The U.S. coffee market grew by more than 50 percent—from $19 billion to $29 billion—between 2002 and 2006 and is expected to grow by another $10 billion by 2011, according to independent market analyst Datamonitor. With so much coffee being drunk, and the majority of it being consumed outside of the home—Datamonitor projects away-from-home purchases to be 75 percent of total sales in the next five years—restaurateurs are finding ways to differentiate their coffee offerings and also to use the increasingly beloved drink as an ingredient in other beverages.
Scott Clime, wine and beverage director for DC Coast, Ceiba, TenPenh and Acadiana restaurants in Washington, D.C., uses coffee to reinforce the different restaurants’ ethnic identities. At Latin-themed Ceiba he offers a Cuban Coffee, which is a double espresso sweetened with superfine bar sugar. Southeast Asian TenPenh serves Thai iced coffee, which is an ounce of condensed milk with two double-shots of espresso poured on top. At Cajun-style Acadiana, chicory is added to the coffee just as it would be in New Orleans.
Other, more indulgent, classic coffee drinks are being further explored, such as the Italian affogato, or gelato with espresso poured on top. At Stone Hearth Pizza Co., a three-unit chain in the suburbs of Boston, customers choose from six gelato flavors for their affogato. The frozen dessert is put into a sundae glass and a shot of warm espresso is poured on top.
Bryan Dayton, bar manager and barista of Frasca in Boulder, Colo., says the affogato also is the inspiration for his Frascaccino. He scoops house-made vanilla ice cream and two shots of espresso into a cocktail shaker, shakes it with ice, pours it into a martini glass and garnishes it with coffee beans.
“It’s not totally crazy, but it’s a nice, decadent way to finish dinner,” Dayton says. “It’s in the realm of keeping it in its Italian roots.”
Hugo’s, a regional Mexican restaurant in Houston, incorporates the three types of milk used in a trés leches cake for its Lechero. A steamed mixture of condensed, evaporated and whole milk is served in one pitcher, coffee from the mountains of Oaxaca are served in another, and the two are poured into a glass at tableside. That drink, normally served in the morning, is $1.50.
Rosa Mexicano, a six-unit, fine-dining Mexican restaurant chain based in New York, just added iced-coffee drinks to its menu last summer, says corporate beverage director Grace Hu. Its signature iced coffee is flavored with syrup made with a Mexican brown sugar called piloncilo flavored with cinnamon and orange zest.
“I find that it’s a very good accompaniment to our desserts, because it’s not too sweet,” she says, noting that it pairs particularly well with the chain’s chocolate cake.
Also available, hot or cold, is the Caramelito, which is coffee with steamed milk and a goat-milk caramel called cajeta. The iced version is made with espresso instead of brewed coffee so that the flavor stands up to dilution from the ice. It also is offered spiked with tequila and topped with whipped cream flavored with coffee liqueur.
In Houston, Hugo’s sister restaurant, Backstreet Café, serves a toasted-almond cappuccino, made by flavoring steamed milk with cinnamon, toasted almonds, amaretto and brandy, and spooning that over espresso. Backstreet also serves iced coffee made by mixing espresso with chocolate-hazelnut spread, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and half-and-half and pouring it over ice. The toasted-almond cappuccino is $8.50 and the chocolate-hazelnut iced coffee is $4.
Other operators are redoubling their efforts to make their basic coffee taste better.
More restaurants are submitting their brews to the Specialty Coffee Association of America to try to qualify for its Gold Standard, something that only coffee houses used to do. To get certified, a sample of the brewed coffee and separate samples of the ground coffee beans and the water they’re using to brew it are sent to the SCAA, which measures the soluble solids and tests the quality of the water and coffee.
Cocoa Bar, a two-unit coffeehouse, chocolate shop and wine bar in New York, is so certified. Owner Liat Cohen selected her proprietary house blend so that it would have subtle chocolate notes that would go with her desserts. Although many restaurants brew their hot and iced coffee the same way, she brews the iced coffee at a slightly higher coffee-to-water ratio and then treats it with just a little ice at a time.
“We don’t want to shock the coffee when it’s hot,” she says. “I think it’s important to have exacting standards with your staff, to teach them that it’s not boring or tedious but an important part of the job.”
“We feel that the process is best used for ice coffee products,” she explains, “because it’s brewed cold so you leave behind a lot of the acidity, but you keep the body and the flavor.” Coffee brewed hot loses some of its characteristics if it’s chilled, she says.
For cold-brewing, coffee is ground coarsely and steeped in water for 18-24 hours. Seattle’s Best’s cold-brewed coffee is concentrated to about three times the strength of its hot coffee.
Last year Seattle’s Best launched a line called Hand Shaken Cold Brewed Originals, which featured a standard iced coffee, a vanilla latte and a marble mocha. The marble mocha has white and bittersweet chocolate syrups added to it.
This summer they are adding a caramel mocha to the line, which has a chocolate sauce that combines milk chocolate with dark and white chocolates.
All of those drinks are shaken in metal cocktail shakers by the baristas, “so it adds a lot of theater and presentation to the overall drink,” Calhoun says.
Tami Clark, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, based in Los Angeles, says the chain normally adds two coffee-based drinks to its “Ice Blended” line during the peak summer season and one noncoffee drink.
This summer those coffee drinks are Espresso Mint Chip and the Mocha Mudslide. The former is made with vanilla powder, peppermint sauce, chocolate covered espresso beans, and coffee-milk extract, all blended with ice and topped with whipped cream.
The Mocha Mudslide, based on the Mudslide cocktail, is made with powder flavored with coffee, cream and chocolate mixed with coffee-milk extract, nonfat milk and ice. That is served in a cup with a swirl of chocolate sauce in it and topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.