One of the most inevitable things in the wider hospitality industry is change.
The way service industries operate shifts along with the changes in people’s lifestyles, taste preferences and convenience — and this is no more apparent than with coffee.
Worldwide coffee production has increased 49%* over the last 20 years, but our per capita coffee drinking hasn’t changed all that much, at least in the past two decades.
But the reasoning, tastes, and general expectations for the average “cup of Joe” are radically different than they were before.
Looking back to the mid-‘90s, we can easily see just how differently people viewed the commodity of coffee.
Any long-standing barista will tell you that the coffee culture was certainly not mainstream in those days.
Apart from Italian and Greek circles that have always cultivated this culture, it was not something you thought about too much.
As you made breakfast, you’d have a cup of coffee; but its taste was not in the driver’s seat of the consumer mindset.
Often enough, it was a choice between pre-ground and stale supermarket bought coffee or lifeless, freeze dried instant coffee.
Most households viewed this as the default; the number of local cafes dedicated to a bespoke coffee experience did not exist in the suburbs in the variety that we take for granted today.
The way we made coffee has changed as well.
Back then, the choice for home brewing was pretty much between percolators and plungers.
Nowadays, you can have your pick between all kinds of cost-effective manual brewing systems.
Many people that are in the know will claim that brewing with a AeroPress, Chemex or Hario V60 has singlehandedly elevated the quality of coffee, at least in the sense of extraction and brewing accuracy.
Indeed, the current generation of younger baristas has learned a lot from lighter coffee roasts; primarily about balance, complexity, and acidity.
We’d go as far as to say that young baristas can consider themselves lucky; they never had the necessity of dealing with over roasted, bitter and astringent coffee that was the pinnacle of the mainstream consumer market two decades ago.
Today, consumers have a wide range of choices; allowing customers to sample coffee blends and unique single origin coffees from different, independent cafes until they find the precise flavor that suits them.
As a result, coffee shops have an increased incentive to refine their offering.
The way we use milk in coffee has changed as well. Indeed, the days when all we knew about milk in coffee is to spoon some froth above a shot of espresso are long gone.
These days, milk has risen to be one of the most important ways in which we define the quality of the coffee.
We know that not only does it have to be sexy, shiny, and smooth, we know now that the perfect textured milk temperature is between 55-62c for maximum lactose sweetness.
The combination of perfect milk temperature and texturing quality is crucial for the presentation of coffee — the aesthetic aspect that was once completely unimportant.
In the early to mid 1990s, coffee manufacturers recognized the winds of change — this is when we started getting segmented coffee products instead of generic ones.
Now, every individual can request a tailor-made cup, according to their personal tastes – Triple shot, extra hot, cappuccino with extra chocolate, anyone?
Indeed, it’s safe to say that coffee means something different to everyone today. Some people prefer to have the gritty drip black coffee that was the defining morning drink for their grandparents.
On the other hand, some want a wholly custom cappuccino according to their individual requests.
It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee someone drinks— the important thing is, they have a wide field of choices to fulfill their wants.
And this diversity is the biggest shift in the consumer market when it comes to caffeine.
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