In the nearly 50 years since the patent for Mr. Coffee was approved, coffee has kept pace with popular culture.
Indeed, the global affection for a good cup of Joe led to the first International Coffee Day on Oct. 1, 2015. National Coffee Day is on Sept. 29.
But while the National Coffee Association reports that 63 percent of American adults drink coffee daily, we no longer savor it the same way.
In short, there is more than one way to brew a bean, and there is a myriad of places in Delaware where you can find America’s favorite beverage.
Riding the wave
Today, coffee consumers are in the midst of the “third wave” of consumption.
During the first wave, coffee became an easy-to-prepare household item. Think Folgers and Nescafe Taster’s Choice. Then, in the 1960s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea of Berkley, California began artisanal sourcing, roasting and blending.
In the 1970s, when the Seattle coffee scene took shape, the term “specialty coffee” was coined. By the 1990s, Starbucks had started its march across the country.
In Delaware, Alisa Morkides ushered in the second wave in 1993, when she opened the first Brew HaHa! in Greenville.
In the third wave, quality counts, said Morkides, who began Brandywine Coffee Roasters in 2015 to complement her coffee shops.
“We have a lot of millennial clients who are really, really into their coffee,” she said. “They’re talking about the notes — strawberry, orange and cardamom.”
Now savvy consumers want coffee made using Fair Trade growing practices designed to encourage sustainability and benefit coffee bean farmers.
Other trends include certified organic products and beans from a single source — much like wine made with grapes from one vineyard or region.
Customers also value freshness. Swell Joe Coffee Co. in Lewes only roasts 15 pounds at a time, using freshly delivered coffee.
Notting Hill, based in downtown Lewes, covers all the bases, from organic to Fair Trade to flavored to beans that meet Rainforest Alliance standards.
Grind, drip, press
Coffee-lovers often have distinct brewing preferences. Matthew Kern, the executive chef at Heirloom in Lewes, prefers a French press. The grounds steep — there’s no filter.
“It’s clean and delicious,” he said.
At Sonora at The David Finney Inn in New Castle, owner Melissa Ferraro adds a shot of alcohol to her French press offerings.
Chef Chris Parks, who works with SoDel Concepts, reaches for Death Wish, which bills itself as the “world’s strongest coffee.” He runs the high-octane coffee through a Chemex, a pour-over coffee maker with a copper filter.
Invented in 1941, the Chemex works like a drip machine, but it’s a manual process that takes finesse. Four total pours let the coffee “bloom.”
At home, Greg Vogeley, the owner of Drip Café in Newark and Hockessin, uses a Cuisinart grind-and-brew system “so, my coffee is always freshly ground just before brewing,” he said. A thermal carafe keeps it warm without giving it a scorched flavor.
Cold brew is a trend that’s not budging anytime soon, Morkides maintained. Ground coffee steeps in cold water for eight to 24 hours. Fans say cold brewing makes the coffee smooth and creamy.
At Mug & Spoon in Rehoboth, cold brew is poured into a keg, infused with nitrogen gas and served from a tap that makes it frothy and creamy.
Speaking of cream, Morkides finds it challenging to count all the different kinds of dairy and non-dairy products she must keep on hand. Consider soy, almond and oat milk — along with half-and-half, cream, milk and skim milk.
No matter the milk, the foam on a gourmet coffee has become a canvas for pretty pictures. Pre-pandemic, Drip Café in Hockessin hosted a competition that pitted baristas against each other.
For Zach DeLong, owner Scission Craft Coffee, a food truck, the artistry is in the flavor combinations. The Maryland native blends Old Bay and brown sugar in a latte. Another favorite is a mix of vanilla, brown sugar and cardamom.
Fellow food truckster Leigh Ann Tona of I Don’t Give a Fork is a fan. She and DeLong are partnering to open on a bricks-and-mortar location near Wilmington Brew Works.
Although still in the planning stages, Sleeping Bird Coffee will feature DeLong’s flavorful combinations as well as pastries and sandwiches. With the extra room in the shop, they will also offer drip coffee, which Scission currently does not feature.
DeLong’s creations are popular among women 30-45, college students and families. “The flavors are the reason you come to my truck,” he noted.
From the newly opened Chefs’ Haven Café in Independence Mall to Kaisy’s Delights in Lewes, which serves La Colombe, it’s now easy to find a decent cup of coffee.
It’s a crowded market, and Drip Café plans to unveil a branded loyalty app with perks for Apple and Android products.
Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for coffee shops during Delaware’s state of emergency, he and Morkides agreed.
“More people are drinking their coffee at home,” said Morkides, who is mailing beans across the country. Sales of her beans are up 400%, but café sales are down 50%. The uptick in roastery sales is not making up for losses in the shops.
Said Vogeley: “Surviving is the new trend this year.”