Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

coffee mug steam

Photo credit: Flickr

Whether you’re a casual consumer or captious connoisseur, the smell of freshly brewed beans is irresistible – and invigorating.

The Chemical Compounds Behind the Aroma of Coffee Infographic

Click to enlarge

In fact, the scent of coffee alone can wake up your brain.

It may seem like a simple pleasure, but the science is surprisingly complex. (Check out this infographic from Compound Interest to learn more, or view the PDF.)

Local cafes have long benefited from coffee’s olfactory appeal. But this distinctive aroma may have interesting implications for how the industry can better connect with key consumers.

Of all of the human senses, smell is the most powerfully connected to emotion and memory. Research shows that scent has the unique ability to lodge itself in the long-term memory system of the brain.

“A smell can be overwhelmingly nostalgic because it triggers powerful images and emotions before we have time to edit them,” writes science historian Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses (via).

This means that, on some level, the smell of coffee is mixed into our memories. Every cup can connect to a story.

Maybe it’s the pattern of the linoleum in your grandmother’s kitchen – replaced by new tile ages ago. Or watching the sun rise after pulling your first all-nighter (academic or otherwise). The Sunday paper with the sports section missing.

Each of these moments is an opportunity to genuinely engage our consumers. The strength of these associations can change which bag of beans is selected from the shelf – or inspire new traditions, in new kitchens.

The next time you pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee, breathe it in. Where does it take you?

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