It’s an incredibly common sight around American cities – Large plastic or paper cups filled with a delicious brown drink that helps most people get through their day-to-day. When looking at other cultures around the world, though, you don’t see the same phenomenon. Even Italy, one of the birthplaces of coffee culture, rarely drinks coffee drinks in a size above 12 ounces (or iced coffee at all, for that matter). Clearly, larger coffee drink sizes are trending in American coffee culture — and there are some interesting reasons as to why that is.
The Availability of Coffee
Availability is the first factor contributing to why larger coffee drink sizes are trending. Coffee is an organic product, and can only be grown in certain climates. While there are some climates in North America that can sustain coffee growth, much of the world’s coffee consumption comes from farms in tropical climates like South America, Africa, India, and the Middle East. Most coffee in America has to be imported, usually going to a local roaster to be roasted fresh. Green coffee stays fresh for much longer than roasted coffee does, making the modern process of coffee production much more efficient than historic processes. With local roasters and the mass import of green coffee, more coffee can be produced in a day than ever before. With more coffee to drink, people want to drink more coffee, and as a result order larger coffee drink sizes.
Americans Enjoy Iced Coffee
Iced coffee in the traditional sense has been popular throughout history, but modern accounts show that Americans drink iced coffee in far higher quantities than the rest of the world. This isn’t to say other cultures don’t drink iced coffee — some European cultures enjoy their coffee cold with ice cream like the Italian Affogato or made with instant coffee and foamed up like the Greek Caffe Freddo. Conversely, most American iced coffee and cold brew coffee tends to be served straight and over ice, or as an iced latte with milk. This contributes to a trend in larger coffee drink sizes, as larger cups are required to hold the same amount of liquid with the addition of ice. Ice takes up a significantly larger volume in the cup than liquid water, requiring cup manufacturers and coffee shops to keep cups that are almost double the size of the actual liquid in the cup. Some people will order iced coffee without ice to get a few more ounces of coffee too, further proving an American love for large drink sizes.
More Work Needs More Energy
Larger coffee drink size trends don’t just come from the enjoyment of coffee — Many people drink coffee for a utilitarian purpose, too. Studies have shown that Americans are working more than they have in the past, requiring much of the American workforce to rely more on the tried-and-true natural energy source. As more people turn to coffee to get that extra boost, more people want bigger cups of it at a time, too — leading to yet another factor causing a trend for larger coffee drink sizes. Though there are certainly other avenues for people to get energy, coffee is one many are familiar with. Throw in how much a coffee drink can be customized with syrups, milks, sauces, and whipped cream, and it’s no wonder more people want to drink coffee to get their energy.
Bigger Drinks Look Better on Social Media
Social media is everything now, with many people going to coffee shops like Starbucks or a local third-wave cafe for the express purpose of making a social media post about it. While a hot latte may include latte art to bring interest, iced coffee has very little to bring visual interest besides a well-timed photo of a milk cascade. As such, influencers and social media artists order larger cups of coffee to feed into a more maximal sense of marketing — Particularly when it comes to brand marketing. A trend in larger coffee drink sizes is seen in social media across the board, as it is more exciting to the eye and fuels the zippy and energy-filled connotation coffee takes up.
All Americans have heard that “everything’s bigger in Texas,” but it turns out to be true for the rest of the US, too. Larger size trends aren’t limited to just coffee drinks — An increase in size can be seen in many industries, including technology, automobiles, and much more. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does reflect an American penchant for “bigger is better” thinking. When it comes to coffee, though, size doesn’t always reflect quality. The ratio of ingredients, such as milk or syrups, affects the taste of coffee just as much as how it was brewed. Regardless of what size of coffee you drink, just make sure you’re getting a good-quality cup!