Café culture in Coventry

Coventry is a welcoming city, a changing city, and a city full of culture –  it has submitted a bid to be the UK City of Culture 2021. When you think of café culture, Coventry probably isn’t the first city in the UK you think of, but like most cities across the UK, there is a thriving and growing café culture; one that’s changing all the time too. Last year I wrote a short blog post about some of the cafés in Coventry, but like in many places, there is a churn of businesses, and while some of those written about are no longer here (Urban Coffee Company at Fargo Village, and Meseta), new ones have appeared, albeit in different places (e.g. Myrtles Coffee and Finney’s Coffee Co). I have been working on a project called ‘Spaces of Community: exploring the dynamics of the UK café industry’ which has been investigating the growth and development of the café industry and café culture across the country. Since I am based in Coventry, it made sense to explore what is happening in this city, and it became one of the case studies (alongside Manchester, Birmingham, London, and Bristol). You can read the summary report of the research here).

While Coventry doesn’t necessarily have a huge range of the so-called ‘third wave’ coffee shops, it had an incredibly rich variety of cafés across the city, from your local café where you can guarantee a great breakfast, to coffee houses which have their own blend of coffee, to social enterprises who use profits to fund charity activities. For my research, Coventry was particularly important as many of the cafés display exactly what I was trying to evidence – cafés are important social hubs in cities and communities. Cafés both in the city centre, and out towards the suburbs act as important places for people to meet, work, and socialise.

I’ve made a map of most of the cafés in Coventry – it includes both independent and chain cafés, and has sought to represent the diversity of cafés that are present in Coventry. If I have missed one that you think should be on the map, do get in touch!

As you can see from the map there are plenty of places to visit. How you feel about cafés and what they offer is quite personal; different people want different things from a café (at different times, and on different days), so you really do have to try them to find out what you like. Here are a few highlights:

Kahawa Cafe Coventry Coffee ShopKahawa Café (on Union Street). Many people have their ‘local’ café, and for me this is Kahawa. I discovered this place via a conversation on Twitter not long after starting to work in Coventry, and since then its become my usual pit stop, at first for a break from work, and more recently when on maternity leave to take a break with my daughter. The coffee and service here is excellent, they have a broad menu of drinks, and their own blend of coffee which you can buy to drink at home too. I have yet to find a vanilla latte that can beat the one from here. But more importantly, I can always guarantee a friendly welcome, which for many people is what they want when they are visiting a café.

Finney’s Coffee Co opened in 2016 and has become a popular spot in the city, with both indoor and outdoor seating, it provides  a bit of street café culture to the city. Serving Union Coffee, they have information cards about the coffee they serve on the table, so for those where the coffee origin is important, this is a good place to try.

The Rising Café, based in Coventry Cathedral, is often listed at the top of cafés in Coventry on trip advisor. The café is a social enterprise where profits go directly towards the work of the charity Betel.  The 1940s’ theme goes through from décor to the menu, where dishes range from the Clark Gable salad, to the Rising from the Rubble sandwich.  They have a broad menu of food and drink, and have a very popular afternoon tea option.

Fargo Village, often mentioned as the ‘Camden of Coventry’, is a great place in the city, a creative quarter with a range of independent businesses brought together in one location. It has been home to cafes such as Urban Coffee Company in the past, but there are others here which are worth visiting including: Spangles, an American themed cereal café, deli diner & shake bar that has become well known for its Freakshakes; Bubble Boba a bubble tea and milkshake bar; and the Big Comfy Bookshop, an independent book shop which also served tea, coffee and cake (and recently won the What’s On Best Independent Coffee Shop in Coventry & Warwickshire award) which is expanding soon.

Ed’s Coffee, is stall in Coventry Market, not a café – although you can get filter coffee ‘to-go’. It’s an important feature for Coventry though as it is one of the few places where you can buy a range of coffee beans (and have them ground to your requirements) and coffee brewing equipment.  Coventry market is one of the highlights of the city, a fantastic place to buy fresh food and other goods, and definitely one of the friendliest places I visit in the city. I’ve tried a few of the coffees from Ed’s, a particular favourite is the Papua New Guinea beans, but the Kenyan beans ground for aeropress were great too.

As in most cities there is a strong presence of chain cafés across the city – and they make a great contribution to the city too – from the often friendly staff, to the outside seating to take advantage of whenever the sun decides to make an appearance. There are numerous Costa Coffee’s and Starbuck’s in the city centre, and in the retail parks around the city, and one Caffe Nero store in the city centre. The Caffe Nero store has a particularly interesting location in the Lower Precinct Shopping centre, it is a round café which essentially acts like a giant fish bowl, and is great for sitting above the busy hustle of the people below. Like in most of the cafés in Coventry, the staff there are incredibly friendly which always makes the place feel welcoming – and they have fresh pastries too!

A chain which appears to have a growing presence is Esquires Coffee; it  has a couple of locations in Coventry – one in the West Orchards shopping centre, and another in the Coventry Transport Museum. Aside from the food and drinks, the branch in the transport museum holds various events too, such as Coffee and Board games,  a baking club and even a Comedy Night – a great example of how cafés can develop into community hubs.

