Hipsters in Brooklyn and coders in Seattle may have a firm grasp on the mug handle of the coffee world. But they’re far from the first to bow to the bean.
Coffee’s been around for hundreds of years, if not longer.
Yet despite its age, coffee is as strong today as a Starbucks drip. But what’s more remarkable is that coffee hasn’t just survived all these centuries. It’s thrived.
In fact, it’s possible coffee has never been as popular as it is today.
So how did such a simple beverage (beans + water) find its way into every diner, kitchen and restaurant in the developed world? How has it become so popular that people launch businesses, and stake their livelihood, on it?
The answer, perhaps, is in its simplicity. Because, at its core, coffee is just beans and water, it’s been able to adapt unlike few other drink choices in history.
One of the earliest known uses of coffee is in the Islamic world, near its origin, where it was directly related to religious practices.
Back in those days, you can be sure coffee was just coffee. No triple grande decaf ristretto almond milk extra hot no foam latte.
But if it had remained just as that – a simple drink – it’s safe to say that places like Starbucks would have never launched. That’s because not everyone has the same tastes. Not everyone likes coffee.
Taking it one step further, those who like coffee have different ways they “take their coffee.” With cream. 2% milk. Sugar. Black.
Even in its simplest form, coffee gives people choices. And with choices comes great power and versatility.
It’s because coffee comes in so many forms that here we are today, living in a world where there are as many types of coffee as there are cable channels.
Here are just a few examples of types of coffee you can order today:
And that’s just to start. And then, there are different ways to prepare your coffee, including:
There are even types of coffee based on regions, like:
Some drinks are so far removed from coffee (Unicorn Frappuccino anyone?) that we scratch our heads when they’re ordered.
But at the end, they all have one thing in common. Beans and water. Yet somehow that bean + water mixture has become a billion dollar industry and the way millions of people start (and for a brave few, end) their days.
So what can we learn about coffee? Aside from that caffeine makes the world go round?
For starters, if you want to stay relevant, you need to know how to adapt. It’s hardly likely that the coffee of the 16th century would be savored by millions today.
Also, more often than not the most successful products and ideas on the market are the most simplistic ones. Why? Because they’re the easiest to personalize.
Look at Legos. In the digital world a simple brick toy is still making millions. Why? Because their simplicity makes them adaptable and timeless.
That’s the same with coffee. It’s still just water soaked in beans. Yet it’s that simplicity that makes it so easy to add milk (from a cow, oats, hemp. almonds), foam, pumps of vanilla or lavender, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or heck, even liquor.
Coffee gives us all the power to personalize our drink. It’s like an extension of our identity. A way to differentiate ourselves from others. And, as a result, it’s not just a drink.
It’s a part of our personality. Few other products on the planet have that type of cache.