of a central-London mini-mart.

He said sales of instant coffee at his shop have fallen by as much as 70 percent this summer, more than in previous summers though he could not say by how much.

In Germany, Europe's largest coffee consumer, the heatwave prompted demand for beer, mineral water and ice cream, while in Paris the scorching temperatures sparked pollution alerts.

"It is a little early to tell what effect the hot weather is having on consumption . . . but anecdotal evidence suggests that the coffee market is affected," said Richard Hancock, managing director of Paulig UK, a leading British ground coffee producer.

Roasters said the slide is seasonal.

"It is quite normal for coffee sales to drop during the summer . . . but tea sales keep very well and our soft-drink and ice-cream sales are way up," said a spokeswoman at Sainsbury, a leading British supermarket chain.

But she said it was too early to comment on the size of the fall in coffee consumption.

Tea and coffee drinkers say while they do cut down on coffee during summer, tea remains a staple.

"Tea is cooling . . . Why is it cooling? It is just something our mothers always told us," said a resident of the North London borough of Islington, who declined to be identified.

London coffee traders say while the fall in coffee consumption is seasonal, the picture is glum. The slide follows months of low consumption after prices soared in 1994 to their highest level in almost 10 years when they hit more than $4,100 a ton following two frosts and drought in Brazil, still the world's No.1 coffee producer.

"Yes, retail prices have gone up and affected our sales," Mr. Patel said. "Some of our office accounts have stopped buying coffee altogether. It's now a luxury to have it in the office."

Analysts say trade statistics show consumption throughout Europe was down at some 39 million 60-kilogram (132-pound) bags in the 12 months to June 1995 against some 41 million bags consumed during 1993, analysts said.

Consumption for Germany in the 12 months ending June 1995 was down 3.3 percent at 39.7 million bags, while in Britain it was down 3.5 percent and 3.6 percent in France.

Europe's coffee roasters say consumption, down by 2 percent to 6 percent in 1994, is likely to experience a slow recovery following the surge in bean prices.

"The consumers have proven to be sensitive to a series of successive price increases," the European Coffee Roasters Association (EUCA) said.

"I used to drink four cups of coffee a day. Now, I am on two," said the Islington resident. "The price increases have affected me."