The UK is obsessed with coffee. We drink 95 million cups every day, which is almost 30 million more cups of coffee than people. That figure has rocketed in the last 10 years, so what is it that’s driving us to coffee? Well it turns out that it’s so much more than a simple caffeine addiction. The rest of the world visualises Brits drinking Yorkshire Tea out of floral china cups and saucers, but little do they know that we’re partly responsible for coffee compulsion, serving lattes out of avocados, making beetroot brews and throwing festivals in the trendiest parts of town just for coffee-lovers.
The caffeine community is out in full force this year, bringing a whole load of wacky coffee trends into the limelight, causing baristas to be in incredibly high demand and turning the simple black coffee into a relic of the past. The millennial coffee community has created a relaxed vibe surrounding speciality coffee, which used to be viewed as an elitist trend, and its members are normalising coffee and tonic, glitter lattes and coffee with healing mushroom blends. Taking the concept of an Irish coffee to new heights, in 2018 the cafe and the cocktail bar have collided head first, also making this the year of the Espresso Martini and the Iced Popcorn Frappe Cocktail.
The world of coffee is an undulating one, constantly welcoming in new crazes and blends to try, so we thought we’d take a look at 2018 through coffee, exploring both the ridiculous and the rational trends…
The cold brew explosion
With 2018 standing out as the UK’s hottest ever year on record, it’s no wonder that cold brew coffee has been one of the most popular caffeinated drinks, stronger than normally brewed coffee, totally refreshing and easy for cafes to make in bulk. The finest coffee connoisseurs in the country have jumped on the cold brew bandwagon, but it is not to be mixed up with iced coffee – they are totally different, with cold brew soaked in cold water for over a day to create a smooth flavour with the added bonus of reduced bitterness and acidity. Masters of cold brew are Sandows, who also produce
Nitro Cold Brew, made with added Nitrogen for a creamy, Guinness-like result.
Playing with the texture of coffee is another major trend of the year and Nitro Cold Brew has been applauded for both its strength and silky texture. Their coffee is served on tap, adding a completely different dimension to the cafe concept, as well as giving its consumers a quick and punchy caffeine kick thanks to nitrogen causing quicker absorption into the bloodstream.
So long, soy milk
The number of UK vegans has surged in the past five years, bringing with them the dramatic increase in the popularity of alternative milks. We started off with soy, ditched it for almond, dabbled with hemp, and now we’re all talking about oat milk, with market leader Oatly cleverly creating the barista-specific version of their low-fat, mineral-packed drink. But when it comes to coffee, oat milk isn’t just a vegan fad – almond and soy milk tend to curdle when mixed with coffee, whereas Oatly is specifically made not to do so and creates a neutral, wholesome flavour.
Our mental and physical health is on the brain now more than ever, and it has not taken long for the coffee industry to create its own healthy trends. However, only 6% of consumers order decaf when in a cafe, proving that decaf coffee is not up to scratch and that there is still a huge gap in the market for good tasting decaffeinated coffee. Most decaf blends use chemicals to strip low quality beans of their caffeine, so if you want to avoid the caffeine rush, look out for decaf made by soaking green beans in water instead.
The trendy turmeric latte is possibly the front runner of the healthy coffee scene, made by infusing hot milk with honey and turmeric, the process of which is actually ancient, having been prevalent in South Asian cultures for hundreds of years. The ‘golden milk’ is an Ayurvedic remedy for a multitude of ailments, including the common cold and is crammed full of antioxidants. Mushroom coffees have been adopted by the uber health-conscious coffee drinker, another superfood packed with vitamins to give you energy, make your brain work more efficiently and aid healthy digestion – they are also proven to reduce coffee shakes too!
One of my favourite London coffee shops, Palm Vault in Hackney, whips up a range of brightly coloured coffees, including pink rose, lavender and red velvet, which taste delicious and prove that health-conscious brews don’t have to compromise on great coffee taste. From protein powder to the slightly more ridiculous collagen powder, the ‘super coffee’ is a quickly evolving minefield of both expertly brewed and nasty novelty. Pinterest has seen a monumental rise in its users searching for ‘healthy coffee ideas’, so it’s no wonder that cafes up and down the country are adapting their menus.
