A carefully considered cold drink offering is vital to any operator, and never more so than in summer. Ian Boughton explores the latest products in cold brew tea and coffee, as well as the latest innovation on the market: cold-foamed milk
We know it is possible - and profitable - to produce a cold drinks menu from standard equipment and to do so quickly in a busy, high-footfall setting. This is not just suppliers' marketing-speak - several high-street café operators are reporting the same thing.
Iced or cold coffee options are among the fastest-growing beverages in coffee shops, says Charlea Samuel, marketing manager at Jacobs Douwe Egberts: "The 'cold coffee' category grew at 38% over last year. This has been driven by an emerging demographic of quality-conscious millennial consumers, with under-30s prepared to pay well above average."
And although much beverage talk of late has been about cold-brew coffee, there is far more than that happening in cold beverages.
Frozen and foamy
The big new idea is something which sounds contradictory - cold-foamed milk. In the brewing of hot milky coffees, foam is created by steam, which both heats and expands the milk: so how can foamed milk be cold?
"This is the main innovation," says Gary McGann, marketing director at Beyond the Bean. "Caffè Nero challenged us to find something that would turn low-fat milk into a mousse, and the result has been called 'the next flat white' - a low-fat drink which can sell at £3.50 or so.
I have yet to test it on anyone who has not said: 'I'd buy that'. And it uses a piece of equipment the kitchen already has - a blender."
The solution, an 'aerating blender jar', was devised by Blendtec and Beyond the Bean. Blendtec says the jar "unfolds water-soluble proteins within the milk, which bond to each other and stabilise the air produced within bubble walls, causing the milk to foam." In practice, this means it can produce a mousse-like foam from cold skimmed milk in 18 seconds.
There are other methods of producing a cold-foamed milk, such as a whisk, but Beyond the Bean argues that the Blendtec creates the best foam texture and that the foam can retain its shape for 10 minutes or more.
The Costa Coffee chain has its own cold-foam concept, which it calls 'whipped milk', which it uses in its iced flat white. Costa says that: "Cold whipped milk is created first by adding ice and skimmed milk to the milk whipper; this is blended for 30 seconds. The cortisimmo shot [a very short espresso] is extracted direct into the glass, ice is added, whole milk is poured slowly over the ice to create a marble effect, and the drink is finished with 1cm of the milk whip."
A bit steep
Although cold milk is a relatively new trend in the speciality coffee world, the concept of cold-brewed coffee has been increasing steadily for several years. This is, literally, coffee brewed in cold water. It develops a very distinctive taste, but takes hours to brew, which is why several suppliers now offer caterers the easier option of a pre-brewed bag-in-box.
The effect is better than the older ways of making iced coffee, says Dave Law, head of innovation at Union Hand-Roasted.
"The traditional method is problematic and inefficient, in that pouring espresso over ice produces a very strong and bitter coffee and the production time depends on how quickly you can produce espressos… but cold-brew coffee is better-tasting and can now be poured directly from a bag-in-box or counter-top dispenser.
"A way to make the most out of cold-brew is to see that it opens up endless possibilities for coffee cocktails. It works wonderfully paired with ginger ale, and the negroni, Martinez and Bramble all benefit from a caffeinated twist using cold brew."
This is actually working in practice, says Scott Russell of Paddy & Scott's, the East Anglian roaster and café operator. "We are definitely noticing a move towards cold drinks in our cafés, which is the main reason we launched our own nitro cold-brew. It's great as a mixer, and we encourage our café trade customers to think of something different to do with it - to blend it with unusual flavours, such as mango or strawberry, or to serve it with condensed milk, which gives a deliciously smooth, cold shot."
Cold-brew is the healthier alternative to sugary, fizzy drinks, says roaster Lincoln & York - its Black Eye cold-brew gives a sweet chocolate taste yet with no sugar and "without all the calories".
Even the big Illy brand has now got into cold-brew, with two catering options - a bag-in-box product and a pillow pad - for those who wish to try making their own cold brew. A pad will brew 2.5 litres in four hours.
