It wasn't too long ago that a cup of cold coffee wasn't worth beans. But these days iced coffee is one hot brew.
"Iced coffee has completely evolved in the past decade," said Buffy Maguire, who with her husband runs two Java Beach Cafes in San Francisco and is opening a third.
Last year, the restaurant industry served up 500 million orders of iced, frozen or what are categorized as "slushie" coffee drinks, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD Group, a major market research firm.
AP Photo - - Barista Sierra Schreiner prepares an iced coffee at Cafe Madeleine in San Francisco.
That compares with 400 million in 2006, an impressive performance considering there's been an intervening recession which typically nips at discretionary items like specialty coffee drinks.
Iced coffee drinks on today's menus involve more than just pouring regular coffee over rocks. The beans used are premium, just as with hot coffee, and there are special preparations taken to bring out the best of the flavor.
At Java Beach, coffee is steeped overnight or sometimes longer using a coarse grain and cold water, no heat. "What that process does is there's virtually no acidic quality to the coffee. It just brings out this really caramel-y, chocolate element of the coffee that's really divine," she said.
Who's selling iced coffee?
Just about everyone, from big-timers like Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, and McDonald's to most local shops, like Java Beach. Even 7-Eleven now offers an iced coffee beverage in two flavors.
A few fun facts: Nearly 60 percent of iced coffee is consumed at breakfast, 20 percent is treated as a snack, 13 percent of sales are for lunch and 4 percent for dinner. Consumption is heaviest in the Northeast and the frosty java is more popular with women than men.
At Dunkin' Donuts, iced coffee is "fast becoming as hot, pardon the pun, as our classic cup of hot coffee," said Scott Hudler, the company's vice president of brand marketing.
Dunkin' Donuts uses a double brewing process that keeps the flavor consistent. "It's never bitter, it's not watered down," said Hudler.
Iced coffee is a caloric chameleon. It can be as Spartan as black coffee on the rocks or as hedonistic as a syrup-flavored, whipped cream-infused dessert-in-a-cup. And in case you were wondering, a cold cuppa joe still packs a jolt of caffeine.
At Java Beach, "I do give people a warning," Maguire said. "It's so smooth that you can drink quite a lot of it."
Coffee Bananas Foster Smoothie
Start to finish: 5 minutes. Serves 2.
1-1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, chilled
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 small ripe bananas
6-ounce cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 cup ice cubes
In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth and frothy.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 267 calories; 12 calories from fat (4 percent of total calories); 1 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 6 mg cholesterol; 59 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber; 111 mg sodium.
Parlor Coffee Float
Start to finish: 10 minutes. Serves 2.
1-1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, chilled
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 cup chocolate or coffee ice cream
Whipped cream, to serve
Maraschino cherries, optional
In a blender, combine the coffee, chocolate syrup, half-and-half and 1/2 of the ice cream. Blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into 2 tall glasses and top with a scoop of the remaining ice cream. Top with whipped cream and a cherry, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 301 calories; 112 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 35 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 4 g fiber; 107 mg sodium.
Nightcap Iced Coffee
This adult iced coffee sports a spiced sugar coating on the rim of the glass.
Start to finish: 5 minutes. Serves 1.
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
1 ounce Godiva milk chocolate liqueur
1 ounce Navan vanilla cognac
1 ounce Kahlua Especial
2 ounces espresso, chilled
1 ounce sweetened condensed milk
To prepare the spiced sugar, in a small bowl mix together the turbinado sugar, nutmeg and cardamom. Place on small plate. Lightly moisten the rim of a double old fashioned glass (or other large tumbler), then invert the glass onto the plate so that the sugar sticks to the rim. Fill the glass with ice.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the Godiva, cognac, Kahlua, espresso and sweetened condensed milk. Shake for 1 minute. Strain over the ice in the glass.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 365 calories; 22 calories from fat (6 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 7 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 0 g fiber; 45 mg sodium.