There was a time when Americans were satisfied with freeze-dried coffee crystals stirred into a cup of hot water for their dose of morning joe.
Fortunately, those dark days of uncivilized caffeine consumption are over. Today, a cup of coffee – or variations on the same – has become something of an art form. The passionate people who produce these hand-crafted delights are considered artists among a growing number of consumers. A “barista” is now the new “Chef de Caffeine.”
Statistics reveal there have been significant shifts in America’s coffee consumption, largely driven by millennials.
The National Coffee Association released its 2016 report illustrating that younger Americans have changed the dynamic over the last eight years. Between 2008 and 2016, the NCA reports that consumption of specialty coffee beverages sky-rocketed, from 13 percent to 36 percent among 18 to 24year-olds, and from 19 percent to 41 percent for those age 25 to 39.
Daily doses of espresso-based beverages tripled in the same time frame. And, for the first time in the NCA’s 67-year history, the consumption of coffee brewed in homes has dropped. We are getting our caffeine fix in businesses instead.
There are a number of dining spots in Houston in which to indulge a desire for java.
One of the most creative is Revival Market at 550 Heights Blvd. Not only does this unusual cafe offer locally sourced food, its specialty coffee selections are as original as those anywhere. The baristas here are a proud lot. They can create cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos alongside the best in Houston.
The lead barista at the market, Sean Nees, is committed to his craft and sometimes competes in steam-offs as an active member of the Baristas of Houston.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Layne Cruz, General Manager of Revival Market. “Most of our baristas come to the US with experience and that’s good, because it’s not easy. It takes a lot of practice.”
Cruz explained that steaming milk is the most complicated part. The steaming wand controls the milk-frothing and, as the operator, baristas must find the correct balance of time and placement of the wand to arrive at the perfect milk texture.
There is also the possibility of scorching, actually burning the milk, and ruining its flavor.
“There is a small window of time and temperature to get the frothing right. A part is of the art is practice, but part is intuitive as well,” Cruz said. Does the public appreciate the skill required to do this?
“There are some who just take their cup and don’t think about it. But sometimes, when Sean produces one of his tulips in the foam, or Abbie draws one of her swans, the customer realizes that it’s a beverage that has been hand-crafted, that it is one-of-a-kind. These people always look up and smile. It’s a rewarding moment for all,” Cruz said.