Esquires Coventry Coffee ShopFor some people ice cream parlours wouldn’t really be considered cafés, but really, they fulfil a lot of the same functions, they just centre around ice cream rather than coffee, and for the purposes of exploring café culture that has developed in Coventry they are important. There are a couple of ice cream cafés in Coventry, but Sprinkles in the city centre (opposite the transport museum) is a particular delight. The coffee is good, but really it’s the choice of ice cream to go for, plus the crepes, waffles or milkshakes!

Café culture in Coventry is not confined to the city centre, there are places spread around the city from the Mocha Lounge in Allesley Park to Conroy’s in the Memorial Park. In particular, Earlsdon has a collection of independent cafés:  Zafiri’s is a great place with a broad food and drinks menu (the milkshakes are definitely worth trying), as well as Millsys, Kendall’s and the Juice House. There are new places opening in Coventry too, and the most recent addition in Earlsdon is Myrtles Coffee. Despite only opening in May 2017 the place seems to be very popular, and it’s easy to see why. The place is welcoming, with very friendly staff, a great selection of cakes, and excellent coffee. They had an interesting food menu too. A fantastic new addition to the cafés of Coventry.

Each of these places adds to the café culture of Coventry in a different way, through the spaces they offer for people to visit, socialise, work and spend time. They all do things differently, offering a variety of food and drink, seating arrangements, and events. Coventry may not be the first place you think of when you hear about café culture, but like many other cities across the country, cafés in Coventry act as spaces of community. In this city there are plenty of these friendly café spaces whether you need a caffeine fix, a place to meet your friends, or  a place to sit and contemplate life while the world goes by.

If you know of a great café in Coventry that isn’t listed, or hasn’t been mentioned here, do get in touch – its always great to find new places – and I hope the growing cafe culture in Coventry continues.

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Growing coffee shop culture in Nigeria: Cafe Neo and beyond

Historically, African countries are associated with growing coffee, rather than coffee consumption, although recent activity suggests this might be changing. I came across a video from CNN about a coffee company in Nigeria, Café Neo, which demonstrates a growing trends for coffee shops.

Café Neo founded in 2012 describes itself as representing ‘a modern and vibrant approach to celebrating Africa’s coffee heritage’. The company has stores in number countries but with a concentration in Lagos, Nigeria (14 stores at the time of writing), and has ambitions to continue to grow to 20-30 stores over the next few years.

Cafe Neo coffee shop nigeria storesAccording to Ngozi Dozie CEO and co-founder, they want to bring back the best of coffee culture in Africa, and through Café Neo they are using a three-pronged approach: opening stores in downtown locations, opening stores in commercial buildings and selling Neo branded coffee and capsules.

Coffee: Africa’s Gift to business opportunity

The founders of Café Neo, Ngozi and Chijoke Dozie, view coffee as a gift to the continent and want to have the best coffee in Africa, drank in Africa (currently used Arabica beans grown in Rwanda). Having worked abroad, they are attempting to replicate the kinds of spaces they have seen in other countries, a coffee shop business which provides a place to have a drink, to work, with free wi-fi and jazz music, and providing a collaborative space for entrepreneurs to thrive. The menu wouldn’t look out of place in many other Starbucks-like stores around the world with coffee based drinks and juices, and a range of cakes and pastries. Acknowledging that they want to capture the market before Starbucks the founders highlight, “the demand (in Lagos) is very high. There’s a significant minority of people who love coffee and want to drink coffee but haven’t had access to coffee”.

While the Nigerian market might appear challenging to some international companies, not at least because of the infrastructure costs related to keeping electricity going through power shortages, it has not stopped companies such as KFC, Dominos or more recently Krispy Kreme from trying to establish themselves in Nigeria. It will be interesting to see how long it will be before Starbucks or Costa Coffee try to establish themselves there too, given the clear interest in these types of spaces. At present, there is not a huge amount of competition, but the number of coffee shops is beginning to rise.  One example is Umutu Coffee Co, which describes itself as a Nigerian Gather House has a flagship store in Lagos airport, as well as a store in Victoria Island, the area of the city where Café Neo stores concentrate.

Beyond the border

Outside of Nigeria, across Africa, there are signals of coffee shop growth.  Starbucks opened its first store in South Africa in 2016 recognising a market that was ‘vibrant and growing’. As explored in this  Ventures Africa article, there are a number of companies alongside Café Neo who have sought to develop coffee shops in Africa: Deluxe Coffeeworks – Gardens, Cape Town; Café du Livre, Marrakesh; Tomoca Coffee Shop, Ethiopia (established in 1953); and Cuppa Cappuccino, Accra. And there are other successful coffee shop chains:  in Ethiopia, Kaldi’s Coffee was founded in 2005 and has over 30 stores across Addis Ababa; and Java House which established its first outlet in 1999 now has over 35 outlets across Kenya and Uganda. And it’s not just coffee shops trying to emulate the western style chain coffee shops, there are a rising number of independent coffee shops too, as explored in this blog post from Coffey and Cake which highlights some of the best coffee shops in South Africa, or from the Culture Trip on coffee shops in Nairobi, Kenya. Africa is a diverse continent, growing a wide variety of coffees and if current trends continue, most likely it will develop a variety of coffee shop cultures too.


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Coffee and cafe culture in Portugal: revisited

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve recently been to Portugal and had the opportunity to explore a bit more of its coffee culture.

