CHICAGO – The future of coffee is being brewed as we speak. Hundreds of new products are being marketed to the vendors. Those that generate enough buzz will find their way into shops.

“Ice drinks are very popular now,” says Robin Mahaffey of the industry publication Tea & Coffee Journal. “They’re really just like milkshakes, but you can pretend they aren’t because you’re in a coffee shop.”

“Coffee is an affordable luxury; one of the last-remaining legal addictions,” said Dave Heilbrunn, president of Lifestyle Events Inc. and producer of the Coffee Fest trade show held in Chicago earlier this year.

No product at the trade show embodies that sentiment like the frozen cinnamon bun drink distributed by California-based Cappuccine. Sales manager Michael Harris describes it like this: “Its bouquet is reminiscent of walking past the cinnamon bun store in the mall.”

Silly? Yup. But the drink is rich and addictive enough to have you scrambling for the Coffee Diet pills. Likewise are the myriad other frozen, coffee-related creations churning in granita machines, swirling around smoothie dispensers or being scooped out of gelato tubs.

“Shops are expanding their menus to lure customers beyond the morning rush for coffee,” says industry veteran Bruce Milletto, president of Bellissimo Coffee Infogroup. “Frozen, blended drinks are hugely popular; we’re seeing more gelatos and granitas. Other shops are even expanding to wine and beer. Keep in mind, this industry is only 15 to 20 years old. Coffee shops are replacing bars as people’s Third Place after work and home.”

That Third Place paradigm doesn’t apply to show host Heilbrunn, whose personal and professional lives are ground together in a coffee mill. “People are destroying lattes everywhere,” he chirps while pacing towards the latte-art class in the lobby outside the show.

Art or addiction, coffee, in this caffeinated subculture, is elevated to idol status. And its devotees clamor to drink from the cup.


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