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international coffee day 2018

We’re all big fans of coffee here at Square. Not only do we love a cup of joe, but we also love all of our sellers that peddle those cups of magic.

So to celebrate International Coffee Day, we dug into coffee shop orders across the U.S. to uncover the most-ordered coffee drinks.

From the iced coffee vs. cold-brew debate to the new alt milk, here’s a breakdown of what Americans are ordering at their local coffee shops each day.

Lattes take the caffeinated cake

The latte is the most popular coffee order in the U.S. This past year, Americans drank more than 67 million lattes. And a standard latte doesn’t cut it anymore — the average American requests two add-ons to their customized coffee order.

Alternative milks growth accelerates

Almond milk is the most popular alternative milk in every state, except for Pennsylvania, where oat milk takes the cake. Though new to the coffee scene as of 2016, oat milk sales have increased 425 percent since June 2017, projecting that oat milk may soon surpass almond as the fan-favorite.

International (coffee) love

Flat whites, an Australian coffee classic, are new to the U.S. coffee scene, but gaining traction fast. Flat white sales have increased 41 percent in the past year.

Cold brew chills iced coffee sales

There’s a heated debate in the coffee community over iced coffee vs. cold brew, but it’s clear that cold brew is on trend and continues to grow.

In 2016, Americans drank 19 percent more iced coffee than cold brew. But by the summer of 2017, cold-brew orders outpaced iced coffee by 28 percent. Today, cold brew continues to reign supreme among cold-coffee connoisseurs: cold-brew orders surpass iced-coffee orders by 42 percent.

coffee day infographic

To keep the caffeinated celebrations going, we spoke with Square coffee sellers across the world to learn more about the business of bean roasting, caffeination, and their preferred way to enjoy a cup of joe.

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Jeremy Lyman, co-owner of Birch Coffee in NYC

Jeremy and his cofounder, Paul, started Birch Coffee after recognizing a gap in the specialty coffee.

“We didn’t see a lot of approachability, or high levels of customer service,” Jeremy says. “I came from the restaurant industry and I was always trying to elevate the level of service provided to my customers. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to combine coffee and service.”

Birch Coffee now has eleven locations throughout New York City and sells beans wholesale.

birch coffee nyc

Your favorite drink?
My personal favorite drink is a cold brew with a touch of oat milk. Summer. Winter. 95 degrees or 8 below.

Your customers’ favorite drink?
Well, I suppose I am part of the masses — our biggest seller is cold brew.

Your favorite coffee blend?
I would have to say it is our Birch Blend. It’s a “coffee drinker’s” coffee and never disappoints. It tastes amazing as a drip brew as well as in a French press, so when I’m feeling lazy on a Sunday, my coffee doesn’t ever suffer.

Cream or sugar?
Never, ever sugar. When I drink a hot drip, black. When it’s iced, I will add a dash of oat milk.

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
We have a strong focus on service. If we aren’t providing the best and highest level of service to our customers, we are doing them a disservice. This is what we pride ourselves on.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
For me, the best part is being a part of someone’s daily ritual. The fact that our guests choose to make Birch Coffee that sacred stop on their morning route to work or for their afternoon break truly means the world to us and helps us continue to work harder and harder every day.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
So many of us often take coffee for granted. It takes so many different hands to process what eventually ends up in our cup. It travels thousands of miles, is hauled on thousands of peoples’ backs, trekked up and down mountains, and yet a pound of coffee seems so reasonably priced per pound. So much goes into every single step. Our guests only see the final step in the process.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
There are certainly so many hurdles — starting with constructing a new store to staffing an existing one. One of the biggest challenges that we have been taking head-on lately is making sure that all of our crew is on the same page as one another. Consistency is crucial so that has been a major focus.

Phillip Johns, owner of Prevail Union Montgomery in Montgomery, AL

Inspired by Prevail Auburn outposting, Phillip brought Prevail Union to Montgomery in 2016.

“The Montgomery area needed a space that is conclusive for gatherings,” he says. “Prevail serves as a place to build community, recognize commonalities, and of course, serve craft coffee. We think our shop fits those needs in Montgomery nicely.”

Prevail Union Montgomery

Your favorite drink?
Cappuccino with macadamia nut milk

Your customers’ favorite drink?
Alabama Stinger – a double or quad shot of espresso stirred into local honey, poured into a shaker with organic Alabama-produced milk and served cold.

Your favorite coffee blend?
We have a very special relationship with our farmers — especially Guatemalan coffee farmers John and Regina Schippers. They produce a wonderful crop of Guatemalan beans and we have a special blend called Farmers Daughter, named for their two daughters.

Cream or sugar?
Neither — let the cup sit for a few minutes and see what flavors come out naturally in the coffee.

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
We focus on our coffee and the people we source it from. We don’t underpay our farmers — we work with them to make sure they are able to provide and sustain livable conditions for themselves and their families.

Our team is also key. Wade Preston, a nationally recognized brewer and roaster, roasts beans every week for our cafes and wholesale clients.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
Meeting everyone who comes into our store. We’re able to break down barriers and provide a commonality that most people can agree on. Together we are better and coffee is good.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
Every beverage is prepared carefully for our customers. We take pride in knowing where our beans are sourced and the route they have traveled to reach the States.

That care continues with our roaster. Wade roasts each bean to specific profiles and standards, which he’s developed over years of experience.
When the bean reaches the cafe, our baristas take pride in knowing its story, and including that origin in each beverage. With each cup, commonalities are discovered and community flourishes.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
One of the biggest challenges was actually opening our doors. We ran into several city regulations and learned that many of the building codes haven’t been updated in a long time. We still are working through some of those adversities, but we see it as valuable work for cooler things down the road.

Matt Argo, owner of Good Folks Coffee in Louisville, KY

Inspired by his travels, Matt started Gold Folks Coffee in 2010.

“I’ve always been energized when I travel to new places and experience different cultures around the world. Regardless of the language or culture, coffee has always been a way to connect with people,” he says. “It’s really cool to be able to get coffee from some of the most remote corners of the world into the hands of our customers.”

good folks coffee

Your favorite drink?
Black coffee made in a Chemex coffee maker

Your customers’ favorite drink?
Drip coffee

Your favorite coffee blend?
I love our Daytripper blend or any single-origin coffee from Colombia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Guatemala … and maybe a dozen or so other countries!

Cream or sugar?
No, thank you!

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
We’re a wholesale coffee roaster that invests in strategic partnerships with cafes that are serving retail consumers. Our coffee quality is of the utmost importance, but it serves as a baseline. We take pride in the relationships we build with coffee farmers, exporters, importers, and our customers. Telling the story or our coffees while placing more importance on the people we do business with has always been our strategy.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
Knowing where the coffee comes from and experiencing new flavors from season to season (depending on what’s going on at the farm level) is a blast. Farmers are experimenting so much right now in their growing practices and different processing techniques, and we’re excited to learn from them. Communicating that message and seeing our customers experience it for themselves is equally rewarding.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
Our coffee is super fresh and roasted to order. We have quite a few coffees that appeal to a wide range of preferences. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Lastly, drink it the way that makes you happy!

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
When I started the business, there were plenty of sleepless nights while we were busy finding the right customers, developing the right products for them, and learning how to keep them happy. Those days of trying to figure out our company were full of interesting lessons, as well as plenty of days wondering what in the world to do!

In general, I think learning to process the ups and downs and experiencing momentum shifts in the business has been one of the biggest challenges. Whether it’s working through problems on our team or juggling multiple projects, there’s just no timeout or pause button in business. I think I’ve grown to expect that pressure, but it’s amazing how every new problem demands a new solution. At the end of the day, we’re thankful for what we get to do and are having a lot of fun doing it.

Sam Purvis, co-owner of Good Coffee in Portland, OR

Sam and his brother, Nick, love creating delight for people. They also both love coffee, and that’s what inspired them to start Good Coffee.

“We worked in coffee for a long time, so it was really natural to use coffee as a way to build a company that hopefully brings a lot of delight to our guests,” Sam says.

good coffee

Your favorite drink?
Nick and I really love drinking an espresso in the morning. We also drink a good amount of filter coffee. We work with beautiful single-origin, single-farm coffees from around the world, and so drinking these coffees (as both espresso and filter coffee) is a total treat.

Your customers’ favorite drink?
We have customers that love our more traditional menu: espresso, cappuccino, and filter. We also have customers that really dig our seasonal menu: marionberry cacao latte, sparkly matcha soda with salted honey.

Your favorite coffee blend?
We run a blend that is called the Spectrum that we’re always updating with fresh harvest coffees, but the flavor profile of the blend remains stable with lots of rich chocolate qualities, a rich, round body, and the slightest amount of crispness to bring the whole flavor experience to the middle of the palette.

Cream or sugar?
We drink our filter coffee without either cream or sugar, but if we’re drinking a sweetened drink (the marionberry cacao latte for instance), we totally love the experience that is achieved by blending coffee, steamed milk, and the sweetened reduction of marionberries and cacao.

