Cold brew coffee is a billion dollar industry in the USA and it’s still rapidly growing as a beverage both in cafe’s and in stores. In NZ, it is not. Yet.
The roots of cold brew are an extension of third wave coffee. Where the third wave saw variety in brewing methods appear and attention given to growing methods and practices.
The result of this saw coffee moving from just drip and espresso to a whole realm of tasting notes and single origins, developed from the growing conditions and highlighted by the brewing method.
A brewing method is defined by what extraction variables are limited, and one such variable is the temperature of the water. Hence, cold brew coffee is part of the third wave.
If all of these brewing methods were horses, cold brew is the one that didn’t just take off, it left the track and went to another course.
Because what brewing coffee in cold water accidentally allowed was an increase in shelf life. Suddenly brewed coffee can leave the confines of a cafe and leap into the realm of grocery.
To travel it must be packaged which means a brand can be built, shared and loved. And with that brand comes an industry.
Iced coffee is typically milk and sugar with a touch of coffee (0.2% in Mammoth original for example*), cold brew is not this. It is the new wave. It’s about the coffee – cold and black with no sugar, nothing artificial, and no energy (calories).
It’s a complex and sophisticated beverage, definitely not for children.
All the cafes in New Zealand serving espresso coffee, flat whites included, only makes up 20% of the coffee consumed in NZ. 80% of the coffee consumed in NZ is instant. This must make cold brew coffee consumption in NZ around 0.2% (I wonder if that’s how Mammoth got their number?). It feels that way with Harpoon Cold Brew. We are pushing against the grain, to the few. That’s not to say we are not happy doing this – it’s the few that matter most to us.
So cold brew is tiny, and it doesn’t appeal to all. But I want to share why I believe the category is going to grow much like it’s experienced in the States.
We have compared cold brew coffee to hot coffee and iced coffee. It’s important to zoom out and look at all of our bottled non-alcoholic beverage options, because these are actually the other horses in the racecourse:
- Colas, soft drinks, sodas including hopt**.
- Water, sparkling and still
- Energy drinks
- Milky drinks such as iced coffee / chocolate
- Juices from fruits or vegetables
- Iced teas
- Mineral / lightly flavoured water
- Coconut waters / milks -flavoured or not
- Increasingly, kombucha
All of these have either or all of the following: sweetness, sugar, something artificial, energy (calories). This isn’t to say they are bad – vegetable juice, kombucha, mineral water and coconut drinks are good for you. But it’s still a different beverage to what is cold brew coffee:
- No sugar
- Nothing artificial
- Complex in flavour
For a cold brew producer I’d say these three pillars are the strongest points of difference for cold brew.
It’s the rarity of the three combined that make cold brew special as a beverage.
Iced tea could almost compare – but check the ingredients list. The other thing that could be seen as good or bad is the caffeine. I left it out of the pillars because it might not always be desirable.
In this post I’ve compared cold brew not with hot brewed coffee but instead with other beverages. I believe the fact we can do this further highlights what’s special about cold brew coffee. In the category, our American friends have taken notice. In NZ, the wave is on the horizon. Who’s got their board ready?
*Mammoth Original has 0.2% coffee solids, but to be fair optimally extracted espresso has ~1.25% coffee solids.
**Hopt soda is owned by Lion and I believe it’s an innovative beverage: sophisticated and complex yet non alcoholic. Full of sugar, but think about what non-alcoholic options you have in a bar – generally it’s something sweet and silly. Clever bars are doing a great job developing sophisticated non-alcoholic beverages, Bedford Soda and Liquor comes to mind first. Cold brew could be part of that repertoire.
More reading on the rise of cold brew: