Book Review: London Coffee by Lani Kingston

Having read lots of books about the coffee and specialty coffee industry, what is often missing is the personal nature of how the industry develops – without the dedication and efforts of individuals in creating and fostering businesses in coffee, the industry wouldn’t be what it is today. London Coffee by Lani Kingston (also author of the book How to Make Coffee: The Science Behind the Bean) takes a different approach, focusing on the businesses and people that have been important to the development of the coffee and coffee shop industry in London (and beyond).

London Coffee Lani KingstonI’m relatively familiar with how the coffee shop industry has developed and flourished in London – partly through research, but also through multiple visits for work and plenty of stops in coffee shops over the years (and trips to the London Coffee Festival). But even so, there were insights into businesses that I was less familiar with (Mercanta, the specialty coffee merchants, for example), and new snippets of knowledge of those I thought I knew quite well (such as Square Mile Coffee or Prufrock).

London Coffee Lani Kingston

It’s more than a guide to coffee shops in London, although it does have a nice map included, which appeals to my geographer background. It’s essentially a series of vignettes into the people and places that have helped the London coffee industry develop into the coffee hub it has become. It includes coffee businesses that were seen as pioneers in London coffees such as Monmouth Coffee, to more recent coffee businesses such as Pact, the coffee subscription service. Recognising that the coffee industry relies on a diversity of businesses the book includes cases from coffee machine and repair business (AE Stanton), to dairies providing ‘barista milk’ (The Estate Dairy), and of course a range of roasters and coffee shops in between (for example Square Mile Coffee Roasters, The Gentleman Baristas and Climpson & Sons). While the book brings the reader up to speed on some of the more modern highlights of London coffee, it also shows how some business have been important in London’s coffee history, from Bar Italia serving endless espressos to customers in Soho since the 1950s, to Algerian Coffee Stores providing people with coffee since 1887.

London Coffee Lani Kingston

London has a rich coffee history dating back to the mid-17th century when the first coffee houses begin to appear, and has transformed over the centuries becoming one of the global centres for coffee culture, and specialty coffee. London Coffee provides insights into how London’s modern landscape came to be through a range of people and coffee businesses.  Anyone with an interest in coffee shops, coffee culture, and London in particular, are likely to find this book a delight.

London Coffee Lani Kingston

Posted in Book Review, Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, Specialty Coffee, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Innovate Magazine: Café Society

Innovate Magazine Cover Coventry UniversityLanding on my desk at work this week was the most recent issue of Coventry University’s Research and Enterprise magazine, Innovate. Some of my work around the importance of cafés and coffee shops for many people in modern society is featured. It’s just a short piece which explains a little about why I ended up researching the coffee shop industry, why I think its important to study, and some potential future research avenues. The article can be read in the online version of the magazine (page 16) alongside lots of other interesting articles about research at Coventry University (from renewable energy in Brazil to edible insects). 

I was quite surprised to see a double page spread of a photo of me in the magazine – when I had been to the photoshoot for this article in a local coffee shop, I was told a selection of images would be used. The barista went to great efforts to make the Coventry University logo on the latte (pictured here).

You can find out more about the ‘Spaces of Community’ research project which inspired this article here, or my new research project around the coffee shop industry and the circular economy here.

Posted in Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, Publications, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tackling the coffee cup mountain: Will a ‘latte’ levy make a difference?

While the rapid growth of the coffee shop industry in the UK has been important for the retail economy it has had significant environmental consequences, most notably the huge amount of disposable coffee cups. It is estimated that 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each day (around 5,000 every minute), with only a very small proportion being recycled, due to lack of facilities to do so. Current estimates suggest this could grow to 3.7 billion by 2025 if measures are not introduced to tackle the issue. The Environmental Audit Committee launched an inquiry into disposable packaging (both plastic water bottles and coffee cups), to try and gauge what can be done about the issue.

coffee cup report environmental audit committeeIn January 2018 it published its coffee cup report arguing there needs to be action along the Environmental Waste Hierarchy – to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It recommend government introduce  a 25p tax on disposable coffee cups, with a suggested target that all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023; and a total ban by this date if efforts to recycle the cups are not drastically improved.

“There is no excuse for the ongoing reluctance from Government and industry to address coffee cup waste. Disposable coffee cups are an avoidable waste problem and if the UK cannot be confident of their future sustainability, the Government should ban them.” House of Commons (2018: p19)

It has been suggested that the money from this tax could be used to help local councils fund more recycling facilities, or a more extensive ‘binfrastructure’ as it was termed in the report, as well as a clear public awareness campaign on recycling food package waste more generally .

“A “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups would remove some of the financial burden from local authorities and council taxpayers.” House of Commons (2018: 23)

Pret A Manger, one of the largest high street retailers of takeaway coffee recently introduced a 50p discount for consumers who bring a reusable coffee cups, with a very positive response on social media. When asked consumers are likely to say a reduction in price will encourage them to change their behaviour, rather than an increase, but only time will tell if it actually makes a difference.

More generally it is suggested that not enough is being done by industry to recycle coffee cups, and there was confusion from consumers about what was happening to their coffee cup waste, an issue that was highlighted in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste TV programme back in 2016. While technically recyclable, a polyethylene layer in the coffee cup makes them difficult to be recycled, and very few facilities in the UK are equipped to do so. There have however been several voluntary schemes since to try and increase the number of cups being recycled; Costa Coffee launched a nationwide programme to recycle coffee cups, and The Square Mile Challenge in London saw efforts to recycle coffee cups in the very centre of the city. Although as the report suggested, efforts across the industry are inconsistent, and not widespread enough.

The report highlights that not enough has been done to incentivise consumers to make use of reusable coffee cup options. It notes that while many coffee shops offer discounts to bring their own reusable cup, only around 1-2% do so. It is hoped that a tax on disposable coffee cups would lead to the level of reduction that was seen after the 5p charge on carrier bags was introduced in 2015 (83% reduction in use in the first year). To make the way coffee cups are treated clearer to consumers, the report also suggests there needs to be clearer labelling on coffee cups as to whether a cup can be recycled or not, and if it has to be recycled in store or not.

As more regular readers of blog may be aware I have been investigating sustainability in the coffee shop industry, including the issue of disposable coffee cups, and responded to the inquiry (the submission can be read here). My research highlights the points that consumer confusion is widespread over how to recycle their coffee cup, often placing their cup in a recycling bin on the street and assuming this was going to be recycled. It also reiterates the point that while many consumers are turning to reusable cup options, it is only a small proportion as many people find them inconvenient because they need to be carried around in between, and washed after use. In a recent press release from Coventry University I highlighted that while a tax on disposable coffee cups may instigate change, it might not be as quick in making a difference as the 5p plastic bag charge was, because some consumers don’t like to carry around a dirty cup, they feel they take up too much space, they are confused over how much they will be charged for their use, or whether coffee shops will use the cup if it’s not clean enough. Furthermore she argues the issue goes beyond coffee shops:

‘The change in behaviour needed has to go beyond when people grab their coffee on the go in town. A lot of disposable cups are thrown away from offices, and events where tea and coffee are served at meetings and conferences . If people are in the habit of drinking tea and coffee out of the home, then they should be encouraged to carry a reusable cup more regularly’.  (Dr Jennifer Ferreira, Coventry University, 2017)

I’ve also highlighted that it is important to remember that reusable coffee cups are just one of the wider environmental issues facing the coffee shop industry, alongside more general reduction in packaging and waste, as well as energy use reduction. There are several articles on the ‘cafespaces’ blog about resusable coffee cups and other innovations in fostering sustainability in the coffee shop industry. My new research project  explores the issue of fostering sustainable business in the coffee shop industry, focusing on these wider issues, as well as coffee cups investigating more international examples too.