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
We don’t have any big secret. We believe in giving everyone a great experience. One person at a time. We show up and work hard every day to make sure we have the perspective as a team, and the systems in place to allow us to do that on a daily basis at each of our stores. That’s pretty much it.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
People that are buying coffee seem to already really love coffee, but they do have specific preferences. It’s really fun to just figure out what they like about coffee and find coffees that fit what they’re looking for.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
We don’t really have any one thing! The best part of experiencing coffee is getting put in a position where you are in discovery mode, like, “Oh, I didn’t know coffee could taste like that!” or “Oh, I didn’t know that it’s pretty characteristic of coffees that are coming from this region in Peru to have these qualities.” But there is nothing (in regard to pre-existing knowledge) that we really need our guests to bring to the table concerning coffee.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
I think the thing that doesn’t go away (but does get easier over time as you put more systems in place) is the massive amount of time that it takes to do something well. There is no getting around it, and it does get tiring. But we’ve also been very lucky to reap the reward of the satisfaction that comes with putting in that work.

Catherine Seay, co-founder of Curators Coffee in London, UK

Founded in 2012, Curators Coffee has grown to two locations that focus on specialty coffee, beautiful design, and great people.

“I’ve always loved coffee and hospitality, but meeting the right people to start a business with is really what started it all,” Catherine says. “You need a great team and support network to open a business. It’s so much tougher than you can imagine.”

curators coffee

Your favorite drink?
I’m a big fan of coffee brewed V60 style. Right now I’m enjoying the Tegu from Nyeri, Kenya, that Coffee Collective roasted.

Your customers’ favorite drink?
It’s a flat white by far! According to our Square data we sold almost twice the amount of flat whites to lattes, which is the second-most popular drink.

Your favorite coffee blend?
I’m in love with Finca La Independencia, from El Tambo in Colombia. Colonna Coffee roasted it for us to use on our house espresso this year, and it’s just stunning.

Cream or sugar?
If the produce you are using is high quality you shouldn’t need either! A good coffee or tea should be sweet and balanced with tons of natural flavour.

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
We are constantly curating a range of coffee beans from roasters around the world to sell online or in store. We want to showcase and share the diverse world of coffee with our customers. We also recognize that customer service is everything. Our team makes sure that our stores have a fun and welcoming atmosphere.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
I really enjoy training, so my favorite part of selling coffee is running tasting sessions and demos for customers, or training a staff member to perfect their skills so they can run the sessions.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
I wish they knew how much hard work goes into making their coffee every day! There are so many steps that have to happen successfully before they walk into the store to make a purchase; setting up viable business models, staff recruitment and training, great roasting of the beans, and right back to the actual farming of the coffee. That’s just a few, but there are great stories to be told about what our customers are consuming.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
Making tough decisions when something isn’t working and allowing yourself time to step back and get perspective. It’s super hard to do these things when you are time-poor and passionate about what you do. High-quality data can make these decisions more clear. Square’s analytics have been instrumental in helping to make decisions about the business.

Phil Goodlaxson, owner of Corvus Coffee Roasters in Denver, CO

Founded in 2010, Corvus is guided by their pursuit for visibility and building better lives for coffee farmers.

“Coffee is a craft that you can pursue your whole life in many different ways; and a unique facet of coffee is that you can make a huge impact on people who really need it through the pursuit of excellent coffee,” Phil says. “Really great coffee improves farmers’ lives in a huge way.”

corvus coffee roasters

Your favorite drink?
Espresso

Your customers’ favorite drink?
Lattes

Your favorite coffee blend?
Our single-origin Kariru peaberry from Kenya

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
We truly work directly with producers. I am at nearly every farm we work with every year, working with farmers to understand their needs and learn how we can pursue better coffee and better prices together.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
That I get to try so many awesome coffees!

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
Our coffees make a personal impact on the people growing them. I want our customers to feel and know that it’s not just better coffee, but they are supporting our efforts to improve people’s lives.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
Learning to be a better manager and storyteller.

Lachlan Ward, Retail Manager of ST. ALi and Sensory Lab in Melbourne, AU

Founded by Salvatore Malatesta in 2005, St. ALi was at the forefront of specialty coffee in Melbourne.

“We wanted to introduce specialty coffee to a broader market,” Lachlan says. Today, the group has cafes throughout Melbourne, and even an outpost in Jakarta, Indonesia.

sensory coffee

Your favorite drink?
Filter coffee

Your customers’ favourite drink?
Cafe latte

Your favorite coffee blend?
Kenyan coffees from Nyeri

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
Service! There are plenty of people serving excellent coffee. Memorable service is the difference.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
Learning more about what people enjoy, and introducing people to coffees they wouldn’t have thought to try before.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
Little known fact, but our retail coffee packaging is all recyclable!

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
Biggest challenge in any service industry is the human factor! Holding on to great staff in a transient industry is tough. We’ve been lucky to have some fantastic people work across our business over the years.

