Coffee Today: Manifestations of the Caffeination Fascination

Amanda Waltman
June, 1997

Where in the world is the average cup of joe? It's certainly not in America. Coffee, once the humble standby of pioneers and plantation owners, has become the highly specialized, gourmet fascination of the upwardly mobile consumer. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, foodservice sales of specialty coffee beverages are expected to reach $1.5 billions by 1999. Small restaurants, convenience stores, and even service stations have been forced to add coffee and espresso bars to maintain new clientele. Starbucks Coffee Corporation opened a new store every business day of 1996; Starbucks and Breyer's Grand Ice Cream's coffee ice cream line includes Italian roast coffee, dark roast espresso swirl, Javachip, caffe almond fudge, and vanilla mocha swirl. The West Coast has become infatuated with drive-through espresso stands, and the San Francisco Airport Hilton has installed a self-service, super-automatic espresso machine in its lobby.

America's obsession with specialty coffees and espresso has led franchisers of every variey to cash in on the trend. Dunkin' Donuts has decided to makeover its donut shop image into that of a contemporary coffee house. Shedding its 46-year-old slogan of 'America's Donut Shop' in favor of 'America's Best Coffee and Baked Goods Retailer,' the chain released Coffee Coolatta, a frozen coffee drink, as well as raspberry coffee. Dual branding has become a hot ticket- bagels, like specialty coffees, appeal to an educated, discretionary customer. New World Coffee has sensed the coffee-bagel synergy and transformed into New World Coffee & Bagels. Tuscany, Inc. operates 28 specialy coffee and bagel cafes and bars, and Dunkin' Donuts has joined forces with Blimpie's in about 20 stores.

Coffee, in an ever-expanding medley of forms, has taken America by storm. But how did such an explosive trend take root in our culture? And why have Americans fostered this love affair with such an ancient beverage? Perhaps the most provoking question is this: what does America's recent attitude towards coffee suggest about Americans' attitudes? Who is this new coffee drinker? Please sit back, relax, and sip the gourmet caffeinated beverage of your choice as we attempt to click our way through some answers.

Coffee's Near and Distant Past

Coffee Today in America

Who Is Today's Coffee Drinker?

How Did Coffee Get So Hot, Anyway?