Coffee and Tea Trends to Consider for 2021

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friends drinking coffee at a cafe

Coffee and tea are such staples in diets all around the world that the two beverages are de rigueur for most restaurants, even if they only account for a miniscule portion of sales. Consumers may be most likely to drink coffee and tea during breakfast, but the pair are sought across all dayparts and snacking occasions.

The cost and supply of coffee beans and tea leaves depend largely on where they are sourced and how they are harvested/processed. Full-service restaurants that consider coffee and tea to be loss leaders should dive deeper into the vast array of applications and opportunities for menu innovation. Coffee and tea flavors and infusions have worked their way into everything from pastries and desserts to savory entrées to spirits and cocktails.

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friends drinking coffee at a cafe
The Cup Runneth Over

Americans may loudly proclaim their love for java, but that doesn’t mean they neglect tea—far from it. Two of the more basic iterations—brewed coffee and iced tea—are neck and neck with 45 percent of consumers choosing the former and 42 percent picking the latter. (Source: Datassential)

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tea leaves
Spill the Tea

Although tea leaves are harvested from around the world, they all originate from Camellia sinensis, a species of evergreen shrubs or small trees. The cost of a tea, as well as whether it is a black, green, oolong, ceylon, or other variety, depends on the cut, origin, and processing. (Source: Unilever)

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roasting coffee beans
Water Weight

Not only is coffee a labor-intensive crop, it’s also tricky to pin down in terms of cost. The process of roasting coffee leaches water from its raw, green bean state and results in product shrinkage. So if a wholesaler or distributor purchases 100,000 pounds of beans, they might only end up with 86,000 pounds after roasting. With large orders, this gap can significantly drive up costs. (Source: Buyers Edge)

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Mint Condition

From rosemary to lavender to gingerbread, coffee drinks have embraced a number of unconventional flavor pairings. So what was the 2020 darling flavor? None other than peppermint, which experienced the most rapid growth in the specialty coffee category. For many consumers, the herb imbues java with a pungent, refreshing taste. (Source: Smucker’s)

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coffee machine
Origin Stories

How menus describe their contents can have a profound effect on sales. To wit, the term “single origin” has increased a whopping 115 percent in menu mentions over the last four years. coff(Source: MenuTrends, Datassential)

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late night coffee
Coffee Around the Clock

Sure, breakfast remains the most popular time to down a cup of joe, but consumers will keep drinking coffee all day with such occasions winding down as the day progresses.

76% of consumers drink coffee beverages in the morning

58% of consumers drink coffee beverages in the afternoon

42% of consumers drink coffee beverages in the evening

29% of consumers drink coffee beverages late at night


(Source: Smucker’s)

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Alison Narro
Waiting for Coffee
Waiting for Coffee

Better Half Coffee & Cocktails

Whiskey will always be a go-to pairing for coffee concoctions, but experimenting with a variety of spirits—even those that seem counterintuitive—can yield tasty results. In Austin, Texas, Better Half has a few java-centric cocktails on the menu, including Waiting for Coffee. The drink smoothly combines cold brew with El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum from Guyana, dry curacao, and Velvet Falernum (a low-proof ginger syrup).

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Red Diamond Coffee & Tea
Iced Cola Latte
Iced Cola Latte

Gracie’s Luncheonette

Who says caffeine couldn’t use more caffeine—plus a little effervescence? Chef Andrew Spielberg of Gracie’s Luncheonette in New York created an Iced Cola Latte using made-in-house coffee concentrate, oat milk, and cola. The decadent yet dairy-free drink is then topped with coconut whipped cream, cinnamon, and orange zest. The latte may harken to old-school ice cream floats, but the flavor profile is decidedly grown-up and nuanced.

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Matcha Iced Tea
Matcha Iced Tea

As more consumers clamor for craft varieties and global ingredients, restaurants have upped the ante on iced tea. Until relatively recently, matcha—a finely ground powder form of green tea—was mostly restricted to traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. But over the past decade, matcha has become a menu all-star; it can be found in cakes and other baked goods, as well as ice cream, lattes, and iced tea.