For many people, coffee is much more than a drink. It’s what gives them that extra boost to get through the day. We spoke to coffee consultants and industry experts for the top coffee trends to look out for this year.
Canned or bottled cold brew sealed for whenever you are ready to sip will be the biggest trend, believes Abhinav Mathur, CEO of Something’s Brewing & Kaapi Machines. According to Mordor Intelligence, a market research and advisory firm, India’s RTD coffee market is projected to witness a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 3.3% during the forecast period 2022-27. “One reason for the ever-rising popularity of RTD cold brew is the easy availability at convenience stores, supermarket shelves as well as e-commerce platforms. The explosion of flavours, from vanilla, hazelnut to caramel, is adding fuel to the demand. In RTD coffee, health-conscious Indians are also seeing a better alternative to sugary carbonated beverages as well as a convenient energy boost,” says Mathur. A cold brew involves steeping in cold water for 12-24 hours to make a coffee concentrate which is then diluted, bringing down the pH level and lowering the acidity of the brew.
Rise of the home barista
The pandemic changed habits, with 85% of coffee drinkers now enjoying one-two cups at home on average, says Mathur. “With the increase in speciality cafés, people are now accustomed to great café-style coffee and they want the same at home too. We are seeing a surge in home brewing, from simple brew bags to French press and moka pots.... Additionally, home brewing gives more control over the brewing process,” says Mathur.
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One reason people love coffee is because of the stimulant caffeine. However, even hard-core coffee lovers sometimes want to drink it for the flavour, without the side effects of caffeine such as headache, insomnia, irritability, frequent urination and faster heartbeat. Enter “low caffeine coffee”, or “locaf”. “This variant of coffee delivers ‘sustained energy’ without being overly caffeinated,” says Arman Sood, co-founder, Sleepy Owl. If you are conscious of the caffeine content, go for a 100% arabica blend; it has roughly half the amount of caffeine robusta beans do.
The use of non-dairy milk is expected to increase. “Adopting plant-based milk goes hand-in-hand with the vegan trend. Increased awareness about lactose intolerance is now adding to this,” says Sood. While plant-based milks may not match the protein or calcium content of dairy milk, they are lactose-free, low-calorie, rich in vitamins, and have lower saturated fat and cholesterol levels. Soy, almond and oat milk rule the market but do watch out for potato milk, which is gaining momentum as an alternative.
Coffee meets wellness
“As people get more focused on their health and wellness, we are going to see more and more infusions in coffee, such as coffee with protein powder, cold coffee with CBD (cannabidiol), mushroom coffee, coffee with ashwagandha, etc. This trend is already gaining some momentum abroad, but my predictions are that we may see speciality roasters getting on board with special coffee mixes or pre-made RTD coffee with these ingredients,” says Bengaluru-based coffee consultant Geetu Mohnani. In India, Rage Coffee has had coffees with plant-derived vitamins since 2021. Another brand, Itshemp, has been retailing CBD-infused whole coffee beans on its digital marketplace, whereas Rooted Active Naturals has arabica instant coffee infused with chaga mushrooms.
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Industry insiders believe there will be greater transparency about the origin of beans. “Even when we host coffee markets and events, we see people shying away from purchasing coffees that are not sustainable, organic or use additives in their coffee,” says Mohnani; this is evident in the metros but it will soon reach tier I and II cities. The Coffee Board is planning a sustainability code, to be implemented in six to 12 months, which will help growers share the sustainability story. Mohnani suggests reading labels to check the estate the coffee comes from, the packaging (brands that mix paper and plastic are a big no-no), and looking out for brands that have committed to sustainable actions, such as procuring coffee from organic farms and paying fairly.
Rise in coffee subscriptions
Subscription services,which allow people to try different coffees side by side, are set to grow. Moreover, ordering direct from the roastery is the best way to get high levels of freshness. Blue Tokai, The Flying Squirrel, Black Baza Coffee, Seven Beans Coffee Company, Bean Deck and others now deliver your choice of coffee at the doorstep, ready for the French press, moka pot, aeropress, etc.
Rise of robusta
Historically, arabica has been the favoured bean. This is changing as climate change continues to threaten production and drive up prices. Robusta plants, says Mohnani, are more tolerant of disease and drought and a lot easier to grow. They are also around half the price of arabica. Since robusta is native to India, she adds, many farmers are now concentrating more on this variant, and getting a better price for it. Currently, a few speciality roasters have at the most one-two robusta options. “But with the rising popularity of robusta, we are expecting at least 70% of all roasteries to stock at least one robusta,” says Mohnani.
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Industry experts believe coffee farms will become increasingly popular holiday destinations for millennials. Many coffee-producing countries, such as Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica, are beginning to introduce coffee exploration holidays. Similarly, there are plenty of coffee plantations in India where visitors can be a part of berry picking, watch the roasting process, and indulge in tastings.
Nivedita Jayaram Pawar is a Mumbai-based food writer.