Although children are by no means the biggest consumer demographic for coffee shops, the child food and beverage sector is undergoing a period of significant growth. By 2025, the global market is expected to be valued at more than US $146.7 billion.
Aside from the continued discussions about when children should be introduced to coffee, we’re seeing more and more parents bring children to coffee shops. When they do, the non-caffeinated babyccino is a popular choice in many cases.
But what exactly is a babyccino, and why should coffee shops serve them?
To find out, I spoke to three coffee professionals from Australia, the UK, and Ireland. Read on to learn more about what they told me.
You may also like our article on introducing children to coffee.
Where did the babyccino come from?
It’s easy to spot that the word babyccino is a combination of “baby” and “cappuccino”. At its simplest, this is a foamy milk-based drink for children which contains no coffee. But where does it come from?
Some coffee professionals believe that the babyccino was first served in North America, where it is sometimes referred to as a “steamer”.
However, many people agree that the term was first coined in Australia when the drink appeared on coffee shop menus in the early 2000s. In fact, the word was officially added to the Australian National Dictionary in 2016 as it is considered a significant part of the country’s coffee culture.
Today, many coffee shops around the world serve babyccinos, although it is much more prominent in major coffee-consuming markets and not always visible on menus.
For instance, Starbucks doesn’t officially list the beverage on its website, but it can be ordered off-menu at many stores – and is sometimes free of charge.
Costa Coffee also offers a babyccino, which usually comes with a chocolate flake or a few marshmallows. Similarly to Starbucks, Costa initially charged £1 (US $1.22) for the drink, but since 2018, the company has been serving them for free.
Babyccinos can also be found on McCafé menus, although this usually depends on the region.
How do you make it?
Unlike most beverages served in coffee shops, the babyccino only contains one main ingredient – steamed milk.
There is no official babyccino recipe, but the drink tends to be similar no matter where it is served in the world. According to the Barista Institute, the basic recipe is as follows:
- Pour 60ml of milk foam in an espresso cup.
- Dust the drink with cocoa or cinnamon powder.
- Garnish the babyccino with some marshmallows and a chocolate flake.
Dearbhla Barron is the owner of Signal Box Coffee in Waterford, Ireland. She says that the babyccino is “the kids’ answer to a cappuccino”. However, unlike the cappuccino which has at least 1cm of microfoam, the babyccino is around 80% foam and 20% steamed milk.
“Babyccinos are made with steamed full fat milk (which is heated to a lower temperature than normal) and a dusting of chocolate powder to give it the appearance of a cappuccino,” she explains. “The drink is targeted at the parents of kids aged between one and a half to eight years old who are looking for a healthier beverage alternative in coffee shops.”
Even when dusted with chocolate or served with a marshmallow, the babyccino can contain less sugar than a soft drink or a high-concentrate fruit juice, for instance.
Although the base of the babyccino is always milk, toppings and side garnishes can vary depending on the coffee shop.
Claire Williams is the Director of Claire’s Cottage Kitchen in Towcester, UK. The mobile coffee shop offers a range of additions to its babyccino.
“We top ours with whipped cream, sprinkles, and marshmallows as standard,” she says. “We also have chocolate flakes which can be added at an extra cost.”
In some coffee shops, babyccinos can also be prepared by mixing cocoa powder in the milk to make a small hot chocolate-style drink.
Adjusting your steaming technique
Most milk-based coffee beverages are served at a temperature between 55°C and 65°C (139°F and 149°F). This is to create the best texture and highlight the natural sweetness of the milk.
However, young children are far more sensitive to hotter temperatures than teenagers and adults. For children, milk steamed to these temperatures could lead to scalding – especially considering eager children are less likely to wait for the drink to cool.
Paul Rosenkranz is a co-owner of Quest Coffee Roasters in Queensland, Australia, which offers both vegan and gluten-free babyccinos.
He says that because children are more sensitive, babyccinos shouldn’t be steamed to the recommended temperature ranges. Instead, the milk should be steamed to around 40.5°C (105°F).
To prepare a babyccino, a barista simply steams the milk as normal. The milk needs to be steamed until large bubbles appear on the surface – unlike the microfoam which is used to prepare most milk-based drinks, like lattes and flat whites.
The large bubbles help to create a thick layer on top of the drink, which allows the toppings to remain on the surface of the drink.
Why serve the babyccino at all?
Generally speaking, coffee shops are the territory of adults and teenagers. So, why offer a babyccino?
“It provides kids with a sense of equality when they sit and drink their ‘coffee’ like their parents do,” Dearbhla says.
Claire explains that the drink makes it easier for parents to socialise and bring children with them if they have something to do.
“Children know their parents drink coffee, with some thinking a babyccino is like a miniature coffee,” she tells me. “It’s great to see parents enjoying a hot drink with their kids.”
Dearbhla emphasises that although babyccinos aren’t necessarily profitable, they can help to bring in new, first-time customers. She adds that Signal Box charges a small fee that covers the cost of the milk and additional toppings.
Paul agrees, saying: “The drink is a great way to keep children occupied while the adults enjoy their drinks, which is important to attract more customers to the coffee shop.”
Adding the babyccino to your menu
Unlike many other emerging drinks, it is straightforward and easy to add a babyccino to your menu if you want to. It can be readily prepared with ingredients that a coffee shop will usually always have in stock – particularly milk.
Paul says that many larger coffee chains offer babyccinos as it is an easy and affordable drink to prepare. This can also encourage customers to spend more and stay in a coffee shop for a while to increase the average sale price of customers with children.
Coffee shops that want to include the drink on their menus also don’t need to invest in new equipment or substantive staff training.
However, there are a number of things to consider when adding a babyccino to your menu. Coffee shops need to consider whether they will charge customers for the beverage, and if so, how much they will charge.
The price of a babyccino will make a difference to some customers, so pricing it properly is important. If there is another nearby coffee shop which doesn’t charge, for instance, customers with young children may prefer to go there instead.
Coffee shop owners need to consider what price customers are willing to pay, as well as staying competitive with other local coffee businesses.
However, the decision to add a babyccino to your menu largely depends on the clientele of your coffee shop. If you are a coffee business wanting to create a more inclusive environment for families with young children then the babyccino can be a great way of encouraging this demographic to visit your café.
Conversely, if you are looking to provide a quieter atmosphere in your coffee shop then it may be best to avoid adding the babyccino to your menu.
Furthermore, with more than 20% of children in the UK either already following or wanting to adopt a vegan diet, offering plant milks for babyccinos could be a unique selling point for coffee shops. However, it’s important to note that this could increase the cost of a babyccino, as plant milks tend to be more expensive than cow’s milk.
Ultimately, Dearbhla recommends that coffee shops should add it to their menus, but has a few final tips.
“It’s simple and effective,” she concludes. “Remember the target market for the drink, don’t overcomplicate it, and don’t make it too hot.”
While the babyccino might not seem like a natural fit for some coffee shops, it certainly has its place in businesses which accommodate customers who have young children.
Adding the drink to your menu might not increase profits directly, but it can be a great draw for a wider range of customers. Furthermore, if done well, it can help to create a more inclusive space for parents and their kids.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on the pumpkin spice latte.
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