These days, refreshing iced coffee can be found just about everywhere at any time of day. Yet, just a few years ago hot coffee was the ubiquitous beverage. So, how did iced coffee get so popular and where did it start? How can you make the perfect cup of it at home?
The First Cup of Iced Coffee
Like most commonly consumed beverages, there isn’t one clear origin story. Some say iced coffee goes back to “17th century Vienna, where citizens experimented with new brewing methods after a departing Turkish army left behind a massive surplus in coffee beans.” (Source)
The Rise of Iced Coffee
While iced coffee lags behind other consumer drinks in popularity, such as iced tea, energy drinks, sports drinks, and hot coffee, it’s undoubtedly catching on. From 2009 to 2013, iced coffee’s real estate on menus increased 5%! It is also particularly popular with “young adults ages 18 to 24, where 38 percent consume iced coffee, higher than any other age demographic in America.” (Source)
There are many factors that contributed to this boom. One theory, by global drink analyst Jonny Forsyth, is that young people, who grew up with cold sodas, want that experience with coffee. Another explanation is that iced coffee is a better alternative to heavily sugary energy drinks and offers a more stable boost of energy. A third explanation is the popularization of iced coffee as an aesthetic, specifically amongst high school and college students. You can see this all over TikTok, where iced coffee is a common accessory for students, fashionable people, working adults, etc. With the rise of iced coffee, it’s interesting observing the price rise, too.
Why Is Iced Coffee More Expensive Than Hot Coffee?
A cup of iced coffee is just coffee and ice, so why does it cost more? If we look at materials, iced beverages usually come in a plastic cup and need a straw (which is slowly phasing out). Plastic cups and straws cost more than paper cups. Ice also comes from an ice machine, which is very expensive, both in price and energy usage. Different types of iced coffee, like cold brew or drip coffee, take much longer to brew, and time is money.
Variations of Iced Coffee Around the World
Did you know there are many different types of iced coffee? For example, in Greece, iced coffee is a frothed coffee and sugar mixture (similar to dalgona coffee) with added ice and milk. It’s sweet, refreshing, and creamy, especially on a hot day. In Vietnam, iced coffee is a strong drip coffee that is mixed with condensed milk and topped with ice. In Japan, iced coffee is flash brewed--hot coffee brewed onto ice, making it strong and smooth. Some other methods of iced coffee include cold brew, ice cubes, drip coffee, and more. Experiment with different methods and stick with the one you like most!
The Future of Iced Coffee
The future of iced coffee is uncertain, but people are innovating faster than ever before. The next big thing in the coffee industry might be so unorthodox and completely reinvent coffee as we know it. Iced coffee may even continue to increase in popularity, with 20% of American consumers drinking iced coffee once per week. There are no signs of iced coffee slowing down in popularity, and it will be interesting to see where it grows.