In Portugal, unlike the UK, drinks bought in the café tend to stay in the café, and consequently there isn’t a huge amount of coffee cup waste entering into landfill. The most common coffee, espresso, is often drank at the bar, there is no need for a takeaway cup. However, I’ve noticed that in the centre of Porto signs have begun to appear which highlight that some cafés do now have takeaway options – likely to appeal to the tourists in the area. In some ways it’s sad to see more takeaway coffee available, partly because that isn’t really the culture around there – it’s great to be able to sit in a Portuguese café and really experience the place you are in; and secondly there are issues around sustainability and increased waste. Although it was great to see in Mesa325 which did offer takeaway options, had KeepCups for sale too!

As I discussed in a previous post, some international chain cafés have a presence in Portugal with Costa Coffee being placed right outside the arrivals gate at Porto airport (and in the departure lounge too), and in the very centre of Porto near the Clérigos tower. It’s clearly a popular and busy café, but then given it is right next to a popular tourist site, this isn’t surprising. Unlike the Costa’s in the UK, this one stays open much later into the evening.

There is a growing specialty coffee scene in Porto, and I managed to try Mesa325 (after finding about via Brian’s Coffee Spot), one of the pioneers of specialty coffee in Porto; a lovely place just a short walk from the very centre of Porto. They had both Luso Coffee and Vernazza coffee on offer. This café had a lovely feel to it, a range of seating options, and the decor shows the people who run the place clearly know their coffee (Standart magazines hanging at the side is a nice touch), and are supporting other independent businesses (such as micro-roaster Luso Coffee Roasters, and the craft brewer Musa).

We ended up trying Luso Ethiopian Coffee via V60, one of the nicest V60 brews I’ve had anywhere. One thing readers from the UK might notice is how much cheaper the coffee is here compared to UK prices (€1.60 for V60) – although this is still more expensive than the traditional Portuguese cafés (because of the higher quality coffee). While you can see in the photo of the coffee bar there are a number of cakes and pastries on offer, there is also a much wider food menu available too which I would highly recommend. While it would clearly appeal to tourists looking for a third wave style coffee shop, there were plenty of local people in here too. If I lived in Porto this would definitely become a favourite.

I also dropped by a branch of Armazém do Caffè, a chain of coffee shops in Portugal that are similar to the Costa/Starbucks style, although they sell a wide range of coffee beans here – I was tempted by some of the Jamaica Blue Mountain but we already have so many coffee beans stacking up in the house I decided to hold back this time.

While most of the specialty coffee we found on offer was in the centre of Porto, there is specialty coffee available outside the city too. Combi Coffee, who operate out of a coffee truck, move around and are often based  near beaches where surfing is taking place. The week I was there they were based around the Douro Marina in Vila Nova de Gaia, but we didn’t manage to make it over there. However,we did get to try Combi Coffee, in a smaller city just below Porto: Esphinho. This is a small city, known for its beaches, and as one of the best surfing spots in the north of Portugal. Just outside the train station we noticed a takeawy coffee sign one evening and the next day went back to see what the café was like, and were particularly interested given we couldn’t see the usual coffee branding that is usually outside of Portuguese cafés to indicate what coffee they use (Buondi, Sical, Nicola etc).

Pão de Dó which opened last year is a coffee house which serves Combi coffee. It has a musical theme to it, and even has a large piano inside, and describes itself as an artisanal café. Given the specialty coffee and teas, as well as range of cakes and chocolates on offer, you can see why. There was also a range of food available, and it was interesting to hear from the barista that they had recently changed the menu in order to incorporate more ‘American breakfast’ options (granola, bagels etc). Although we couldn’t buy the Combi coffee here to take home, we weren’t the first to ask, so there is clearly some demand for specialty coffee for home consumption.

And then most of the visits to cafés in Portugal were to the more traditional Portuguese cafés/bakeries that I have come to enjoy so much. And of course we visited the café I mentioned as my favourite place before, for the croissants more than the coffee. Novo Século has become our ‘local’ café and what’s lovely about this place is that despite only visiting a couple of times a year the waitress always remembers what we have; particularly impressive when you see the turnover of people that visit here. It’s a proper community café/bakery, based below some apartments and acting as a hub for the people that live nearby. It’s clearly also on some kind of trekking route as there now often seem to be people in walking gear with backpacks stopping here too.

For someone with an interest in coffee, cafés and coffee culture, Portugal is a fascinating place. It has a long-standing and rich coffee culture, but it is experiencing some shifts, not just in the urban centres, and it will undoubtedly be a country I continue to explore.

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Specialty coffee culture in Portugal: Luso Coffee Roasters

Portugal is famous for its coffee culture; drinking coffee is an important part of every day life across the country. Cafes are present everywhere you can think of, right down to the most remote villages.  However, the specialty coffee industry has recently begun to emerge in Portugal with a handful of specialty coffee roasters and places serving specialty coffee; the industry is clearly growing.

Mesa325 Portugal Specialty Coffee

Inside Mesa325 – specialty coffee for sale

As I mentioned in a previous post about coffee culture in Portugal,  there are a number of specialty coffee businesses concentrated in the big cities for example: in Lisbon (e.g. Fabrica Coffee Roasters, Copenhagen Coffee Lab); and in Porto (e.g. Vernazza, Luso Coffee Roasters, Combi, Mesa 325, BOP, and the Coffee Room). On a recent trip to Porto I had the chance to explore some of these places, and coffee culture more generally in Portugal.