Posted in Cafe Culture, circular economy, coffee culture, Consumers, Costa Coffee, Economic Impact, High Streets, Sustainability, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspired by Standart: ‘Why the Social Sciences Matter’

Standart magazine Issue 10I have mentioned Standart magazine before in a post about magazines I read to learn about coffee and the coffee industry – now on Issue 10 it’s becoming a growing store of coffee knowledge. In the most recent issue which landed on my doorstep just after Christmas (with free coffee socks!) I was delighted to see an article on ‘why the social sciences matter’ for the coffee industry. Written by Professor Sarah Grant, an anthropologist from California State University – Fullerton, the article discusses how there needs to be greater links between industry, natural scientists and social sciences to create a more holistic understanding of coffee; and considers how social scientists can contribute to coffee research in the future.

Social scientists have long considered coffee worthy of their attention – an attention that ranges from historical (colonial) contexts and neoliberal development to the use of ‘native’ bodies to market products and the implications of certification schemes for farmers, trades, consumers and everyone in between’ (p 60).

As a social scientist myself, the arguments presented here resonate with much of my own thinking about the nature of research, and in particular research around the coffee industry. The study of coffee and the coffee industry is by nature interdisciplinary, incorporating both the natural and social sciences, depending on which area of the industry is the prime focus. In any area, research could benefit from collaboration, not only between disciplines, but with industry too. In fact, it is collaboration with industry, and all those involved in it, that remains a crucial area where more social scientists could get involved.

‘Industry is late to the social science dialogue many of us are keen to have. And social scientists are late to working with industry. Either way there is a necessity for social scientists to engage with both natural science and industry experts.’ (p.60).

She highlights how social scientists might consider everything from the impact of third wave shops in inner city neighbourhoods and communities, to the impact of climate change on producing communities. ‘If we want to address gentrification and third wave cafes popping up in urban metropolises, we need to better understand the history of the neighbourhoods in which we consume coffee and what is means to posit specialty coffee into that landscape’ (p.61). As Prof Grant notes, the concept of studying coffee is not new to social scientists, citing a number of important ethnographic studies, and highlighting the breadth of literature that is available, but stresses that where the gap remains is for collaboration between social science scholars, industry, and the natural sciences which could help address some of the important issues that face the contemporary coffee industry. The social sciences are wide ranging and have the potential to contribute to greater understanding in all areas of the coffee supply chain from growing communities and the impact of climate change, to understanding how supply chains work, to the nature of coffee shop businesses and the influence of consumers.

At one point Prof Grant mentions a moment where she has had to defend her ethnographic work to a ‘real scientist’, and explains how the qualitative methods she uses help develop an understanding of real lives in the coffee industry. In the past I have been in similar situations where someone from another discipline questions my research – often with ‘but how is it ‘science’?. Social scientists undertake rigorous research projects with a wide array of methodologies – it’s not always just interviews, surveys and observations. As an economic geographer I have utilised a range of both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore different facets of society; in some of my previous work this examined the development of the temporary staffing industry and labour market change; while my most recent work considers the impact of the growth of the coffee shop industry. In both cases, input from industry and other academics has been fundamental to developing knowledge and understanding.

