Most of the world drinks instant coffee, so why don’t we?

Instant coffee, then and now.

As you can see from the picture above, instant coffee has been around for a very long time.

It was first created and patented in 1890 by David Strang in New Zealand.

Even today, 75% of all coffee brewed in Australia and New Zealand is instant coffee.

Globally, more than 34% of all coffee brewed is of the instant variety. Even in Europe, famous for its coffee shops, jars of instant coffee can be found in many homes.

European consumption accounts for over 40% of the world production of instant coffee…which topped $31 billion in sales last year.

So while coffee purists may cringe when looking at Nescafe instant espresso – also pictured above - this is nothing new. The Reindeer coffee in the picture on the left also included milk and sugar.

And in the photo below you can see just how much space instant coffee brands take up in a typical UK supermarket.

Instant coffee brands on the shelf in a UK supermarket.

If you live in North America, you may be scratching your head and wondering where all this instant coffee can be found. You may even be trying to think of the last time you went to someone’s home and saw a jar of the stuff.

You can stop scratching…because North America is the place where consumption of instant coffee is at its lowest worldwide. We clearly prefer to brew the real thing.

Why North Americans have an aversion to instant coffee is not clear. In fact, it’s a little counter-intuitive. After all, the U.S. is the land of frozen TV-dinners, drive-through meals and fast food of every stripe. We like “fast-and-easy” when it comes to food.

So how come we turn our backs on the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to make coffee?

Is it because our palates are a lot more sophisticated than those of our European cousins? It would be nice to think so, but I’m not convinced.

My best guess is that our addiction to the real thing has more to do with the marketing sophistication of companies like Starbucks.

In fact, the effectiveness of coffee marketing is such that the 3rd wave coffee craze now has us spending more and more time on each cup of coffee brewed, using pour-over methods with retro systems like the Chemex brewer.

It’s incredible when you think about it.

Coffee marketers are successfully pushing many of us in a direction where making coffee is taking longer, costing more and becoming decidedly inconvenient.

An equivalent might be McDonalds pushing 3rd wave burgers …with each patty lovingly made by hand in front of you, and your burger-barista asking you to make a choice from a dizzying array of herbs and spices for your Burger Grande.

Sounds crazy to me. But the coffee industry is succeeding in doing exactly that when it comes to our coffee consumption.

So maybe, just maybe, a few of us should go out and try some instant coffee. Just in case it tastes good enough for our morning cup of Joe.

I know…not going to happen!

About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…

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