I’m interested how the specialty coffee industry is developing in Portugal given it is a country where coffee culture is so embedded in the lifestyle, and the particular style of coffee (espresso with sugar) is so popular. While in Portugal I had the chance to meet up with Diogo Amorim, founder of Luso Coffee Roasters to talk about specialty coffee culture in Portugal, and about running a specialty coffee roaster business.

Luso Coffee Roaster Portugal Specialty CoffeeLuso Coffee Roaster Sugar Portugal Specialty CoffeeLuso Coffee Roasters is a micro-roaster based outside Porto. There are a variety of coffees on offer including a blend that is designed to appeal somewhat to Portuguese tastes for coffee (the Viriato blend). Importing the beans from a range of countries they are then roasted on demand. Luso has a coffee cart which is used at some events, and there are ambitions for a site in Porto to sell Luso Coffee in the future, but for now it is available and from a variety of places in Porto. I had actually tried some coffee from Luso the previous day in Mesa325; a lovely smooth coffee via V60. While talking to Diogo we tried some of the Viriato blend, and unlike with standard espresso from Portugal, you really don’t need sugar with this one (although Luso does have sugar available – with a helpful hint on the back).

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Demand from tourists, and those who have travelled abroad, seem to be key drivers of specialty coffee growth in Portugal. When you consider the locations of where specialty coffee is on offer in Portugal this makes sense, either in the centre of cities, or relatively close to hotels where tourists might stay (I found specialty coffee on offer outside of Porto, which I will explore in another blog post soon). A potential barrier for a broader consumer base for specialty coffee in Portugal (as in many other markets) is price. A typical espresso in Portugal can cost as little as 0.50. But as Diogo, and many other people who work in the specialty coffee industry have pointed out you are paying for high quality coffee with specialty coffee. Will specialty coffee ever become mainstream in Portugal? Only time will tell, but for now, there are an emerging number of coffee businesses that are worth exploring.


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Urban development and coffee shops: the end of the road for a coffee shop in Birmingham

I learned recently from an article in the Birmingham Mail that one of the first specialty coffee shops in Birmingham, 6/8 Kafe on Temple Row, is to close down after the building it inhabits is to be transformed into a shower complex for workers who cycle in to offices nearby. 

The multi-award winning 6/8 Kafe which opened in 2011 is considered a pioneer in bringing specialty coffee to Birmingham. While you can now wander around Birmingham and have a good choice of coffee shops from the independents such as Quarter Horse, 200 Degrees, Yorks and every coffee chain you can think of (including the Canadian chain Second Cup), this was not always the case. More than just a coffee shop, this place was also important for local artists and musicians, with frequent events being held at the cafe. This isn’t the end for 6/8 Kafe as it does have another outlet in Millenium Point, but it marks the end of an era for many people who visit this cafe, and have made memories here. 

More than this it marks a change in urban development patterns. In many places coffee shops are often seen as symbols of urban development or gentrification. In this case there’s a new wave of development that is even pushing out the coffee shop. For many independent coffee shops, the cost of rent in retail centres can be too high to be viable. Will this mean in the future that city centres become the domain of coffee shop chains that can stand the high rent prices, and can claim the central real estate locations, with independents having a greater presence as you move out of city centres and into the suburbs?  In any case, this an interesting example of how urban development doesn’t always lead to a growth of coffee shops, but can also lead to their demise. 

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Exploring Coffee and Cafe Culture in Portugal

When I first visited Portugal I was at a stage in my life when I drank a lot of vanilla lattes, the odd espresso and americano, but mostly vanilla lattes, and when I travelled to Portugal my partner had explained that they didn’t really do vanilla lattes in Portugal, coffee was just coffee. There was at the time, no Costa Coffee in Portugal and the only branches of Starbucks were in Lisbon. When in a branch of Armazém do caffè (the closest thing to a Costa/Starbucks-like café at the time) I ordered what I thought was a vanilla latte, it turned out I’d ordered an iced vanilla latte – close enough. I soon adapted to the Portuguese way of drinking coffee anyway.

Coffee in Portugal

Coffee culture is ingrained in the everyday life, culture and history of Portugal. The Portuguese were crucial actors in expanding the coffee industry into what it is today with Portuguese colonists introducing the coffee plant to Brazil. There isn’t space here to explore the rich history of Portuguese coffee culture, but I will write about this more at some point soon.

Drinking coffee in Portugal is an everyday part of life, with cafés found almost on every street, and espresso being the most common drink.  Coffee is significantly cheaper to drink out of the home, than it is in the UK. An espresso wouldn’t usually cost you more than €1 and in most cases is closer to €0.50. If you ask for a coffee (um café) an espresso is what you’d be served, although there are regional variations for different coffees too. If you were in Porto and wanted an espresso you’d order um bica, while in Lisbon you’d order um cimbalino (named after the La Cimbali espresso machines).

Espresso in Portugal

They have a range of coffees with milk in too – I often have um pingo (an espresso with a dash of milk) or uma meia de leite (around half coffee/half milk – the closest thing I’ve had to a latte). There are actually a wide range of variations of the espresso based drink, some of which are explored on the Salt of Portugal and Emma’s House in Portugal blogs.

