Specialty Coffee Success in the United States

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter

Specialty Coffee Success in the United States: This is due to the rise in popularity of so-called “gourmet coffee beverages,” which include specialty coffees and espresso-based beverages, as well as iced or frozen beverages.

The change in American coffee culture

Polling performed by Gallup in 2016, on behalf of the National Coffee Association, reveals how much the “quality shift” that has taken place in the United States over the last three decades has affected coffee consumption in the country (National Coffee Association, 2016). The poll’s 67-year history revealed that drip coffee, the traditional American “cup of Joe,” accounted for less than half of all coffee consumed by respondents during the previous day, whether consumed at home or away from home.

In part, this is due to the rise in popularity of so-called “gourmet coffee beverages,” which include specialty coffees and espresso-based beverages, as well as iced or frozen beverages. The introduction of new gourmet beverages to the market in the last year, such as flat white, cold brew, and nitrogen-infused dare, is indicative of the importance of the so-called “third wave.”

However, the espresso-based beverages most closely associated with the “second wave” coffee shops format, such as cappuccino and mocha, and Coffee latte, continue to be the primary drivers of this transformation. Since 2008, the daily consumption of espresso-based beverages has increased by roughly fourfold.

The so-called “Older Millennials,” who are between the ages of 25 and 39, are the ones driving this shift, with past-day consumption of gourmet beverages increasing from 19 percent to 41 percent between 2008 and 2016, compared to 13 percent to 36 percent among 18 – 24-year-olds during the same time period. Those are, of course, the generations that were previously thought to be quitting coffee due to the danger of soft drinks.

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Thus, how can we explain such a significant shift? There isn’t enough space here to discuss the rise of the specialty coffee movement in the United States, much alone internationally, but it’s worth noting that it began as a rebellion against corporate behemoths.

They were especially concerned with selling whole beans for domestic use, dark roasting their offerings to contrast with the insipidity of mass-market mixes, and curating a diverse and unique assortment of goods to contrast with the supermarket’s limited standard selection. Rather than that, they targeted luxury products and gourmet deli restaurants, where clients sought distinctive and creative things to demonstrate their taste. Alfred Peet dubbed the “godfather of specialty coffee,” developed his company by catering to UC Berkeley students.

In a 1996 article, anthropologist William Roseberry conducted one of the first rigorous analyses of coffee’s quality fluctuations (Roseberry, 2002). It all began with a sketch of Zabar’s coffee array, one of Manhattan’s earliest specialty roasters and merchants who also operated a gourmet food emporium.

Roseberry discovered beans labeled “Kona style, Colombian Supremo, Gourmet Decaf, BlueMountain style, Mocha style, French, Italian, Vienna, Decaf Espresso, Water Process Decaf, Kenya AA” here, but 43 coffee products across the street in a New York deli, including “Jamaican Blue Mountain, German Chocolate, Swedish Delight, and SwissMocha Almond.”

This, he believed, demonstrated a new market segmentation approach targeted at the two demographics for whom mass-market coffee items were least appealing: “yuppies” and college students.

The geographical and/or bean descriptors on the products were chosen to appeal to “urban, urbane, professional men and women who consumed or hoped to consume variety and quality in addition to quantity” as a means of defining their individual and peer group identities through taste practices that distinguished them from the general population.

Meanwhile, flavored coffees and the addition of syrups to over-the-counter sample beverages were used to regain the adolescent market, which was believed to have been lost to the appeal of sugary soft drinks.

Roseberry said that we should “now see coffee as the beverage of postmodernism” as a result of “new coffees, expanded alternatives, more variety, decreased concentration, and new capitalism” (Roseberry, 2002).

Yet, he claimed, the social connotations associated with coffee usage throughout the bean’s early history were also heavily influenced by this postmodern coffee world.

The specialty selection at Zabar and others looked to harken back to the preindustrial age of coffee as an exotic luxury commodity by reintroducing the concept of variety within the coffee market, emphasizing the diversity of geographical origins, bean grades, and, most intriguingly, taste preferences (French, Italian, German, Swedish, Swiss, and Viennese).

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Within the shops, displays of historic coffee mills, roasters, and brewing apparatus aided in this identification. Specialization was pushed by alluding to a “more authentic past before the consolidation and massification of crafts” (Roseberry, 2002).

