Expert view: The past, present and future of coffee & tea

Did you know coffee used to be sold as green beans? And according to our coffee expert, selling green bean coffee and home roasting will likely make a come back.

We’re thinking a lot about the past, present, and (even more so) the future of coffee and tea this year with it being Julius Meinl’s 160th birthday, so we asked our coffee and tea experts to summarise how coffee and tea has changed over the years through the Julius Meinl lens. 

Then we asked them to predict where these two drinks will be and how we will consume them over the horizon, in the future. 

Coffee roasting

In the past:

As mentioned in our snappy little intro above, coffee was once sold as green beans and people would roast them in their own homes using special pan-like instruments called an antique. It was kind of like how people make popcorn at home nowadays…well, but different. As roasting coffee back then required more than just throwing the beans in the microwave while your movie is starting. The antique wasn’t easy to work with and a number of factors had to be managed and monitored throughout the roasting process.

But this all changed when Julius Meinl came up with the idea to roast the beans prior to selling them. Yep, he was amongst the first in the world to sell roasted coffee beans. He and his son, Julius Meinl II, developed the process and opened a coffee roasting plant in exactly the same location where Julius Meinl’s headquarters stands today. 


Coffee roasting has come a long way since the green bean days. The variety of ways you can buy coffee has multiplied into an endless array of different blends, and different roast levels. The choice of coffee you can buy is seemingly endless. 


Predictions for the future:

Junior Vargas, our coffee connoisseur, predicts that home roasting will make a comeback. 

With the technology of roasters making leaps and bounds in recent years, the machines and equipment are quickly becoming more affordable, more compact and easier to use. This will likely lead to the opening up of the artisanal coffee roasting world to all, not just big companies. 

How coffee is prepared

In the past:

Picture this – you're back in the 1800s and you're boiling your coffee in a pot of water. Boiling coffee and water together (as opposed to pouring boiling water over coffee like we do today) was the main way coffee was prepared until the late 1800s/ early 1900s. Then things got interesting as new brewing methods were invented eg. full immersion using paper filters, cloth filters, and metal filters. 

Eventually, the espresso machine made an impressive entrance onto the scene. The espresso machine changed the game and gave birth to the barista. The machines were big, expensive and complicated to use, so a highly-skilled barista was needed to make the magic happen. 


While baristas are still many people’s beloved dealers of their brew, they’re not essential to making quality cups of coffee. 

There are several methods to prepare coffee, which has cafes and some coffee enthusiasts homes looking like a science lab with all of the paraphernalia that goes with the brewing techniques. Espresso machines have also became easier to use and more affordable, meaning everybody can show off their barista moves. 

The recent pandemic forced a trend that saw a lot more people making barista level quality coffee at home in their pyjamas. 

The diversification of what kind of milk we put in our coffees (the plant-based range continues to expand) is also making milky waves in how we prep’ our coffee. 

Predictions for the future:

When Junior looks into the future, he sees espresso machines in every household. He sees people drinking a higher quality of coffee as education around the drink grows, and people collect more and more brewing equipment. 

Demand for the drink will also grow as more people explore the big and beautiful world of the brown (or green) bean. 

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Coffee’s role in our lives

In the past:

In the 1800s and early 1900s, coffee was a drink served in coffee houses where mostly men gathered to socialise, read, discuss the weather, religion, politics, why there weren’t any women in the coffee house (unfortunately this wasn’t a thing the guys discussed, but certainly should have been). 

To emphasise – coffee houses back then weren’t just a place you knocked off some study on your laptop while using the free wifi, yet rather they were intellectual and political centres of life outside of courts and palaces. 

The coffee would be cooked in large pots and served up to stimulate the conversation filling the coffee house.


Thankfully today, our cafes are populated with people of all genders, and actually women have become the largest consumers of coffee in cafes. 

While the topics that are talked about over the tables in cafes may have changed dramatically, cafes are still very much social spaces that sit at the centre of our lives. 

They’ve also diversified in what they offer, with breakfast, lunch and dinner being added to the menu, along with a variety of other things. And yep, they’re also a place where people come to plug in their laptop for caffeine-charged work or study sessions. 

Predictions for the future:

Junior predicts that the people working in cafes will need to be much more than servers of the drink in the future. 

He predicts that the waiters and baristas will need to be like coffee tour guides, highly informed about the origins, the roasts, and other details of the coffee they’re serving as people will want to know more about the coffee they’re drinking. 

Everybody working in a cafe will be a coffee sommelier.

Coffee as a drink

In the past:

Now, you might not believe the next sentence but we guarantee it’s true – there was a time when drinking water was a health risk. This led to the popularisation of beer and wine in Europe to the point that even children drank alcohol.

As this obviously led to some *clearing of the throat* issues, coffee was welcomed as an alternative. The drink was even promoted by the Pope! There’s a random fact for you. 

Coffee was perceived in different ways by people back in the day – as a drug, an alternative to water, a status-symbol drink, a drink for inspiration.


While some of us still drink more coffee than water like in the old days, we have a much different relationship with coffee as a drink today. Whether it be a part of our morning ritual, as a source of energy boost, a drink at the middle of a social meeting, etc. 

Coffee is something that accompanies us in a variety of moments throughout a day in a variety of ways. We drink more of it than ever before, and in a more casual way. It is an obsession for many, and even a hobby for some. 


Predictions for the future:

More and more people are becoming interested in the details of what makes up their cup of coffee – from the bean’s origins, the producer, the roast level etc. 

Junior predicts that more and more people will join the army of coffee nerds already out there, as an increasing number of people seek to learn about the variety of different ways you can experience the drink. 

Junior also foresees the price of coffee rising as the demand increases and the supply decreases.

The packaging of tea

In the past:

Back in 1862, tea arrived in Europe in jute bags and in wooden boxes. You may see some hipster brands of tea still sporting this kind of packaging, but it’s quite rare to see these days. 



As you would know, tea these days is mostly packaged up in little coated paper bags. This is one of the best ways to preserve the tea’s qualities when transporting it from Asia, where most tea is grown, to Europe. 


Predictions for the future: 

Our tea expert, Arne Stühmer, predicts, and hopes, that in the future tea will be transported in reusable packaging that can be used in the logistic cycle repeatedly. 

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Tea Blends

In the past:

160 years ago, tea typically arrived in Europe as a ‘single origin’ from India, China or Sri Lanka, from specific tea gardens. Each batch would represent a daily crop.



We’re still pretty much doing things old school in the way described above, but it’s more in vogue to blend different kinds of tea these days. People are more readily mixing up cocktails of teas, from classical teas from different regions, to all kinds of other ingredients, be it black, green, or white tea, fruits, and herbs and spices. 


Predictions for the future:

Arne expects that the mishmashing of teas will continue. However, there could possibly be a resurgence in the tea drinker’s appreciation for pure teas, like a pure Darjeeling or Rooibos.

The convenience of tea

In the past:

Loose tea was the only option back in 1862, and it was packed up in bags or jars in people’s homes until they infused the loose leaves.


Teabags dominant the way we drink tea today. Roughly 90% of the tea we drink in Europe results from the dunking of a tea bag in a cup of hot water. 

Predictions for the future: 

Our tea expert predicts that there will be further innovation in the teabag that will lead us in a more sustainable direction. 

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