Some cafes, coffee shops and restaurants have a certain charm about them. They serve as a meeting place for friends and family or a great destination to relax and unwind with a book. Some companies even host job interviews at local coffee shops because they have a casual environment and it tends to take pressure off the interviewing process and allows the candidate to open up.

Every true café visitor has a favorite aspect to the establishment. Some love the ambiance and environment, and visit primarily for that reason. For example, one of my favorites, The Lady Killigrew Café in Montague, Massachusetts is situation in an old mill building overlooking a river. It’s hard to beat the atmosphere there… (and the food is great.)

Other café visitors frequent a location because the product offerings are top notch.

Surely you recognize your top-selling products and the customers who have become regulars; and although you probably wait for them to order before you prepare their drink, they’ve grown to respect and appreciate your beverage offerings.

Now it’s time to consider some of the trending beverages selected by more than 1,800 chefs for the National Restaurant Association. Your menu may already have these selections, but if it doesn’t, it’s important to know that the popularity of these items is quite high right now.

House-made soft drinks

Soda was once the most popular soft drink in the United States. According to the Huffington Post, “For more than two decades, soda was the No. 1 drink the U.S. with per capita consumption peaking in 1998 at 54 gallons a year.”

Good old-fashioned H2O has taken the reign as the most popular beverage as health concerns develop throughout the country. This doesn’t mean soda has lost too much popularity though. In fact, some restaurants and cafes are making their own soda with more natural products (which has them avoiding high fructose corn syrup when applicable).

Myers + Chang in Boston, Massachusetts makes its own soda and the flavors they offer are more unique than traditional cola. Lychee-vanilla, aloe-yuzu, and cherry-ginger are the flavors. I understand if you’re interested is piqued after reading those options.

Gourmet lemonade

It may be strange to call lemonade gourmet, but when sufficient care is given to the process of making it in house and muddling the ingredients fresh, lemonade can be gourmet.

The Foundry in Northampton, Massachusetts makes homemade lemonade in the classic sense, in addition to spicy lemonade. Pictured below is The Foundry’s Blueberry Hibiscus Tea Lemonade, a delightful treat worth grabbing before the summer ends and lemonade season is gone for the year.

Organic coffee

Wikipedia describes organic as being “grown according to organic farming standards and techniques, without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.”

The use of organic farming techniques are looked at favorable by many consumers these days, so there isn’t too much surprise that organic coffee is on the trending list of beverages.

The 2nd Street Baking Co in Turners Falls, Massachusetts offers a variety of organic coffee blends. The Coffee Exchange in Providence, Rhode Island also offers fair trade organic coffee. They are very open about their coffee purchasing practices as their website reads: “100% of Coffee Exchange's green coffee purchases support environmental sustainability by promoting organic agricultural practices and honest wages for farmers through fair trade pricing. All our decafs are Water Processed (using no chemicals). We purchase most of our coffee through Cooperative Coffees, perhaps the most pro-active Fair Trade/Organic coffee coop in the United States and Canada.”

Specialty iced tea

There are certainly a variety of specialty iced teas, but the most popular types include Thai-style iced tea and sweet tea.

Thai iced tea usually involves a strongly brewed Ceylon tea, although sometimes black tea is used instead due to the high price of Ceylon. Other ingredients may include orange blossom water, crushed tamarind or star anise. Here's a sample recipe:

  • 3/4 C black tea leaves (approximately 3 oz.)
  • star anise, ground tamarind, cardamom and/or other spices, to taste (optional)
  • 6 C boiling water
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 C evaporated milk (most traditional), whole milk, half and half, or coconut milk
  1. Steep the tea leaves (and any optional spices) in the water for 5 minutes, then remove the tea leaves from the water (either by removing the infuser you’re using, or by straining the water to remove the leaves if loose).
  2. While the tea is still hot, stir in sugar until dissolved, then stir in condensed milk.
  3. Allow tea mixture to cool to room temperature or colder.
  4. Fill tall iced tea glasses with ice, and pour in tea mixture until glasses are roughly 3/4 full.
  5. Slowly top off glasses with evaporated milk, whole milk or coconut milk, but do not stir (final dairy should remain primarily as its own layer at the top of the glass).

Coconut water

The health benefits of coconut water are impressive. As WebMD puts it, coconut is “low in calories, naturally fat- and cholesterol free, [has] more potassium than four bananas, and super hydrating.”

Boston’s My Thai Vegan Café offers bubble tea made with coconut water. Want some other suggestions for using coconut water in your restaurant? Try cooking rice with it, making smoothies, or using it in soups and marinades.

You now have the list of trending beverages. Make some additions to your menus and supply the public with any of these thirst-quenching options.

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