Cafés in Portugal are literally everywhere, not just in your retail centres but spread throughout the neighbourhoods too, even in the most remote places. Often cafés will have a branding for the coffee they serve somewhere on the outside such as Delta, Nicola, Sical, Buondi, or Café  Brasileira. These types of traditional Portuguese cafés often have a range of baked goods served there as well. My favourite café in Portugal is just a small café at the base of a block of flats in a residential area. Actually, I don’t really go there for the coffee, I go there for the croissants, freshly baked – one thing you’ll notice in Portuguese cafés is that the range of cakes and pastries usually makes the options from Costa/Starbucks look pathetic (it’s not just about pastel de nata in Portugal)!

The long history of cafés in Portugal means like in many European cities there are some cafés which have a long history:

  • Café Nicola in Lisbon an art deco style which opened in the late 18th century, and to its current location in 1929.
  • Botequim in Lisbon was opened in 1968 by the Portuguese writer Natália Correia.
  • A Brasileria in Lisbon opened in 1905, and is famous for being frequented the Portuguese Poet Fernando Pessoa.
  • Café Guarany in Porto, opened in 1933 (and underwent restoration in 1994), and according to the website was known as the musicians coffee shop. In addition to the food and drink, they do hold music events including traditional Fado music.
  • Café Progresso in Porto was founded in the early 19th century.
  • Café Majestic in Porto, opened in 1921 and is considered one of the most beautiful cafes in the world. Opened in 1921.

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When I first started to look for cafés to visit in Portugal, most of the ‘top cafés in Porto/Lisbon’ would feature these kinds of cafés which were important landmarks in the city. However, things have started to change, with the emergence of a wider range of café types becoming popular particularly in the larger cities.

These two lists of cafés that are ‘good to read in’ feature quite a few interesting spots:

Starbucks have around 10 branches around the Lisbon region, while Costa Coffee have a couple of branches around Porto and the Algarve. The coffee shop chain in Portugal I found the closest to these types of coffee shops was Armazém do caffè which has branches across a broader spread of the country, compared to the other chains (see below).Coffee Shops in Portugal

Then in one of my last trips to Porto I discovered Moustache near Clérigos Porto which seemed much closer to the Starbucks type of coffee experience than in many Portuguese cafés. The menu includes the range of coffees plus Frappuccino type drinks, as well as a range of baked goods, including natas, of course! The coffee I’ve had here though is definitely better than most chain coffee shops I have been to and what I liked about this place was that it sought to engage with its community in different ways, holding various events in the café space.

The concept of working in cafés is not new, however with the rise of more freelance work and the ‘gig economy’ many people are turning to cafés as places to work from. I have written a bit about working and co-working in cafes from a UK context, but even in Portugal it has been acknowledged that there is a demand for places for people to work from outside of the office. Portoalities provides a guide to the best cafes to work from in Porto (and if you’re interested a list of co-working offices too).

Specialty Coffee in Portugal

There are a growing range of cafés in Portugal, with more independent cafés and specialty coffee shops that focus not only on the type of food and drink they serve, but the aesthetic of the café too. It’s not until recently that specialty coffee shops have made much of an appearance, but the specialty coffee scene does seem to be gathering pace. Brian from Brian’s Coffee Spot visited last year and tried out some of Porto’s new additions including BOP and Mesa 325 in Porto:

  • BOP a café bar where there is a brew bar, and the coffee used is from Vernazza. More than a place which focuses on coffee, it also has a passion for music and there are record players for you to listen to the large collection of LP’s they have behind the counter. They also have a pretty good menu if you’re looking for food too!
  • Mesa 325, who also use Vernazza, and in addition to the brew methods for making coffee also serve Vietnamese coffee which I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else in cafés in Porto.

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These are both excellent examples of the new types of coffee shops appearing in Portugal, but the specialty coffee presence in Porto goes well beyond these two places. Oporto Cool explores 12 cafés which provide more than a place to get your espresso hit – from the specialty coffee shops that focuses on brunch and cocktails too (Zenith), to the ‘coffee garden’ combining specialty coffee and health food (Noshi Coffee) which opened this year. Fraulein Anker has written a Porto Hipster coffee guide too.

There’s plenty of activity too in the capital city Lisbon with the Copenhagen Coffee Lab being one of the best known specialty coffee spots in the city bringing a bit of Nordic coffee culture to the city. There is also Fábrica Coffee Roasters a café and roaster, now with two outlets and according to their website a coffee truck coming soon. Like Porto, more specialty coffee shops are emerging such as WISH slow coffee house and Montana Lisboa as highlighted by Matous Vins on European Coffee Trip.

And in Lisbon the combination for coffee and cycling that we’ve seen here in the UK has a presence too in the  BI-CA Sandwich Cafe, where you can also hire bicycles here (in Porto for a combination of bicycles and coffee there is the Urban Cicle Café).

Following the trend of having coffee shops in flagship stores as has been seen recently in London and other major cities (e.g. the pop up coffee bar by Has Bean roaster in the clothing store UniQlo), The Feeting Room, a footwear and clothing store in Porto now has its own coffee shop. ‘The Coffee Room’, located on the top floor  is a specialty coffee shop dedicated to third wave coffee culture, which serves coffee (single origin Guatemalan from a roaster in Porto according to this article from Evasoes), and panoramic views of the city.

In terms of following other coffee trends, it appears that Portugal has also taken on the coffee in a cone concept in a series of Delta Q stores in Lisbon and Porto.

