Coffee break: Swiss Barista Champion highlights coffee culture, gourmet trends & future opportunities

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27 Aug 2018 --- The coffee sector is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance, with several major acquisitions taking place last year among key manufacturers, including Nestlé and Unilever. The focus seems to be on upscaling premium coffees, exploiting the growing market for cold-brewed coffee and the sector has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. Youth interest is vital as it demonstrates the potential for coffee among this audience. The percentage of Americans drinking coffee on a daily basis increased to 62 percent in 2017, up from 57 percent in 2016, according to the According to the National Coffee Association’s (NCA) 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) consumption tracking report. Among the drivers behind the increase was soaring consumer enthusiasm for gourmet coffee varieties across most demographics. 

Central Europe has a mature culture that is becoming more artisan, according to UCC Europe’s Andre Eiermann, winner of the 2017 Swiss Barista Championship and a board member of the Swiss Specialty Coffee Association. 

“However, it’s still largely dominated by second wave franchise operators, with the trend being to broaden their coffee offering using dark roast and syrups like vanilla, caramel or seasonal flavors such as around the Christmas period; and a broad variety of milk-based coffees such as cappuccino, flat white or latte macchiato,” he tells FoodIngredientsFirst

“Scandinavia started the specialty light roast and they have the strongest filter coffee culture in Europe. Athens and Istanbul have small but developing coffee scenes and both held their first coffee festivals recently.”  

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UCC Europe’s Andre Eiermann, winner of 2017
Swiss Barista Championship
 and a board member of the Swiss Specialty Coffee Association

“It’s certainly interesting to see the scaling up of small cafes in Eastern Europe. For instance, there are a rapidly growing number of international roasteries and specialty coffee shops with international renown in Bucharest, Romania, which are not only competing in competitions but are winning them,” he reveals. 

The concept of specialty coffee is not easy to understand and for most people, the concept of "Gourmet Coffee" seems to be clearer and more appealing, according to Eiermann. 

Specialty coffee is usually lightly roasted, naturally very sweet and fruity, sometimes with floral notes. “This is different to what people expect,” claims Eiermann. “For specialty coffee to become mainstream, the customer needs to be taken on the journey away from what they’re used to into something new.” 

“There is potential for specialty coffee to become mainstream because the technical challenge to balance all the elements can produce truly unique coffees. The beans, the farming, the small batch production, the roasting and final preparation combine for a coffee with a ‘hand-made’ character,” he notes.  

This could be why large companies, and especially large retailers, are having difficulties entering this market, according to Eiermann. “They do not have the knowledge to talk and communicate about all the aspects of artisanal product features; and in my opinion, the big producers and the big retailers do not have enough credibility to adopt specialty coffee on a large scale,” he says. 

Eiermann also highlights the interest in Panama coffee. “A recent auction sold this at more than US$800 a pound,” he states. “Geisha variety is extremely popular as a super high-end specialty coffee. A Geisha variety of Costa Rican coffee was recently sold for US$301 per pound. The Asian market is particularly ready to pay any price for the status this coffee brings and they have the customers who will buy it.”

However, the coffee business is one of waste and Eiermann is excited to see the development of products from Cascara: “Cascara is a side product of coffee. Using the flesh and skin around the beans that is usually wasted, people are now creating teas. Cascara can be brewed as a fruit infusion which can be very sweet and floral – drunk either hot or on ice. It was originally consumed in Yemen and Ethiopia but quickly gained in popularity in the US, as the product is easily transported from Central and South America and is now gaining popularity in Europe. I believe it will be a refreshing summer beverage for the future that can be nitro infused – in the same way as Nitro Cold Brew coffee, which has been very popular this year.”

There are around 100 different coffee species, but Arabica and Robusta are the two most important for their taste and yield, says Eiermann. “Climate change is having a real impact on coffee plants, to the extent that by 2050, half of Arabica coffee growing areas will be not suitable growing coffee anymore due to increasing temperatures,” he continues. “Arabica is also very fragile and is under attack from diseases like coffee leaf rust – a growing issue.” 

“Hybrid coffees are a potential solution to protect future supply, as they cross Arabica and Robusta to maintain the taste, but make the bean more resilient. Safeguarding coffee for the future is an important issue that I believe needs more focus. Some people are against using hybrid beans, but a hybrid won a recent high profile coffee taste test at the 2017 Cup of Excellence Honduras,” Eiermann explains. 

“While a relaxing coffee break is an ultimate experience for many of today’s consumers, we live in a world where that is not always possible. It is ultimately the choice of the customer. We should also keep in mind, that coffee has three functions: a caffeine kick, enjoyment and a treat to yourself,” he concludes.

By Elizabeth Green

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