Prof Grant suggests there are number of areas for collaboration in the future, around climate change, sustainability, gender equality, in particular. I would agree here and also add the areas of global coffee supply chains, the globalisation of the coffee shop industry, and the role of consumers in driving coffee industry change. As I mentioned earlier, the nature of the coffee industry is interdisciplinary, and once you start to conduct research on it, this becomes ever more clear. To understand the growth of the coffee shop industry, you need to understand coffee supply chains, and in doing so you develop greater knowledge of producing countries, and around the issues faced by growing communities. They are all interlinked, and at each stage there are contributions that can be made by different actors – from industry, the natural sciences and the social sciences. Climate change remains a pressing issue for the coffee industry, which the natural scientists can make a significant contribution, but these changes also have an impact on people – both in terms of those who grow the coffee and those who buy it. Prof Grant argues that ‘to some degree it is on us, as social scientists, to make our work accessible to a broader public and the coffee industry wherever we are welcome’ (p.67), and that she will make efforts to reach out to industry, in the hope that it will do the same. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with and in part is the reason I created the ‘cafespaces’ blog in an effort to make the work I do accessible to people who are interested, producing publications such as the ‘Spaces of Community: Research Summary’ last year, in addition to the academic publications which are part of the requirements of my job. My research, wouldn’t be what it is without the engagement of people involved in the coffee industry, so I’m very keen for people to learn about what I do, and build up connections and collaborations where possible, so I can learn from them too.

In summary, I strongly support the arguments Prof Grant makes in this article and reiterate that I too hope to see greater collaboration between different stakeholders and interested parties in future coffee research, and I hope to be a part of it. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) currently has a survey which is designed to find out stakeholder interests in different research areas and topics to try and guide their future research initiatives – a great opportunity for those in the coffee industry to guide some research that takes place in the future.

Aside from the article on the importance of the Social Sciences, Issue 10 of Standart is packed full of beautifully illustrated articles (as usual) about the coffee industry, from discussions of why perceptions of Brazilian coffee need to be challenged by Sabine Parrish, a PhD candidate examining coffee drinking in Brazil, to a discussion of the challenges of being a green coffee buyer and running a coffee business, from Jon Allen the founder of Onyx Coffee Lab.

Posted in Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, Commentaries, environment, reading, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing coffee culture in Mexico

According to the ICO (2017) Mexico produced 3.6 million bags (60kg bags) of coffee in 2016 making it one of the world’s most significant coffee producers, and yet it’s rare (in the UK at least) to find much Mexican coffee being served outside of the country*. The reasons why, along with an exploration of the developing coffee culture in Mexico City are the focus of a recent issue of Drift magazine which provided inspiration for this post. I’ve read a few pieces over the last couple of years about how coffee culture is developing in Mexico, in particular a growth of specialty coffee in Mexico City. In April 2016 an article in Caffeine magazine introduced a few specialty coffee shops in Mexico City (Kitain, 2016), while both Perfect Daily Grind  (Plascencia, 2016; Yanez, 2016), and Sprudge (Yentch, 2017), have published articles about different specialty coffee shops and changing coffee culture in the Mexico.

drift mexico cityThe Drift issue includes articles which focus on the activities of particular coffee shops and individuals such as Café El Jarocho to Café Avellaneda, to discussions of coffee leaf rust, and changing trends in consumption in Mexico. It takes the reader on a journey through the people and places that are influencing the developing coffee culture in Mexico City, and the country more broadly. It prompted me to think a little bit more about the coffee culture in Mexico, explored in this post.

Coffee culture in Mexico

Unlike in many other coffee consuming countries coffee is not seen as the morning on-the-go staple, but an important part of sobremesa at lunch or dinner time (where customers take time to have a break after they dine to  socialise and relax), and consequently many coffee shops don’t open until late morning.

“As Mexico City’s coffee culture integrates immigrating coffee influences, the tradition around sobremesa still seems uniquely untouched. Invading second wave coffee giants, like Starbucks, have brought a fast paced high-volume coffee experience with it, a portfolio of Italian inspired drinks, such as cappuccinos and Americanos. But this hasn’t affected the native coffee culture: step into the dusty streets of Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood around 4pm and you’ll still find its residents leisurely sipping cortados, lingering and chatting after their afternoon meal.” p.36

This creates a very different coffee shop culture with places staying open later and a different daily consumer pattern. While specialty coffee culture may be a new and developing concept in the country, as highlighted in the Drift issue, drinking coffee more generally has a much longer history, and is an inherently social affair.