In 2018, it feels like we’ve been more obsessed with coffee than ever. The London Coffee Festival welcomed a massive 30,000 people through its doors, 1,215 coffee shops were opened, and with 32,000 shops predicted to be up and running by 2025, it’s lucky that we’ve adopted the ability to re-invent a drink that has been done millions of times over. However, with these re-inventions inevitably comes some slightly more ridiculous trends that the more serious coffee drinker might have trouble getting on with. With coffee becoming increasingly popular amongst teenagers, the industry has been forced to create drinks to appeal to them, both visually and in taste. Avo-lattes, glittery coffee and rainbow coffee are among some of these crazes, meaning that baristas are required to add food colouring to steamed milk to create beverages that kids can put on their Instagram pages.
So much of coffee culture has been based on presentation this year, with impressive latte art becoming commonplace in any good coffee shop and even small cats and dogs with cocoa-dusted faces making an appearance in some. Baristas around the UK are spending months preparing for latte art competitions, each one desperate to invent the next craze.
Speciality coffee has stepped into the limelight this year, as more consumers are paying attention to where their produce comes from, alongside the popularity of field to fork dining. Speciality coffee producers like Yallah and restaurants including the likes of Lyle’s, overseeing the whole process from farm to cup and exclusively using single origin coffee. There is an emphasis placed on being involved in every step of the process, from sourcing, to roasting. The days of drinking black coffee squeezed from an urn at a festival, served in a miniature polystyrene cup, are behind us – you can find speciality coffee pop-ups from Yallah and Lyle’s at festivals all summer, such as Wilderness and Port Eliot.
Sustainability and direct trade
Without a doubt, one of the biggest coffee trends of this year has been sustainability. Driven by the consumer’s desire to use traceable and low-impact products, more and more coffee brands are shouting about their recycled packaging and natural brewing processes, some even making their pop-up festival stalls from 100% recycled materials. To many of today’s coffee drinkers, the ecological values of a brand are almost as important as its great tasting coffee. Direct trade has been another trend of 2018, cutting out the middleman between the grower and the barista, resulting in fresher and more delicious coffee. For those concerned about the best possible beans going into their cup, direct trade is the label to look out for.
All female roasteries
In 2018, producing great tasting coffee is not enough – your brand needs to adopt a lifestyle that the consumer wants to be associated with. The most successful cafes and roasteries are the ones who are doing something beyond roasting or serving coffee, which inspires people. Many have their own fashion lines, packaging designed by local artists or their own range of vegan milks, but one brand that has really hit the nail on the head is Girls Who Grind Coffee. This all-female small batch coffee roastery empowers and celebrates women within the industry, from growers in Ethiopia, to baristas in Brighton. In a male-dominated industry, Girls Who Grind Coffee are going against the grain and it’s really working for them. They shout about the stories of the women they work with on their website, their social media and even on their bags of coffee, grown by women in Guatemala, Brazil, Rwanda and many more locations around the world. They’ve monopolised on their awesome brand by selling t-shirts, mugs, and stickers.
Considering the addictiveness of coffee, it’s unlikely to be one of those trends that fizzles out – the UK is jacked up and loving it. From yoga bunnies drinking turmeric lattes, gym bodies mixing protein powder into their morning Flat White, and teenage Instagrammers posting videos of shimmering glitter latte art, everyone’s gone cuckoo for coffee. The industry is split between those doing their bit for our planet and those inventing brand new coffees to draw in the crowds and be seen on social media. From the empowerment of all female roasteries and those dedicated to recycled packaging and sustainability, to electric pink Macchiatos and Cappuccinos served out of the old wrinkled skin of an avocado. With cold brew being the coffee connoisseurs beverage of choice this summer and oat milk bulldozing its way through the industry, it’s quite exciting to see what will be the next big thing. Will it be ridiculous or will it be rational?
by Lucy Flynn, content marketing executive at catering company Feast It