By David Gill
Given the growing popularity of coffee and tea, vendors of coffeemakers and teamakers are often motivated to raise the bar on innovations in their products.
That both beverages are still gaining in strength with consumers is clear from recent studies. Coffee drinking “tracks strong and steady” among consumers of all ages, according to the 2011 National Coffee Drinking Trends from the National Coffee Association. Of particular note, the study found that coffee drinking trended upward among younger consumers last year. Consumption among 18-24 year-olds rose from 31 percent in 2010 to 40 percent last year, and for 25-29 year-olds increased from 44 percent to 54 percent.
Tea is just as healthy a market. According to a statement from the Tea Association of the USA, total wholesale tea sales reached $7.8 billion in 2010, compared with $1.8 billion in 1990. The association also projected continued sales increases for traditional tea, specialty tea and ready-to-drink tea in the coming years.
Regarding the products debuted so far in 2012, single-serve beverage machines have been among the biggest newsmakers in the coffee and tea category for several years, and they show no signs of slowing down.
If anything, in fact, this category has experienced a marked acceleration since the beginning of 2012. In that time, Keurig introduced its second platform for single-serve brewing, called the Vue Brewer. This is designed to brew larger (up to 18 ounces, a typical travel mug’s size), stronger and hotter beverages with Custom Brew Technology, which adjusts water pressure, timing and air flow.
Single-serve has also established footholds in the espresso segment this year. First, Starbucks formed an alliance with German manufacturer Krueger to produce and market the Verismo system by Starbucks. This is a single-serve coffeemaker that produces all types of espresso beverages, including lattes and americanos, along with brewed coffee, using Starbucks-sourced arabica coffee and milk pods. Starbucks has also extended its relationship with Keurig parent Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for Starbucks-branded packs for the new Vue Brewer.
Shortly after the Verismo debut, Cuisinart and illycaffe of Italy announced their partnership for a line of espresso machines. Co-branded Cuisinart for illy, these machines will use illy’s proprietary iperEspresso capsules, which involve a two-stage rapid infusion and extraction of coffee throughout the brewing cycle.
Single-serve products were also on display at last month’s International Home + Housewares Show. Nespresso debuted two new single-serve espresso makers, the Maestria and the Gran Maestria, which the company described as “two evocative machines embodying the coffeemaking ritual in a unique and espresso way.” Both machines present a hands-on retro design with a full aluminum body with features such as a professionally developed steam pipe with optimized air-intake technology and a pivoting cup support for long and short cups.
The Housewares Show also had single-serve introductions for tea. Kuhn Rikon unveiled the Single Cup Easy Brew for coffee or tea, a pour-over brewer. You place it on top of a cup, click the mesh filter into place, add ground coffee or loose-leaf tea, pour in boiling water, place the lid on top and steep the coffee or tea as long as you want.
Introductions at the show weren’t confined to single-serve products. Bodum USA offered two major entries into the coffee category: the Bistro Pour Over Coffee Machine, which electrifies and automates the manual “pour-over” coffee-brewing method used by many baristas; and the Bistro Electric French Press Coffee Maker, which is designed with the French Press Plunger System and brews coffee quickly and without filters.
The Krups brand of Groupe SEB rolled out an array of coffee and tea products. Among these are the Barista EA9000 One-Touch, which has the ability to save up to eight favorite coffee recipes; the Solo Steam Espresso Machine, a compact steam espresso maker that also comes in a combination model with a 10-Cup Glass Carafe Coffee Maker included; and the 10-Cup Grind and Brew Coffee Machine, featuring a patented coffee dispenser, conical burr grinder with nine settings, an aroma setting and other features.
Krups also made noise in the tea arena. The Personal Tea Kettle features an internal circulation system and mesh brew basket for holding either loose-leaf tea or tea bags.