Anyone working in the catering industry, and especially in hot beverages and coffee shops, knows that there’s endless innovation and creativity in coffee at the moment. Drinks like macchiato, considered so very exotic just a decade ago, are absolute staples in any coffee house and well within the capabilities of even simple commercial coffee machines and elementary barista training.
Customer expectations have grown, and so has the sense of adventure around coffee. Competition is rife, so while there’s nothing wrong with doing the core coffee menu, you need to do it right. And if you want to grind out your own niche locally, you might want a little inspiration…
What’s hot, is cold
Nitro coffee – sometimes given the title nitro cold brew coffee - is the newest and coolest drink in the country. Just when iced coffee stopped raising eyebrows, somebody raised the bar. Nitro is brewed cold, unlike regular coffee. While it’s available in cans, we think it’s best poured like a draft beer – from a keg of cold-brew coffee, infused with nitrogen, and released through a pressurised valve. The pressure and the nitrogen create this creamy texture to the coffee. It looks like someone’s just poured you a Guinness. And it’s not just refreshing – the effect of the nitrogen is to make the coffee taste less acidic, less bitter – and somehow sweeter. So, there’s no need to add milk or sugar.
Nitro makes a lot of sense: cool (in both senses) and right on trend.
But what else is new?
We’ve discovered some unusual and downright unlikely efforts by companies to differentiate themselves in the commercial coffee market.
Espresso tonic. Still cold, but an odd combination of espresso introduced to tonic water. Probably still confined to major cities; we’re not sure this will catch on, but why not whip some up and try it yourself?
Coffee cocktails. Making your coffee Irish just isn’t enough. If you have an alcohol licence for your premises, perhaps it’s time to start conjuring up coffee cocktails like espresso martinis, the Bronx Bomber, a hot-shot espresso, or the Haute & Steamy…
Edible cups. We’re all in favour of recyclable takeaway coffee cups – but we weren’t expecting these. First off – and far and away the best of the bunch – is the HuskeeCup. It’s a reusable cup made from coffee husk, made by a company in Australia. Not only is it a completely sustainable resource because it uses a coffee by-product, it’s claimed that it keeps your coffee warm for longer. Less practical, yet making a bit of a hit on Instagram, is coffee served using avocado skins as drinking vessels. Dropping in the usability stakes considerably, but once again from Australia, one coffee shop experimented with using a cored-out carrot to serve up an espresso. It wasn’t an overwhelming success, as you can probably imagine.
Drink or food? Why not both? A Finnish company called Four Sigmatic has created a mushroom coffee. And staying with the food theme, why not pour some espresso or Americano on your mashed potatoes? It’s been served in Michelin-starred restaurants. Just don’t add milk.
And it doesn’t end there. Rather cleverly, the waste coffee cherry has been turned into coffee flour. It’s already being used in some Starbucks muffins and brownies, and might become a more widely used ingredient. In Japan, coffee butter is about to land on supermarket shelves, while back in England, Selfridges have begun selling what it says is the world’s first coffee spread.
Niche or not, the versatility of coffee never ceases to amaze us! And if you’ve been experimenting with unusual coffee concoctions, please do let us know!