This mobilization of coffee’s history as a method of establishing symbolic meanings around which new consumption patterns might be constructed was also critical to the specialty movement’s subsequent phase, the growth of so-called “second wave” espresso shops. In 1989, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) claimed that there were 585 specialty coffee shops in the United States; by 1994, that figure had risen to 3600. In 2000, there were 12,600 locations, 21,400 in 2005, and 29,308 in 2013. (2016). (SCAA, 2016).

The rise of “second wave” espresso shops

Gourmet stores started serving drinks in-store in the 1980s as part of a simple marketing strategy aimed at enabling consumers to experience the quality of the product in the hopes of increasing sales for home usage.

“The availability of espresso drinks and the attractive design of an espresso machine provides the company with an “upscale” quality image,” the SCAA instructed operators in its college coffee house program in the mid-1980s. Sales of other specialty coffees may rise as a consequence” (Foodservice Director’s College Coffee House Manual, 1986, p. 41).

By integrating two coffee cultures: the 20th-century Italian espresso bar and the 18th-century European coffee house, the coffee shop model was able to answer the demand for authenticity by developing a product that could be located inside the “Experience Economy” (Pine and Gilmore, 1999, 2007).

The use of espresso-based beverages in the Italian tradition offered “authenticity.” The fact that the coffee shop sold drinks that could only be produced outside the house, exactly as in Italy, contributed significantly to its appeal. In Italy, where most coffees were served black, the distinction was between crema-topped espresso at the bar and basic black liquid drank at home.

The steamed and foamed milk toppings, whose preparation provided an additional theatrical experience that reinforced their value as “hand-crafted, artisanal beverages” individually made to order by the barista on the machine in front 476, were the most striking visual clue to the beverages’ distinction from the traditional cup of Joe in America. As a result, the most significant difference between cappuccinos served in coffee shops and cups of Joe available in cafés and delis seemed to justify the higher pricing.


The range of beverages provided, as well as the ability to customize them, contributed to the coffee shop’s popularity. One drink, in particular, stands out for its versatility: the coffee latte. In Italy, the term “coffee latte” was invented to describe a drink prepared with home-brewed coffee (usually in a stovetop Moka pot) and milk warmed in a pan.

A latte macchiato is a glass of milk with an espresso shot poured into it that is sometimes served in a bar. Due to the striking color shift that happens when the coffee is added, it seems to have been especially enticing to German holidaymakers.

However, in America, the coffee latte was basically created as an espresso version of the cafe au lait, using textured, steamed milk topped with a flat thin layer of froth rather than the micro foamed and domed cappuccino.

The coffee latte was also a great vehicle for adding different syrups to sweeten the beverage even more, and it could be customized to utilize a variety of milk (skim, full, half and half, as well as soy, almond, etc.). Coffee lattes accounted for 75% of sales from Seattle’s espresso carts, which had cropped up in the early 1990s (Morris, 2013b, p. 272).

By 1994, specialized coffee shops reported that gourmet espresso beverages were outselling drip coffee. The typical gourmet coffee drinker, according to a Gallup study done for the SCAA, is a college educated18e34-year-old with a household income of more than $50,000 Gallup (Gallup, 1994).

In addition to the coffee, they were consuming the coffee shop itself, its brand image, and the lifestyle it represented. SCAA-sponsored student coffeehouses, as well as early coffee shop chains like Starbucks that emerged in the 1990s, made it apparent in their marketing materials that they considered themselves as inheritors of the ideas promoted by European coffeehouses of previous decades.

This supported them in their attempts to build new meanings around coffee consumption by suggesting that, as in the past, it could be used to encourage progressive forms of social integration (Fig. 19.5).

This was particularly relevant at a time when the American middle class was seen to be separating themselves from the outside world and “cocooning” themselves inside their homes, going out only to participate in lonely pastimes such as “bowling alone” (Simon, 2009, pp. 104e106).

“Third spaces” in the late-twentieth-century contribute specialty Coffee Success in the United States

According to sociologist Ray Oldenburg, the decline of “wonderful lovely places” such as “cafes, coffee shops, booksellers, bars, hair salons, and other hangouts in the heart of the community” is a major cause of the issue (Oldenburg, 1989). In contrast to the home and the workplace, these informal public gathering spaces, or “third places,” enabled strangers to engage with one another, cultivating a sense of inclusiveness that transcended economic, racial, and gender divisions, as he put it.

