August Afternoon Seeks Cool Operators

It’s midafternoon in August, and I’m walking through the lofty corridors of a landmark hotel in the heart of a major east coast city. I’m walking past gorgeous displays of exotic flora, past the elegant water display with arching fountains, and right past a lonely looking barista, idly polishing her MegaBucks Italian espresso machine, which is parked behind eight or so empty barstools at this very hip, very deserted lobby coffee bar. I’ve got 20 minutes before my next meeting, just around the corner from this hotel; the roasted coffee smells delicious, and the lonely barista and her coffee bar look so friendly and inviting. There’s just one catch: I’m a coffee LOVER, but I rarely drink hot coffee after 10:30 in the morning. It’s a quirk of mine. In fact, I generally don’t drink anything hot in the afternoon, especially in August, but a quick check of the menu here says I’m out of luck: there’s coffee, Café Au Lait, Café Mocha, Café Latte, Mocha Latte, and Espresso shots. No iced coffee, and no iced teas. In fact, nothing cold at all. I keep walking.

I walk to the nearest escalator, down toward my meeting. At the bottom of the escalator is the hotel gift shop, nearly deserted this time of the afternoon. The encounter with the lobby coffee bar has ignited my daily drive for a nice, cold beverage, preferably a lovingly brewed iced coffee. Maybe even a nice, delicately flavored iced tea. In any case, something cold and delicious, with some chewable ice I can linger over and savor during my meeting. I walk into the hotel gift shop, hoping I might get lucky and find something perfect to take to my meeting. Alas, while they do have cold teas and chilled coffees here, they don’t have the lovingly brewed kind, just the kind with flashy labels, and unfathomable ingredients listed on the back: “high fructose corn syrup, sodium hexametaphosphate, caramel color, natural flavors (really??)”. Every one of them is somewhere between 100 and 300 calories, and of course, this small gift shop also doesn’t have ice, which kind of kills the deal for me. The days of sodas and slushies has passed me by; I’m a cold brewed, low-cal kind of guy these days. I keep walking.

Around the corner I enter the lobby and reception area for the company I am meeting and check in with the receptionist. I’m ten minutes early so the friendly receptionist tells me to help myself to a beverage in the adjacent lounge and . . . HELLO! Imagine my pleasant surprise to discover an inviting array of single serve coffees, a modern looking state-of-the-art brewer, and YES! an iced tea program. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the counter, separating the rack of single serve coffee choices and brewer, is one of those beautiful little countertop ice machines, the kind that makes delicious, chewable ice. In a box to the right of this ice machine is a selection of bagged teas, including some that say “cold brewed” right on them. Jackpot! A moment ago I was mildly perturbed at not getting my afternoon pick-up, and now here I am looking at an enticing selection of teas. I’m pretty sure I could figure out how to make an iced coffee here too, if need be.

I had my meeting, a good one, and enjoyed my cup of iced tea. Even as I participated in the meeting, my mind had latched onto something I couldn’t stop thinking about: in a world gone “hot coffee crazy,” where are all the iced tea and iced coffee options? Please understand, I LOVE coffee. It’s great you can get pretty good hot coffee almost anywhere. And the variety! Yet, I’ve discovered there’s more to daytime liquid refreshment than hot coffees and teas. Particularly in the afternoon, and even more particularly on hot days or in hot climates, there are cold beverages. Cold teas, cold coffees, heck, there’s even cold water!

So why isn’t it easier to get a great tasting, personalized iced beverage? The market is there. The hot coffee folks have proven that given convenience and choice, people will embrace their options and do what consumers do best. Studies have shown iced coffee and iced tea are growing trends, and have shown that afternoon dayparts in particular are underserved by hot coffee only. I do understand not everyone has an ice machine handy, but I also know there are good ones out there that fit the bill, and you can’t make iced drinks without ice. So now I’m waiting, patiently, for the inevitable growth in delicious, iced teas and iced coffees, in every office break room, in every lobby lounge, in every place we want them to be, and in every flavor and style imaginable. And I’ll have mine with that nice, chewable ice, please.

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