Throughout modern history there have been rises and falls in coffee consumption, and they’re almost always tied to cultural shifts. Coffee pots on the family dining table were common place in 1962 when around 75 percent of American adults drank coffee daily, but this number dipped to just 50 percent nearly three decades later.
Caffeine stayed in American households throughout the decades, often changing in form each generation. For instance, in the 80’s soda became the invention that caused a seismic generational shift in coffee consumption. As the younger generation grew up and found a need for caffeine, they opted for the newer sodas and discarded the need for family coffee pots.
This ignited a cultural shift within itself. With the morning cup of Joe thrown out, Americans lost some of the tradition of family morning gatherings, favoring an individualized start to the day. If the coffee pot was a symbol for family connectedness, instant breakfast and to go cups became the symbol for individuality and efficiency.
Where are we today?
Recent years have seen the explosion of single serving beverages. Keurig’s K-cups and coffee pods amassed the market quickly, with everyone from young college students to adults well into the business of their careers buying into the fast paced pod trend.
For those who didn’t choose to make their coffee at home, a need for quick and on the go coffee distributors arose. Mom and Pop Coffee shops began to disappear under the weight of chains like Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee who capitalized on serving individualized coffee that can be quickly bought on the way to work. Shop units for chain coffee stores rose by 5.9% in the 2016 census period, while smaller and independent coffee providers units shrunk.
But, while it seems like the need for efficiency in caffeine has outweighed the need for sociality, a growing trend for gourmet coffee has signaled the opposite.
A New Desire in Coffee
As explored in an earlier blog post, more than half of all the coffee consumed in 2017 was gourmet, a full 13% increase from five years prior. This is a gigantic shift of interest toward a culture geared towards experience in the world of caffeine, rather than just results.
Gourmet coffee consumption points to an attitude which favors the flavor and process of brew over the cost and efficiency of standard instant coffee, coffee pods, and non-gourmet chain coffee shops.
Almost all age ranges saw an increase in gourmet coffee consumption and the number of gourmet coffee shops now stands at 33,129 after a two percent increase from the year prior.
With these trends projected to continue in the coming years, it's likely signaling that the popular vote has shifted in revolt of coffee for the purpose of caffeine, and in favor of coffee as a culturally significant experience.