Coffeehouses, particularly the 18th-century London coffeehouses, were noted by Oldenburg as an example of such an institution. He stressed the democratic nature of these institutions, both in terms of their accessibility to individuals willing to pay a dish of coffee to attend the “penny university” and the encouraging of discourse and engagement via strategies such as seating newcomers at large communal tables.

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Oldenburg considered both the French cafe’ and the Viennese coffee house as historical models of community organizations in his appeal to inspire the establishment of a new set of “third spaces” in late-twentieth-century America. Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ eminence grise, utilized the notion of the “third place” often in establishing his early vision of the company and continues to do so now.

In his first book, he explained how a visit to Starbucks provides an oasis from the stresses of home and work life, as well as a chance for informal social contact in the company of other people. Customers were also linked to items with distant origins, creating a romantic aura (similar to the exoticism surrounding coffee in the 18th century).

Because Starbucks reinterprets espresso for the Anglo-American market, he maintained that the ambiance and entrance price were such that a democratic cup of coffee was an attainable luxury and that one would see police officers and utility workers standing in line with affluent physicians. Photograph by J. Morris. 478 Coffee is an art as well as a science. “A blue-collar worker may not be able to afford the Mercedes the surgeon just arrived in, but he can have the same $2.00 coffee,” the surgeon explains (Schultz and Yang, 1997, p. 119).


This attitude of inclusiveness is not an afterthought; it is ingrained in the way shops function. The line to place one’s order is the first thing one notices when entering a coffee establishment. This is the modern-day equivalent of a Middle Eastern coffee shop where visitors are served in order of arrival rather of rank.

The fact that the surgeon is required to support the utility worker is crucial to the coffee shop’s success. Arriving at the counter, smiling greets to clients, writing names on cups, and casual conversation while the drink is being made all contribute to the casual image: staff is educated to deliver this script as part of the service.

When clients leave the counter, they are greeted by an atmosphere that signals that their transaction is not yet complete, but rather extends to the consumption experience. This is conveyed not just by the comfy seats provided, such as the sofas, but also by the absence of pressure to abandon it. It’s clear to see how the second-wave coffee house strove to establish itself as a center for community interactions by providing amenities like newspapers (reminiscent of Vienna), clean and well-equipped toilets, and child-friendly rules (not least the lack of alcohol).

Specialty Coffee Success in the United States

The irony is that only a small percentage of coffee shop patrons enjoy the experience in this way. “Starbucks is so sociable,” said one marketing firm that conducted a consumer focus group for the company in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. We go to Starbucks because we want to be sociable,” yet when the company studied the locations, it discovered that only around 10% of consumers ever spoke to anyone (Schultz and Yang, 1997, p. 121).

According to research performed in Starbucks in the mid-2000s, customers sitting alone filled 65 percent of all tables. Indeed, the corporation set out its stores to accommodate these clients, employing circular tables rather than square tables since they are less formal, have no “empty” seats, and seem less secluded from the rest of the public, even if they inhibit strangers from sitting together and conversing (Simon, 2009, pp.105e108).


Rather of fleeing the workplace, many consumers bring it with them in the form of laptops, mobile phones, and other gadgets, whose use of the digital revolution has resulted in the decentralization of labor in recent decades. It’s easy to dismiss the coffee shop as only providing a safe emulation of old-style coffee shops, where people can watch rather than engage in communal life.

The $2 cappuccino may have looked to be an inexpensive luxury, but the premium over standard restaurant coffee made it seem more like Marx’s “bourgeois universalism,” which is an ostensibly democratic experience with an exclusive cover price that limited it to the middle classes.

Similarly, the claimed authenticity of the beverages bears little scrutiny once they have been transformed into more consumer-friendly forms. Tastes, Rituals, and Waves Chapter j 19 479 the American customer uses not just syrups but also size to sweeten the proposals, to the point that a Starbucks “long” cappuccino, the smallest usually offered, costs twice as much as a basic Italian version.

Such criticisms, however, overlook the fact that the second-wave chains were successful in changing Americans’ coffee drinking habits by restructuring a consumption experience using a variety of cultural reference points. They did so not by increasing overall coffee consumption per capita, but by persuading them that drinking gourmet coffee justified paying a premium price.

And, as the conversion of non-specialist operators such as Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s to offering cappuccino and latte in the mid-2000s proved, that view has progressively percolated democratically across society (Baker, 2013, p. 317). Italian-style coffee drinks have now been ingrained in the American coffee culture.

More: The Construction Of Taste Communities In Europe

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