The majority of these new cafés that are embracing specialty coffee, or a more third wave style of coffee shop tend to be in the city centre, targeting young urban audiences and tourists too. It will be interesting to see if these start to spread out into some of the neighbourhoods too over time.

An exception to this at the minute would be Combi Coffee which is actually a coffee truck which can be found in various locations, but often near the beaches of Espinho, just south of Porto. This article from the Coffee Universe suggests they will have a coffee shop in Porto at some point soon as well. Here the founder of Combi Coffee explains: “Portugal is a place where coffee and espresso are synonyms, so all the Portuguese care about is a full bodied creamy espresso shot regardless of the origin or variety of the coffee beans. We are actively trying to change that. Slowly but steadily.” (Coffee Universe, 2016)

In my research I’m interested in all types of cafes, from the historical landmarks of the city, the traditional corner neighbourhood café bakery, to the specialty coffee shops.  It would be interesting at some point to map the different types of cafés in Portugal to see the extent of the café into Portuguese communities, and how these differ across the country.

If you know of a café in Portugal that you find is an important place or interesting space, then do get in touch.

Coffee Roasters

Roasting coffee in Portugal is not a new concept, the large coffee companies such as  Delta or Sical have been present for decades, but specialty coffee roasters are more scarce. Although much like the specialty coffee shops, more roasters are emerging too. I’ve already mentioned Fabrica Coffee Roasters in Lisbon but a couple of others worth exploring too are:

  • Vernazza Coffee Roasters, based in Maia and established in 2015, now has coffee in many of the emerging specialty coffee spots around Porto as well as restaurants too. The owner of Vernazza recognises that specialty coffee is not yet a widespread commodity in Portugal yet: it’s part of our strategy to be a specialty coffee, and to be placed together with nice things and places, where there is the concern with the detail; we know we are not a coffee for the masses . According to this article Vernazza hopes to have its own café in Porto at some point.
  • Luso Coffee Roasters based just south of Porto, has a range of coffees including the Viriato Blend which is roasted to ‘have the notes of a traditional Portuguese espresso’. I wonder if this could be the way to entice more Portuguese consumers to specialty coffee? In an article from the Coffee Universe the founder of Luso Coffee Roasters acknowledges the barriers for the specialty coffee market in Portugal, in particular the price of coffee, but highlights that increased tourism is providing opportunities to open new cafés and there is a rising curiosity about specialty coffee.

Portugal is a country with a long coffee history, and the café has, and remains to be, an important place in communities across the country. But like many other countries, the coffee culture is changing, and with it the emergence of different types of cafés, and coffee businesses are emerging. As has been noted by the Perfect Daily Grind Portugal is ‘embracing third wave culture with enthusiasm and vigor’ but will Portugal ultimately see a widespread shift from its traditional espresso culture, or will the specialty coffee remain a niche market catering to young urbanites and tourists? Only time will tell and from a research perspective, it’s fascinating to explore. If you know of a new or interesting café or coffee roaster in Portugal that I haven’t mentioned here, please do get in touch.



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Spaces of Community: Dynamics in the cafe industry – Research Summary

The ‘Cafe Spaces’ blog was originally established to support the activities around the research project ‘Spaces of Community: exploring dynamics in the café industry‘, which sought to explore the growth and development of the café industry in the UK, and examine the role of cafés in different urban spaces.

There are a number of publications which stem from the intial project, some of which are available now, others which are still with publishers, or in progress. In the meantime, I have produced a short research summary which highlights some of the key points that emerged in the research.

Spaces of Community Report Cafe Industry

As I expected the blog has become much broader than just this project, to include issues from across the coffee and café industry, exploring café cultures from across the globe, and I now have a wide range of pathways to take the research next.

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Learning about coffee and coffee shops: Podcasts

Recently I’ve been writing a few blog posts which highlight where I learn about coffee, cafes, and coffee cultures. Previous posts have covered books, magazines, and blogs/websites. Today’s post introduces some of the podcasts I listen to, some of them are still active, while others have finished but are still useful repositories of coffee knowledge.

The Coffee Podcast: ‘People-focused coffee talk’ produced by Weston Peterson and Jesse Hartman. Moving beyond talking about the café and the coffee, these podcasts explore some of the people that make the coffee industry what it is today. Beyond this, the podcast covers a whole range of issues related to coffee from home brewing, sustainability, to grinding and roasting. Now on Episode 81 there’s a huge amount of material here. I particularly like their most recent podcast on ‘What is Specialty Coffee?’ where they talk to the SCA Executive Director Ric Rhinehart.

The SprudgeCast produced by the co-founders of the specialty coffee website, Sprudge, Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen explores the world of specialty coffee. There are now 40 Episodes, each covering a range of specialty coffee topics. The most recent was recorded at an evening event at Prufrock in London during the London Coffee Festival and they talk to a number of guests about their activities in specialty coffee.  Often out on location, these podcasts literally bring you a world of specialty coffee, including: Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Dublin as well as a number of locations in the US.

In the Orange Cactus Coffee podcasts Mike and Jake explore a range of issues in specialty coffee. Here there are two types of podcast: the full episodes covering topics from brewing tips, coffee and cafes reviews to what a ‘dream café’ would look like; as well as the Daily Ristretto with shorter topical discussions from third wave water to types of kettles.  They also have a series of videos about coffee too. I discovered these guys after some conversations on twitter, and I was really happy to hear they like reading my work too – after they mentioned the blog in a recent episode of the Daily Ristretto on Coffee In Neighborhhoods.

