What do foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and Tax Day have in common? Both are unmistakable signs that spring has arrived. After months of cold weather, the first signs of spring can be enough to fill us with energy, optimism, and excitement for the season’s newest seasonal drinks.
As folks teeter between hot and iced drinks, a well-curated seasonal menu can catch your customers’ attention and celebrate all that survived winter. But if you’re not sure where to start with your seasonal menu, don’t worry: here are seven tips from notable cafes nationwide to get your spring menu started.
Keep It Hyper-Local
Sometimes all it takes is a walk in your backyard to get inspired. The spring menu at Presta Coffee in Phoenix, Ariz., honors the Arizona-Sonora desert plants found in full bloom around the city this time of year, like fragrant desert sage and crimson Baja fairy duster shrubs.
“We found inspiration for this menu both in the surprising abundance and verdancy of the desert in spring,” said Blair Smith, roaster and general manager for Presta. Their menu features the aptly-named Desert Sage, a latte that pairs sage with peach; the Fairyduster, a rose matcha latte brightened with lemon zest and raspberry; and the Cactus Flower, a sparkling lemonade with local prickly pear nectar.
In Austin, Texas, blueberries are bubbling up all over the menu at Desnudo Coffee. The Boggy Berry Latte is a creative concoction of lacto-fermented blueberries, vanilla syrup, milk, espresso, and ice.
Co-owner Juan Trujillo said the drink was inspired and named for Boggy Creek Farm, a small urban farm a few blocks from his coffee trailer. Boggy Creek is a regenerative, non-certified organic farm that offers produce, eggs, flowers, and other local items. They practice sustainable farming without the use of any pesticides or chemicals.
“We wanted to start a conversation with people around the issue of sustainable food growing,” he said. “We strongly believe that’s how we should grow food in the future; to only consume what grows where we live.”
Get Everyone Involved
No one knows your customers better than the baristas who serve them daily. Harness the surplus of springtime energy and ask the team for help! At Colectivo Coffee in Wisconsin, Beverage Category Manager Emma Cowen organized a company-wide competition where employees could submit recipes for a new signature mocha.
“We had a group of tasters narrow them down to our three favorites and then held customer voting events at three cafe locations,” she said.
The winning recipe was the Smoked Vanilla Mocha, made with Hollander chocolate sauce, vanilla, Alderwood smoked salt, and garnished with cinnamon and raw sugar.
Rock The Mocktail
The season of 7 p.m. sunsets and outdoor seating deserves a toast! Celebrate and concoct a coffee mocktail by replicating your favorite cocktail and swapping the booze for brews. The Cuba Libre, a cocktail made with white rum, lime juice, and cola, is a personal favorite of Daniel Kerram, owner of Mane Coffee in Boca Raton, FL.
Kerram riffs on the cocktail by subbing ingredients while still keeping the spirit of the drink—sometimes, that means adding a component or playing with ratios instead of making one-to-one swaps. “We take Mexican Coke, cold brew, fresh lime, and passion fruit syrup for a super vibrant and refreshing iced beverage,” he said.
The Hibiscus Spritz is the non-caffeinated beverage of choice at Colectivo, which takes inspiration from the vibrant red hue and slightly bitter flavor of an Aperol Spritz. The drink features Rishi Tea’s hibiscus limeade powder, blackberry syrup, and sparkling water for a tart soda ripe for patio sipping.
Spill The Tea
Let loose-leaf spark new inspiration when your creative juices are all coffeed out. For the ultimate tea-based spring sipper, order The Canary at Horizon Line Coffee in Des Moines, Iowa. The Canary is a swoon-worthy tea-based mocktail made with osmanthus flower tea, Topo Chico sparkling water, lemon verbena, Szechuan and white peppercorns, coriander, lemon, simple syrup, and a thyme sprig garnish.
Horizon Line sources the tea via a long-standing partnership with Chicago-based purveyor Spirit Tea.“Spirit’s teas are excellent,” said co-owner Brad Penna. “We were looking to highlight something more floral than usual, and after sampling their osmanthus flower tea, it was a no-brainer.”
Lean Into Nostalgia
If there’s one sense that rules spring, it’s smell. Smell is famously linked to memory, so leaning into your more sentimental side can bring a treasure trove of golden ideas. Colectivo’s Honey Lavender Coconut Latte was inspired by Cowen’s fond memories of spring break vacations with her mother.
“I’d always order virgin piña coladas at the beach,” she said. “I wanted to incorporate some of my own nostalgia to elevate the menu.” The fun, floral latte contains espresso, milk of choice, local honey, and lavender-coconut syrup.
Satisfy The Sweet Tooth
Some mark the seasons with desserts: spiced gingerbread and creamy eggnog usher us into winter, while fruit-based treats and light and refreshing sweets help us welcome spring. In addition to being the sweet punctuation mark at the end of a meal, your favorite treats could also provide a morsel of genius.
Horizon Line’s Hummingbird Latte is their take on a traditional Jamaican cake. Espresso and milk pair with pineapple, banana, sweetened condensed coconut milk, vanilla, spices, and a toasted pecan and shredded coconut garnish.
“Think carrot cake meets tropical fruit,” said Penna. “As with all our drinks, the coffee is still designed to be the focal point, so it’s not overly sweet.”
Bring Back A Fan Favorite
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Reminisce about menus of springtimes past—and run the numbers. If a drink was particularly popular last year, why not give it an encore?
This spring, Horizon Line reprised two of their most raved-about beverages: the Bourbon Peach Latte and the Grey Goddess—a comforting blend of Earl Grey tea, cold brew, vanilla, and milk. The two drinks landed on Horizon Line’s Spring 2023 menu thanks to past customer reviews.
“We rarely repeat seasonal drinks, but both were big fan favorites, so we brought them back,” said Penna.
When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a floral latte. Lavender, rose, and jasmine are the pop songs of spring menus and will surely keep your customers happy. But if you find yourself with a little extra energy as the days get longer, challenge yourself to think outside the flower shop. Have fun, keep workflow and efficiency in mind, then rinse and repeat for summer.