Our Evolving Perspective on Trends in Coffee and Tea

Since we opened for business in 2016, we have often upheld a purist and idealist outlook in discouraging the adulteration of coffee and tea - our primary areas of interest and expertise - with sugar and other additives. We believe that these beverages, steeped in history, tradition, and culture, are best enjoyed in their pure form. We have championed the idea of allowing their unique qualities, influenced by terroir and craftsmanship, to shine through without the interference of what we previously viewed as 'flavour taints'.

However, our perspective has evolved significantly.

In light of the myriad disruptive changes unfolding in the world and the industry, we have chosen to reassess our simplistic, perhaps bigoted, views. We now recognize and embrace these substantial shifts as they occur, aiming to collaborate with them and navigate the resulting waves of transformation rather than resisting them, as we once did. Surely, industry evolution is not an isolated phenomenon but rather a part of a larger network of changes driven by various forces. In this way, it is not a case of us giving in to commercial trends, but rather an acceptance of these changes brought about by our realisation of how this world has evolved under the momentum of new forces.   

One such force is climate change, posing a significant threat to the coffee industry, impacting not just the delicate arabica species but also robusta coffee. Scientific research warns that without immediate and widespread systemic intervention, global coffee-growing land could diminish by 50% by 2050. In the face of rising coffee consumption, one is led to consider whether this will inevitably lead to a substantial increase in the cost of our daily cup. It is in this context that the mission of Prefer bean-free coffee resonates. This innovative Singapore-US scientists duo has embarked on a bold endeavor to create a coffee alternative from selected food byproducts within the local food industry. Since launching, they have diversified their product offerings to enhance market appeal. Transitioning from "coffee" grounds to cold brew oat lattes, they have navigated the challenge of incorporating slight sweetening to enhance market access, particularly in cafe settings. The cold brew oat latte has garnered greater acceptance through meticulous scientific research to optimise flavor, with the addition of sweeteners proving beneficial.

As we navigate these global changes, we frequently grapple with the tension between purism and pragmatism. We often reflect on a parable about a father who resorts to practical measures to save his three sons playing inside a house in flames. This story serves as a reminder that sometimes expedient actions are necessary in certain circumstances. This enlightenment has led one of our cafes to introduce tea served in teabags, recognising it as the most convenient and inexpensive option to introduce seemingly esoteric Chinese tea. In the purist's mind, incarcerating beautifully picked tender buds and full leaves in the tiny space of the tea bag which restricts their expansion and extraction is a crime. However, the familiar form of the tea bag proves to break the ice between such remote teas and first time drinkers, they who later returned to enjoy the same teas brewed in traditional Chinese gaiwans. They have not opted for tea bags ever since. In the same light, we have since last year created some tea blends. Our philosophy is captured in another article here.

On a similar note, we have now embraced the concept of fruit-macerated coffees, also known as co-fermented coffees. We also have another article on this topic here. We are writing this with full knowledge of the episode at Panama Specialty Coffee Association in rejecting such coffees in their Best of Panama Competition 2024. In a direct clash of ideas within the specialty coffee world on such evolving issues, the new definition of specialty coffee recently released by Specialty Coffee Association clearly approves such coffees:

Coffee, being a fruit, naturally possesses fruity and floral flavors when harvested, processed, roasted, and brewed correctly. Initially, the idea of fermenting fruits with coffee to intentionally upgrade its fruity profile struck us as ostentatious, lacking in skill, and driven purely by commercial motives. However, we have since realised that producing such coffees requires a significant amount of scientific knowledge and tedious and expensive experimentation to ensure they can withstand traditional roasting and brewing while retaining the distinct fruity notes imparted during fermentation. This approach can be seen as a form of craftsmanship in a different realm, showcasing innovation and creativity in coffee processing methods. Like like the transformation that have happened or are happening in other beverages, the shift is from traditional craftsmanship that relies on tacit and transmitted knowledge to a new form of craftsmanship that involves a component of modern science and ideas. Such new products exist precisely because there is a demand for it. If it grows in supply, it is the law of economics telling us that customer demand is growing as well. As such, we should not object them. Rather, we should embrace the trends of our times. However we demand that producers be honest about them so that we can label them correctly. 

It is essential to gain acceptance from the specialty coffee community for such unconventional practices. Our experiences working with these unique coffees over the past year have revealed their popularity among both specialty coffee enthusiasts and newcomers to the scene. We are particularly pleased to witness how these innovative coffees act as bridges - as in the case of tea bags, attracting individuals who may previously have been content with dark roast kopitiam coffee, towards exploring the world of specialty coffee. As newcomers delve deeper in, they gradually develop an appreciation for the intricacies of terroir and craftsmanship in traditional specialty coffee production. They now enjoy such non-exotic processes alongside modern processes, which is an obvious improvement from their previous rejection of specialty coffees.

In a rapidly evolving world driven by advancements in science and society, it is imperative for our industry to remain dynamic and adaptable. Looking ahead, we envision that the philosophical struggles we face today may become inconsequential in the future, with such innovations potentially becoming defining characteristics of the coffee industry. Perhaps coffee has been slow in its evolution, if we look across to the other popular beverages of wine, beer, gin, whisky and Japanese sake which have had their turns being disrupted by modern transformation, and to which they have initially struggled but ultimately embraced and incorporated into their folds. Should we re-visit this article five years down the road? Perhaps we could not contain our own smirk at our previously naive and juvenile attitude on coffee and tea. Till now, enjoy our curated list of these evolving products:

Tea Blends
Tea Bags
Honey Rose Coffee
Banana Coffee
Strawberry Coffee
Cinnamon Coffee

Thank you for coming onboard Parchmen & Co!

Savouring our world in a cup!
Delighting our hearts in a bite!