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A Look at the Square/SCA Independent Coffee Shop Data Report


Inside the Square/SCA independent coffee shop report. Nobody is currently drinking anything inside this cafe. But if they were, it would most likely be a latte, according to U.S. trends.

Merchant services provider Square and the Specialty Coffee Association have released some juicy bits of data related to the U.S. independent coffee retail industry. Specifically, 2018 has been the year of almond milk, cold brew, flat whites and cortados. Plus, everyone frigging loves lattes and North Dakotans are super fancy (more on that later).

The tantalizing data release is part of a larger effort on behalf of Square and the SCA to celebrate National Coffee Day (Saturday, Sept. 29) and, once that hangover wears off, International Coffee Day (Monday, Oct. 1).

Beginning tomorrow, Sept. 28, Square and the SCA will be hosting a coffee-focused public exhibit at Square’s first brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn, featuring coffee from Brooklyn roastery Toby’s Estate. In addition to the public exhibit, Square and the SCA are hosting RSVP-only events, including a roundtable discussion on independent retail today, and workshops on things like home brewing, latte art and more over the next two days. See all event details here.

But back to the data. There’s not a lot of it, but what’s there is pretty scrumptious. Square says the data “is based off millions of anonymized transactions from thousands of coffee shops across the U.S.” from June 2017 to June 2018.


In North Dakota, a latte costs $4.45. Deal with it.

Here are basically all the major points included in the Square/SCA data release on independent coffee retail trends:

Oat Milk

While almond milk remains the most-ordered cow’s milk alternative, followed by soy, orders involving oat milk have skyrocketed, growing by 425 percent over the year.

Weird Stats About Alaska

Alaska is in so many ways a beautiful, enchanting, rugged and awe-inspiring place. It’s also weird. And here are some weird coffee stats to back that up:

  • The most popular coffee drink in Alaska is the mocha
  • Alaskans are the biggest tippers in the nation, at 17.5 percent on average. That eclipses the 11.4 percent national average. New Jersey has the stingiest tippers in the U.S., at a lousy 7.5 percent.

Granted, Alaska may offer a smaller sample size than many other states, but it’s almost National Coffee Day, so let’s have some fun with this!

Everyone (Except Alaska) Loves Frigging Lattes

The latte is the most popular coffee drink in the United States among indie shop consumers, with more than 67 million of them ordered at Square registers over the year, with an average price of $4.16. The cheapest average latte price was found in Idaho ($3.49), which is perhaps not coincidentally the nation’s third largest milk producer. The most expensive latte? You guessed it… North Dakota. An average latte in the Roughrider State will cost you $4.45.

In 44 U.S. states, the latte is the most common drink. The outliers by drink type are: mocha (Alaska); tea (Hawaii and New Mexico); and a trio of old-school Northeastern states that appreciate the clarity, consistency and speed of a good old fashioned filter drip coffee (Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire).

Also, Americans are increasingly customizing their lattes, exceeding two add-ons per order on average. The most complicated drink orders are coming from tea-loving Hawaii, fancy-pants North Dakota and New Hampshire (Live Free or Die!).

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

Cold brew is winning. See nearly every story we’ve written over the past five years as anecdotal evidence.

Shorter Espresso-and-Milk Drinks

Flat whites and cortados have taken off over the past year, with sales increasing by 41 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

So, there you have it. Don’t be a barista in New Jersey. 

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