THE UK COFFEE REVOLUTION: BRITAIN’S NEW FOUND LOVE FOR THE BEAN
Britain, famous around the world for its love of tea, is fast developing a penchant for coffee. While pubs are closing down at an alarming rate and the High Street is still recovering from the recession, coffee shops appear to be doing rather well. It is estimated that the UK coffee shop market grew by 7.5% in 2012 and is now worth an estimated £6 billion.
Don’t be fooled though, this is not a recent phenomenon. Britain has been a strong coffee-drinking nation for a number of years. There has been a recent transformation, however in the type of coffee Brits like to drink and the level of quality they expect.
The British public’s perception and taste for coffee has been steadily changing over the last two decades. It’s only over the last couple of years that Brits have developed a taste for gourmet (otherwise known as speciality) coffee. Industry experts believe this is down to the emergence of the ‘Third Wave’ of coffee. This term gets banded around quite a lot, but what does it actually mean?
Definitions of the ‘three waves’ of coffee vary. However, all definitions have the same basic principles.
The First Wave
The First Wave points to the growing popularity of coffee consumption after World War II, with the emergence of freeze-dried techniques. Coffee quality was often low and it was was mainly viewed as a commodity and as an instant ‘pick-me-up’ drink.
THE SECOND WAVE
The Second Wave saw an improvement in coffee quality, kick-started by the emergence of global coffee chains. Starbucks entered the UK market in 1998 and the UK’s perception of coffee has gradually changed ever since. There has been a move to espresso based drinks such as the cappuccino and latte and a rise in the consumption of arabica coffee, as opposed to robusta. With the emergence of the Second Wave, people began to tailor drinks to their preferences and could even make great coffee at home, with gourmet espresso machines.
THE third wave
The famous Third Wave refers to the current trend of producing high-quality coffee. Coffee is now viewed as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, as opposed to a commodity. When people mention the UK Coffee Revolution, they are referring to the emergence of this so called Third Wave.
Consumers are now equipped with more knowledge regarding coffee, and demand better quality and more information about where their coffee comes from (bean to cup). Over the last decade, the coffee industry has evolved at all stages of the production process, from growing and harvesting, right up to brewing. Coffee roasters are now pushing to increase the quality of coffee by 0.1%. Many have found there is still lots of room for innovation by going straight to the source (the farms) and improving techniques there to improve the quality of the bean they eventually roast.
Some argue that the UK Coffee Revolution has been mainly a London Coffee Revolution, but this is no longer true. In many cities around the UK such as Edinburgh, Bath, Birmingham and Leeds (to name but a few), the UK Coffee Revolution is thriving. More high quality coffee shops are popping up around the country, with one of the best roasteries in the world based in Staffordshire.
The UK coffee industry is predicted to grow at a healthy rate in 2013 and the UK coffee revolution shows no sign of dissipating. Buckle up Britain, 2013 is going to be full of beans!