It wasnt too long ago that a cup of cold coffee wasnt worth beans. But these days iced coffee is one hot brew.
Iced coffee has completely evolved in the past decade, says Buffy Maguire, who with her husband runs two Java Beach Cafes in San Francisco and is opening a third.
Last year, the restaurant industry served 500 million orders of iced, frozen or what are categorized as slushie coffee drinks, says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD Group, a major market research firm.
That compares with 400 million in 2006, an impressive performance considering theres been an intervening recession which typically nips at discretionary items like specialty coffee drinks.
Iced coffee drinks on todays menus involve more than just pouring regular coffee over rocks. The beans used are premium, just as with hot coffee, and there are special preparations taken to bring out the best of the flavor.
At Java Beach, coffee is steeped overnight or sometimes longer using a coarse grain and cold water, no heat. What that process does is theres virtually no acidic quality to the coffee. It just brings out this really caramel-y, chocolate element of the coffee thats really divine, she says.
Whos selling iced coffee?
Just about everyone, from big-timers like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and McDonalds to most local shops, like Java Beach. Even 7-Eleven now offers an iced coffee beverage in two flavors.
A few fun facts: Nearly 60 percent of iced coffee is consumed at breakfast, 20 percent is treated as a snack, 13 percent of sales are for lunch and 4 percent for dinner. Consumption is heaviest in the Northeast and the frosty java is more popular with women than men.
At Dunkin Donuts, iced coffee is fast becoming as hot, pardon the pun, as our classic cup of hot coffee, says Scott Hudler, the companys vice president of brand marketing.
Dunkin Donuts uses a double brewing process that keeps the flavor consistent. Its never bitter, its not watered down, says Hudler.
Iced coffee is a caloric chameleon. It can be as Spartan as black coffee on the rocks or as hedonistic as a syrup-flavored, whipped cream-infused dessert-in-a-cup. And in case you were wondering, a cold cuppa joe still packs a jolt of caffeine.
At Java Beach, I do give people a warning, Maguire says. Its so smooth that you can drink quite a lot of it.