In addition to James Hoffman’s Jim seven podcast, he has also produced the Coffee Jobs Podcast where he talks to a range of people who work in coffee about their lives in coffee, how they got there, and advice they have for people working in the coffee industry. In each episode, James explores a different career in coffee, including: Jenni Bryant(Market Lane), Ellie Hudson (Specialty Coffee Association of America), Mikaela Wallgren & Klaus Thomsen (Coffee Collective), Laila Wilbur (Cherry Street), Charles Babinski (G&B Coffee), Anne Lunell (Koppi Coffee), Michael Phillips (Blue Bottle Coffee), Gwilym Davies (Prufrock) and Colin Harmon (3FE).

Tamper Tantrum is more than a podcast really, as they say on their website – it’s a platform dedicated to broadcasting stories from interesting people in the coffee industr. It’s been described as “one of the world’s premier platforms for coffee bickering, brainstorming, and live speaking engagements”. The podcasts talk about everything you can imagine in the coffee industry with various special guests, and often related to live events (the videos attached to the podcasts are on the website too). Now with 78 episodes there’s quite a back catalogue to get through. I particularly like the episodes on the business models of coffee roasteries, the Business of Brewing from the Manchester Coffee Festival, the debate about Barista Competitions, and Barista Attitude & Third Wave Shops.

Boss Barista is a podcast produced by Jasper Wilde and Ashley Rodriguez, connected to the website Permanent Barista, which explores the experiences of and issues related to working as a coffee service professional. From discussions about age discrimination in the coffee industry, identity in coffee, to discussions of self-care working in the coffee industry, this podcast is great for beginning to explore the human side of the coffee industry.

Cat & Cloud produced by Jared Truby and Chris Baca, is a website which acts as a platform for a number of creative projects, one of which is the coffee podcast. They also have their own coffee, I’m intrigued by the blend called ‘the answer’. I particularly like the episodes SCAA then and SCA now, 1st, 2nd and 3rd waves, Social media and authenticity, and How do we benefit? Dial in.

Coffee Awesome, as the tag line says, is a podcast about coffee. Produced by Bjørg Brend Laird, who through interviews and discussions from across the coffee industry, explores a range of coffee topics from the geography and production of coffee, to the business of cafes, as well as brewing techniques, and the science of coffee.


Boise Coffee, is a website produced by Colin Mansfield, that reviews and discusses, coffee, brewing methods and other coffee-related topics. There is also a podcast which tends to discuss more of the general topics around coffee, from the history of Irish Coffee, cities and their coffee cultures, to developing latte art and perfecting espresso.



The Right Roast isn’t really a podcast, instead it’s a series of videos taking you on a global adventure with coffee. I discovered the site when looking for some information about coffee culture in Japan, and the two part series on Tokyo Coffee Scene caught my attention (Part 1, Part 2) – but there are lots of great insights here from all over the world.



Coffee is Me, produced by Valerian, is a podcast about all things coffee. Like many coffee podcasts this one has a website too which provides a lot more content beyond the audio itself. I particularly like the episodes ‘What does a Rwandan Barista dream of?’. and ‘Coffee in Iran’.



The AudioCafe: for Baristas, coffee houses, coffee lovers is a podcast produced by Levi Andersen, which explores different issues in the specialty coffee world. Like many of the other podcasts, the topics covered are wide ranging from how to source green coffee, to considering barista training in a coffee house, and with 61 episodes to get through so far, there’s plenty to get through. I particularly like the episode on baristas as global brand ambassadors (no.26), and the journey to the World Barista Championship (no.24).

The Coffee Geek podcast which no longer has new episodes being produced still holds a wealth of information and is worth listening to. The majority of the episodes were produced from 2005-2009, although there are a few in later years. For a window into how coffee culture developed, particularly in the US in the mid to late 2000s, this is a great place to start.



I Brew My Own Coffee hosted by Brian Betke & Bryan Schiele talk about everything related to making coffee at home (and topics related to this from across the coffee industry). Now up to Episode 52 this podcasts covers issues from Third Wave Water, Home Espresso Basics, Sourcing and Seasonality, to Pour Over Brewing. I particularly like the episode which talks about the Aeropress which has pretty much become my standard method of making coffee at home.


So this is where I listen and learn about coffee and the coffee industry. Are there any other podcasts about coffee, cafes and coffee culture that I’ve missed and really should be listening to?



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Neighborhood and Coffee: Starbucks in Japan

Starbucks, the global coffee chain company is starting to try and do things a little differently. Famous for introducing its stores with their similar style and operations across the globe, with increasing competition the company has had to think about how it can move with the times and have a wider offering of store types. In some markets the company has sought to introduce luxury ‘Reserve’ stores and roasteries (one is planned for Tokyo in 2018) with a wider range of coffee preparation methods, and the offering of a more premium Starbucks experience (Kell, 2014).

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks said that he wanted to make Starbucks stores a destination in themselves:

“People are still longing for connection, and a sense of community, perhaps more so now that they are spending more time at their computers, or working from home” (Foroohar, 2014).

In addition, the company has suggested it intends to open more express outlets, mobile coffee vans, and more specialised retail outlets (Foroohar, 2014). Starbucks has had a presence in Japan since 1995 , and now has over 1,100 stores across the country. More recently it has introduced a new store format – Neighborhood and Coffee.