The rise of cold-brew is not down to the weather, says David Warr, managing director of Cooper's roastery and café in Jersey: "Cold-brew coffee is now a mainstay in our café and this is not due to last year's heatwave, because it has been a steady trend over three years."
At Edgcumbe of Arundel, which is both coffee roaster and café operator, managing director Alice Rendle reports selling 'tons' of cold-brew in recent hot spells. "It's a winner - it has 'speciality' connotations, which make a good selling point, and you can use all the milk options with it. Cold-brew iced tea is also a brilliant concept, and we have our own loose-leaf fruit teas that are super-simple to make - put in a jug, fill with water, strain and it's ready to go. They appeal to a wide range of people."
Just your cup of tea
She is not alone in seeing the potential of cold-brew tea. Teapigs, pioneer of the pyramid-shaped teabag, has created a cold-brew product that has been taken up by Compass Group.
"For years, we have been encouraging caterers to make jugs of iced teas by boiling tea to make a concentrate before chilling it down," says brand founder Louise Cheadle.
"This works well for some sites, but not for all, and so our new cold-brew is better because the infusions are specifically designed to brew quickly in cold water. There are three flavours - lychee and rose, cucumber and apple, and lime and ginger - and they can be made in bulk for foodservice."
Or individually, notes Compass: "For a standard 12oz serving, we would advise four to five minutes for optimum flavour - the benefit of this product is that it can be brewed longer or shorter, depending upon the customer's preference."
There is a lot of innovation happening in cold-brew, agrees Marco Olmi, managing director at Drury. "The new thing is sparkling cold-brews, which are made with CO2 instead of nitrogen and, given the tastes of British consumers, we expect to see a take-up of these because they are closer to the familiar taste of a carbonated drink."
Novus Teas is also keen on this. "Cold-brew tea is proving incredibly popular, and nitro adds a new textural dimension," says sales director Allan Pirret. "The nitro infusion introduces a creamy, viscous mouthfeel that has a similar feel to a café latte." Novus' first cold-brew tea flavours are Persian pomegranate and Egyptian mint.
A nitro or CO2 drink does require some equipment - Novus has a counter-top system that works off a 13-amp socket to use with its bag-in-box cold-brewed tea, and the Brewfitt Group has the Infuzer, a small box that can be sited under a counter.
Infusion equipment is not necessary for a sparkling tea menu, says Lee Hyde, beverage innovation manager for Monin flavoured syrups: "You can quickly make a simple sparkling elderflower green tea by using our green tea concentrate and our elderflower syrup mixed with sparkling water or soda water.
"Several flavoured drinks that were traditionally served hot are now making a name for themselves as cold beverages. Caterers who already use our popular flavours, such as vanilla and caramel, will find that these taste just as good in iced drinks as they do in hot ones - using Monin chocolate cookie or chocolate brownie syrups to create a mocha-inspired iced coffee will command a premium price."
In order to charge a good price, Gary McGann at Beyond the Bean advises caterers to look at those cafés that give iced beverages the perception of a made-to-order drink by adding a fresh fruit garnish and serving it in a nice glass, which looks more 'artisan'.
The cost is less than buying in a branded drink, and the profit is higher.
The same is happening with cold hot chocolate, says Paul Eagles, founder of Kokoa Collection. "We are seeing many more cafés doing this, mostly with a simple iced version poured over ice cubes - but it's far more exciting when blended and sold as a frozen hot chocolate."
Caffè Nero Espresso & Tonic An unusual new cold coffee drink is Caffè Nero's espresso and tonic, its new "drink of the summer". A spokesperson says: "We've teamed up with Fever-Tree. Its tonic water is first poured over ice and topped with a double shot of espresso. It can be served two ways, with either Indian tonic water or Mediterranean, with a dash of ginger."
Paddy & Scott's Chevron Shake
Coffee roaster Paddy & Scott's has created the Chevron Shake, a mocktail using its nitro cold-brew coffee, chocolate sauce, vanilla syrup and full-fat milk.
Beyond the Bean
Jacobs Douwe Egberts
Lincoln & York
Paddy & Scott's
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee
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