Anni Caporuscio of Small Town Coffee Co. in Kauai, HI

Anni first worked as a barista in 1994 in Palm Springs, CA.

“I came to love the artistry of coffee, and the flavor combinations. I came to love the morning routine,” she says.

Today, Small Town Coffee Company can be found on Kauai’s East Side, a hub for live music and ideas.

“The local coffee shop is an important fixture for any vibrant community,” Anni says. “I want [Small Town] to be a place where music, art, talking, and ideas all come together with a good cup of coffee.”

small town coffee

Your favorite drink?
I drink an 8-oz. Americano every morning. I have a special cup (and a matching tattoo of the cup art). Later in the day I drink something called the Ten O’Clock Tonic, a mix of cold brew, simple syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling water.

Your customers’ favorite drink?
With early-morning construction guys: 16-oz. brewed coffee. With ladies after a yoga class: fresh-made coconut milk latte. With die-hard coffee drinkers: cappuccino. Afternoon refresher: Naughty Toddy (cold brew with flavor and cream). On a hot day: shaken iced espresso.

Your favorite coffee blend?
I have always loved African coffees the best, but Hawaii cannot import African green beans to roast because of agricultural issues. Since we have our coffee roasted locally, I haven’t had a sip in years. Nowadays I go for a Costa Rican or Honduran, something Central American.

Cream or sugar?
Cream and never sugar for me.

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
Small Town Coffee is known for being quirky and friendly. But we’re also known for our quality and consistency. You can always find something good at Small Town.

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
I love making coffee most. There are so many careful steps that go into the farming and distributing and roasting of coffee, that I want to do it well and carefully on the retail level, too. It’s got to be good as well as beautiful. I also love when I turn someone on to their new favorite coffee drink.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
That I really love it. And that I really love it when they love it. And that we are really good at what we do.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
I have great regular customers. I have fantastic staff. But we live on an island and every single ingredient and thing gets shipped to us and that cost adds up. Many things I have to order online because I can’t just go to a supply store and get it. On Kauai our utilities are high, our commercial rents are high, and everything is more expensive when you’re a business. On Kauai our bottom line is a little higher than everywhere else.

Caleb Nicholes of Kickapoo Coffee in Viroqua, WI

From its inception in 2006, Kickapoo has focused on fairness for farmers, and delicious coffee.

“We’re inspired and motivated by three things: quality, social justice and equity in the coffee supply chain, and fostering a community and culture of honor, curiosity, and joy,” Caleb says.

kickapoo coffee

Your favorite drink?
A light-roasted pour over of our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido

Your customers’ favorite drink?
A 12-ounce latte with our Radio Wave blend

Your favorite coffee blend?
Ultraviolet Blend, a medium-light roast of some of our favorite African coffees.

Cream or sugar?
Cream

What is your favorite part of selling coffee?
Traveling to coffee origins to source the delicious coffees that we offer to our customers.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
I wish they had a better understanding about the incredible amount of work it takes to produce, source, and deliver benchmark quality coffee.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
For us, the biggest challenge is to live up to the standards that we are setting for our company. We’re committed to creating a creative and purposeful space for our staff and customers alike. We’re also trying to change the way people think about coffee — we want people to enjoy its nuances and to be inspired by its unique taste and aroma.

We’re also hoping to elevate coffee producers and to be able to pay them well for the intense amount of work that it takes to produce amazing coffee.

Juanny Romero, owner of Mothership Coffee Roasters in Las Vegas, NV

Juanny began her venture into coffee shop ownership with Sunrise Coffee Roasters in 2008, and opened a roastery, Mothership Coffee in 2015.

“I really love making drinks for my customers and talking to them,” she says. “I love seeing people gather together and enjoy themselves. I feel like I’ve created a space for authentic and loving conversations.”

mothership coffee roasters

Your favorite drink?
Iced nitro cold brew with mint

Your customers’ favorite drink?
Lavender latte

Your favorite coffee blend?
Single-origin Ethiopian

Cream or sugar?
Cream. Sugar is for the pastries I eat with my coffee.

How do you differentiate yourself in the market?
Learning and honing my craft as a coffee expert, business owner, and a human being.

What do you wish your customers (or anyone!) knew about your coffee?
Most of our coffee comes from all-women cooperatives. It’s the ultimate girl power.

What are some of the biggest challenges or adversities you’ve faced starting and running your business?
Going from a barista to a businesswoman. Going from a business owner to a company. There have been so many growing pains, but I love every lesson I face.

1Data is based off of millions of anonymized transactions from thousands of coffee shops across the U.S. Data set includes transactions from June 2017 to June 2018.

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