Neighborhood and Coffee – Jiyugaoka,Tokyo. Image credit: Dave Powell – Shoot Tokyo

Unlike many Starbucks stores which are located in urban centres, these stores tend to be located more in the neighbourhoods where people live – designed to be your local neighborhood coffee shop.

Inside the Neighborhood and Coffee Store in Okusawa,Tokyo. Image Credit: Dave Powell – Shoot Tokyo

They are designed with plenty of seating, to be welcoming and more of a place where you would want to go to sit, relax and meet people – one store in Kobe even has a special rooms that allows customers to bring their dogs in too.  Unlike the usual Starbucks stores there is less of the bright green branding, instead focusing on more subtle branding and lighter colours.  The menu is these stores is a little different, focusing on the Starbucks Reserve coffee, and they also served different food as well as beer and wine.

Inside the Neighborhood and Coffee Store in Okusawa,Tokyo. Image Credit: Dave Powell – Shoot Tokyo

For some people this move by Starbucks indicates recognition of a new wave of espresso culure in Japan, and for others its a sign that Starbucks have realised they need to do something different – their standard stores are ubiquitous and in order to continue to expand they need to provide a higher quality offering of coffee, and a different kind of space. Given the rise in specialty coffee in many countries, particularly in the UK, it will be interesting to see if this concept appears anywhere else. I noticed on a recent trip to London for the London Coffee Festival that one of the Starbucks stores had already opted for the branding without the usual round green mermaid logo, instead going for the lighter wooden look.

Starbucks London

Starbucks, London


Foroohar, R. (2014) Inside Starbucks’ Radical New Plan for Luxury Lattes. Time,  05/12/14.

Kell, J. (2016) Starbucks sales jump leads to confidence in high end coffee strategy. Fortune, 03/11/2016.

Note: Thanks to Dave Powell from Shoot Tokyo for permission to use some of his images from his visits to Neighborhood and Coffee stores in Tokyo.

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The language of coffee: latte art

I found out recently thanks to a tweet from Bex, author of the coffee blog Double Skinny Macchiato, that ‘Latte Art’ is one of the new entries to the Oxford English Dictionary:

“latte art: pictures of patterns made by skilfully pouring steamed milk onto the surface of a latte or similar coffee drink”

Cortado from Tamper Coffee, Sheffield

It’s a sign that something which was once seen by some as a novelty in the coffee industry, has become part of the mainstream. For many consumers visiting a coffee shop, the quality of the artistic milk foam production can be as important (and in some cases more important), than the taste of the drink. This is not always the case, and much to the frustration of many people I’ve spoken with in the cafe industry who are keen to stress the important of looking beyond the coffee foam topping. While latte art is a great way for baristas to make their products look great, good coffee is about far much more. But then in the time of Instagram and other social media forms where sharing images of your coffee has become so common, interesting latte art forms are a way for cafes to impress customers, and entice them into to try their products. As you’ll note from the definition and image above, latte art is often produced not just on lattes, but on any milk-based drinks!

Latte Art in Caffe D’Arte, Seattle

I first discovered latte art on a coffee crawl while in Seattle back in 2011. It was in Caffe D’arte in which I was shown how to carefully pour the milk to make the lovely leaf pattern which so many people now expect on their coffee. The barista also created a dragon too, but I forgot to take a photograph. He made it look so easy, but it is does require a lot of skill.  I have attempted in the past to create even the simplest of latte art forms, with very little success. The closest I came to a leaf shape was when I was doing the barista training course at Prufrock, but then I was being shown by a leading expert in the coffee industry. Latte art has become a big thing in the coffee industry – there are even world latte art championships and many coffee shops have their own latte art competitions, and many of the coffee training establishments have dedicated sessions on latte art (a quick google search brings a range of course options across the UK). I noticed 200 Degrees in Birmingham which is has its own barista school downstairs runs courses in latte art which I am tempted to have a go at some time to see if I can improve!

A latte art 'swan' in 200 Degrees Birmingham coffee

A latte art ‘swan’ in 200 Degrees Birmingham

At the recent London Coffee Festival I saw Shinsaku Fukayama, a world latte art champion in action. For more latte art creations, have a look at some of the Instagram feeds suggested by Sprudge.

Latte Art at the London Coffee Festival

I have diverted a little from the original point of this blog post which was to highlight how coffee terminology is continuing to gain a presence in the mainstream lexicon. Recently, Roast Magazine, also highlighted that cold brew has been added to

“Cold brew: 1. the process of steeping coffee grounds of tea leaves in room-temperature or cold water for many hours, producing a concentrate to which more water may be added 2. A cold coffee or tea drink made by this process”

V60 pour-over at home

And after a bit of reading around I found that pour-over had been added to the Oxford English Dictionary earlier this year.

“Pour-over: a method of brewing coffee by manually pouring boiling water through a filter filled with ground coffee beans”

In the same way that the latte being added to the consumer price index back in 2001 was a symbol that particular elements of coffee culture are becoming part of many people’s lives, the addition of coffee vocabulary into dictionaries acts as an indicator of the spread of these coffee forms and features. Given the continued growth of coffee culture (particularly here in the UK), I wonder how many other coffee-related terms are likely to appear over the coming years?

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