The coffee market is a dynamic entity, constantly being driven by the trends of the moment. Flat whites and bottled coffees were all the rage a few years ago; now salted cappuccinos and arty lattes are the new kids on the block. But what trends are looming large for summer 2016? Here’s what we think.
Trend 1: Speciality Milk
While milk is integral to the coffee experience for many, it’s often added without truly appreciating what it can bring to the table.
So what is it about the white stuff that makes some types more suited to the job than others?
If you take apart the nuts and bolts, milk is a suspension of protein and fat particles in water. The fat content is responsible for that all-important ‘mouthfeel’ – the smooth, creamy, almost melting texture that’s associated with cappuccinos, lattes and cortados. It also acts as a barrier to bitterness, by coating the tongue with a thin layer of fat globules. Protein, on the other hand, helps to stabilise the tiny bubbles that form in milk upon heating. Marry these two components and you have the perfect speciality milk.
Expect to see coffee shops investing more into their milk supply this summer.
Trend 2: Blends
It’s the question that divides coffee drinkers and roasters alike: single origin or blend? While both contenders have their merits, the latter has fallen out of favour lately. Our feeling is that this is about to change.
Why? Well, coffee roasters aren’t exactly thin on the ground these days, especially in big cities. As competition rises and the consumer becomes more discerning, roasters are going to want something that sets them apart from the crowd. Signature blends are a means to that end.
The blends’ critics disregard them as a cop-out – a Trojan horse for the lower-quality bean – but that certainly doesn’t have to be the case. While there’s nothing wrong with letting a single bean take centre stage, it’s often difficult to find one that will deliver in multiple domains. By mixing and matching the desirable properties of different beans, blends open doors to entirely novel creations, often with profiles that are superior to the starting material.
Trend 3: Speciality water
Without milk, a typical coffee is 99% water. This is the medium through which the bean speaks – so it stands to reason that if you’re after a good cup of joe, the water’s got to be top notch.
It used to be taken as gospel that water used for coffee should be soft; stripped of minerals to leave the H2O in its purest form. This trend is shifting with the realisation that not all hard water is created equal.
Christopher Hendon, a chemist who has since written a book on the matter, discovered that certain minerals can actually enhance the flavour of coffee. Magnesium, in particular, helps to extract flavour-boosting compounds from the bean. In contrast, the chemicals used to soften water – such as sodium – often repress the flavour of the finished product.
Of course, what works for one bean might not suit another. A heavy roast, for example, benefits from the gentle unlocking of flavour afforded by soft water; in this case, hard water would yield overpowering bitterness. For lighter roasts, however, the flavours need to be thoroughly roused to prevent them from being muted altogether.
Trend 4: The rise of speciality coffee pods
The single-serve coffee market is rapidly overtaking all competition, with instant coffee sales taking the brunt of this rise to dominance.
In the wake of the Third Wave, convenience is no longer the only consideration for consumers. Increasingly, people are looking to recreate the coffee house experience from the comfort of their own homes. As a result, profit now lies in the premium, and many roasters are already taking steps to make pods that faithfully replicate the gourmet coffees available on the high street.
Trend 5: The resurgence of old origins
2016 looks set to be the year of the ‘Comeback Kid’. That means the re-emergence of African markets that have endured a slump, but are finally coming out the other side.
We’ve written about Malawi before. Next to the likes of Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia, this little country in the heart of Africa remains relatively unknown in the coffee world. Historically, its growth has been hampered by a huge financial barrier to coffee farmers and issues with transport logistics. However, thanks to increased awareness and input from the government, that’s beginning to change.
The Rwandan coffee industry dates back to the 1930s when Belgian colonialists forced local farmers to cultivate coffee trees en masse. Owing to its deficient infrastructure, the upshot was a low-quality product that sold at low cost. This economic burden was compounded by the tragic events of 1994, after which the country’s coffee industry was brought rapidly to its knees.
The situation has since been turned around thanks to international donors such as TechnoServe, alongside internal efforts to relax trade barriers and lift restrictions on coffee farmers. Together, these factors have put the life back into the Rwandan coffee market, with sales returning to eight times their former slump. And with our recent acquisition of the Rwanda Abangakurushwa lot, we’re happy to be contributing to this process.
The coffee market is constantly reinventing itself in the face of new products, fresh ideas, and changing consumer tastes – and summer 2016 looks set to be no different.
What trends are you expecting to shape the market in the months ahead? Let us know on Twitter