Sponsored by Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee
Decaffeinated coffee is having its moment. The beverage, once the dispirited order of seniors and others with dietary restrictions, has become super cool among millennials and Gen Z. In fact, a growing number of these younger consumers are choosing high-quality decaf for its taste, and are less likely than their baby boomer parents to crave a caffeine buzz. They’re also interested in the story behind the decaf, chemical free caffeine removal and the overall coffee experience.
“The primary consumers that we see ordering decaf are women between the ages of 25 and 40,” says Laura Rosenbush, district manager for New York-based Joe Coffee Company. “In those years they are more conscious of their health. They are not in college anymore, so coffee is not just fuel.”
Millennials are paying attention to what they eat and drink, and they are also looking for flavor. They like to experiment and to customize their menu orders, choosing among different roasts, milks and amounts of caffeine. “People are experimenting with half-caf drinks first,” Rosenbush says. “Then they switch to decaf.”
Millennials, Gen Zers are limiting caffeine
According to the National Coffee Association’s 2018 National Coffee Drinking Trends Report, 63 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say it’s important to limit caffeine intake. Decaf is their solution to continuous coffee enjoyment. Millennials and Gen Z are the fastest growing segment in the decaf category.
“There has been a noticeable trend of millennials and Gen Zers indulging more in decaf coffee,” says Eden-Marie Abramowicz, director of coffee operations for Birmingham, Ala.-based Revelator Coffee Company, a coffee roaster and café operator with locations in six states. “These generations are becoming more accustomed to not only paying attention to what enters their bodies, but as these folks grew up in a world full of energy drinks and shots, they possibly are more conscious about how they pace their caffeine consumption throughout different dayparts.”
The quality of coffee and how the caffeine is removed has led to decaf that tastes much better now than it had in the past. “The new decaffeination processes that have come about now chiefly preserve the integrity of the coffee itself,” Abramowicz says. “Older methodology oftentimes left coffee that was stripped of its flavors, but now it is quite possible to enjoy decaf coffee that is full of sweetness and complexity.”
The decaf experience
Coffee drinkers are all about the experience, which includes visiting coffee establishments, tasting the newest blends and ordering their own iterations of custom drinks. “Enjoying decaf coffee allows folks to still indulge in the ceremony of drinking coffee,” Abramowicz says.
The go-to decaf at Revelator Coffee is Pale Rider, a blend of washed Colombian coffees that have gone through Swiss Water Processing. “The blend is extremely versatile,” Abramowicz says. “We brew it regularly as pour overs or as espresso,” she says.
About the Swiss Water Process
While most decaf processors use chemicals such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine from coffee, many companies are avoiding the use of chemicals in food processing, including coffee decaffeination. The Swiss Water Process is a chemical-free decaffeination method that uses time, temperature and water. Their facility is based near Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and it supplies a growing global demand to 56 different countries. The process gently removes only caffeine over 10 hours and results in coffee that delivers an amazing taste experience without traditional chemical processing.
“Swiss Water tastes better than decaf processed with chemicals,” says Matt Scruggs, vice president of foodservice for Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Inc. “Old school decaf was defined by low-quality coffee and chemical processing that resulted in a bland taste,” he says. “That process made it pointless to use high-quality beans.”
Operators that use non-chemical decaffeination processes use better beans to satisfy consumer demand for premium flavor. “Today’s coffee drinkers are accustomed to high-quality coffee,” Scruggs says. “Restaurant and foodservice establishments that want their decaf to be as good as their regular coffee offerings use better beans and a chemical-free method.”
Demanding better beans
Younger consumers are more likely to try decaf because they do not have a history of enduring bad tasting decaf made from chemicals and low-quality beans. “People of older generations remember the unpleasantries of decaffeination,” says Rob Hoos, director of coffee for Portland, Ore.-based Nossa Familia Coffee, which offers Swiss Water Process decaf.
As the process for decaffeination has improved, so have roasters’ attitudes about which beans are made into decaf. “People are offering coffee with a better flavor profile and having it intentionally made into decaf, as opposed to saying, ‘This is old coffee or defective beans; let’s go ahead and make it decaf,’” Hoos says.
Not only is decaf being made from higher quality beans these days, but decaf also answers consumers’ demands for healthier, more socially responsible versions of their favorite food and beverages. “They want quality; they want health and wellness, and they want things that are good for the planet,” says Tom Matthesen, president of Roswell, Ga.-based Thrive Farmers International, Inc., which supplies sustainably sourced coffee and tea to restaurant chains and foodservice establishments nationwide. “We certainly credit the younger generation with creating the awareness and the demand, and we’re seeing that adopted by all demographics.”
Paying attention to decaf quality and transparency is a good way to attract millennials, Generation Z, and customers of all ages who love coffee. Offering decaf of the highest quality that is processed without chemicals makes coffee even more appealing. And for restaurant or foodservice leaders interested in offering the finest decaf as part of their coffee program, simply ask your roaster for Swiss Water Decaf.