Coffee lovers all have a common denominator – they’re in search of the perfect brew. A different description of perfection arises with every individual, and that difference matches the diversity in the coffee itself. One glance at a grocery store coffee aisle reveals coffee drinkers have an abundance of choices. Light to dark roasts, mild to robust flavors, fine to coarse grinds, pressed, processed and brewing methods all heighten or dampen the taste of that perfect cup of coffee. So, let’s visit some coffee shops and find out what’s popular.
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Although the pandemic hurt the coffee industry, Crystal Frisella, a Starbucks barista in Sarasota, Florida, said their Pike’s Place brew had remained firm from her perspective. “Pike’s is a medium roast, and we keep it brewing year-round. There are other roasts that we rotate, like our blondes and darks; Veranda and Sumatran or Verona.” She added, “Guatemalan is also a popular medium roast.”
Frisella confirmed the NCA report that darker roasted coffees have less caffeine, which is not what most people think. “Even though the light roasts are higher in caffeine and the darks lower, the number of beans used levels it out about the same.” She added that during the holidays, the Thanksgiving and Christmas blends surged in popularity, outperforming regular favorites. Frisella concluded that only a couple of months during the holiday blends’ limited availability during the year increased their popularity.
John, a cashier at Dunkin in Okeechobee, Florida, said their current No. 1 seller was the new Charli Cold Brew with its sweet molasses and hot chocolate flavor. “Overall, the original coffee is the most popular. Midnight is our new dark roast, and it’s pretty popular too,” he said. He added that holiday blends like Polar Peppermint and Pumpkin Spice spike sales during the season.
Curtis Tyson, the Serenity Coffee shop owner in Okeechobee, Florida, said, “Most people think of fresh coffee as fresh made.” Tyson’s brown eyes sparkled as a mischievous grin engulfed his face. “Fresh is fresh roasted. So, on a bad day, our beans are 10 days from roasting.” He explained that a fresh roast and fresh grinding has a huge bearing on coffee flavor. “We grind as coffee is purchased, by the cup or the pound.”
Tyson said that Serenity’s house blend is their No. 1 seller. It is a mixture of Sumatran, Honduran and Columbian beans, roasted at different roasts; dark, medium-dark, and medium.
He added they had another edge over other coffee shops, “If you like any kind of dessert, I can make a cup of coffee that’s close.” He continued, “Most flavored coffees are medium roast Columbian beans because they take on the flavor better.” Holiday blends are more popular during the season, but Tyson said Serenity’s White Christmas is a favorite of his clientele and available all year long.
With a new Wawa convenience store and filling station under construction a few blocks away from Serenity’s location, and Wawa’s reputation for coffee varieties, the question was raised if Tyson thought they would hurt his business.
“I’m not worried about the new Wawa; my regulars are into coffee,” Tyson said. “Wawa’s a gas station. Serenity’s family.”
According to the business personnel I interviewed, it doesn’t matter if the coffee shop is a national chain or a hometown cafe, seasonal blends spike sales and become front runners with customers. However, at the shops, we visited the house blend is the year-round overall bestseller. So, don’t feel bad if you’re like me and always buy the house blend, not something exotic or exciting, just coffee – Starbucks, Dunkin and Serenity are expecting us to keep doing just that again and again.