In Mexico city, everyone drinks coffee – but few drink it the same way. Some are loyal to decades-old institutions such as El Jarocho. Others keep up with the hot new specialty shops on the block. Many drink Starbucks. The common thread that binds them is that coffee in Mexico is a social activity.” p.8.

The Drift issue puts the spotlight on a number of establishments from the institution of Café El Jarocho to the well-established Café Passmar, in Mercado Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico City. Its owner explained how the approach to coffee is beginning to change but that many people still don’t understand the wide variety of flavours on offer through their coffees. It’s one of many coffee shops in Mexico that only uses Mexican beans.

Coffee bags mexico

Source: Flickr user – Joe Driscoll

There are many producing regions in the country with very different climatic conditions  and elevations, which means  there is huge diversity in the coffee produced there. Much of country’s coffee growing is in the south, with Veracruz, Chiapas, and Oaxaca being well known producing regions. And collectively there are thought to be over 500,000 smallholder coffee farming families in the country – highlighting just how important the coffee industry is for both Mexico’s economy and people.

Specialty coffee in Mexico

Whilst Mexico has a long history of coffee production (dating back to the 1700s), only recently is it developing a reputation for producing a range of specialty coffee, as explored in this video:


Source: Flickr user Melissa

“Mexico City is transforming itself into one of the most important capitals of specialty coffee as, every day, its citizens learn the language of coffee”  (Yanez, 2016). The proximity of producers allows coffee roasters and coffee shop owners to have direct connections with farmers in order to obtain the highest quality coffees, and to foster relationships to ensure this quality remains. The Drift issue explores several different specialty coffee shops and roasters in Mexico city, highlighting their challenges from operating in a coffee producing country (and convincing consumers to pay a higher price for high quality coffee), to issues around coffee leaf rust.

Source: Flickr user Bex Walton

While there is still a small number of specialty coffee shops in Mexico by international standards, numbers are growing. There are too many to name individually, and the articles I highlighted earlier in the blog post do a great job of providing an overview of the different coffee shops you can find there, in addition to those explored in-depth in Drift,  including: Café Avellaneda, Almanegra Café, Casa Cardinal, Buna, Centro Café, Chiquitito Café, El Ilusionista, Borola Café, Dosis Café, Hey! Brew Bar, to name just a few. Many of these specialty coffee shops either roast their own beans or serve largely only Mexican coffees. You can even go on  Specialty Coffee shop tours around neighbourhoods like Roma and Condesa  in Mexico City if you need help navigating the specialty coffee landscape.

Despite the recent boom in coffee shops, the specialty market remains niche in part due to preferences for instant coffee, demand from commodity coffee buyers, and costs involved in producing specialty coffee. Although there are lots of examples of small companies trying to change the way things work in Mexico – establishing projects to work with local producers to source their coffee directly. For example Café Los Serenos which sources from four growers in Puebla, and two growers in Oaxaca according to Drift magazine; or larger projects such as Café con Jiribilla which works with producers from Oaxaca, Guerrero and Veracruz.

If you’re a fan of specialty coffee and live outside Mexico then you probably haven’t had much opportunity to sample the various flavours on offer as: “Mexico is unique because much of its high quality coffee never leaves the country. Demand for high-quality coffee has been increasing in places like Mexico City as more and more specialty coffee shops are popping up. Between roya decimating coffee production around Mexico and local coffee shops buying up the higher quality beans, it is rare to find Mexican coffee in specialty coffee shops outside of Mexico p.67.

For those in Mexico however, the opposite is the case with many coffee shops only using Mexican coffee beans, in part due to high import prices for other coffee (20% tax on green coffee, and 60% on roasted coffee).

Coffee leaf rust

Coffee leaf rust

Coffee Leaf Rust Source: Wikimedia

One of the greatest challenges to production of coffee in Mexico (as it is in many other countries) is coffee leaf rust, known as ‘la roya’. The rust is a disease caused by a fungus which bleaches the leaves which means they can’t photosynthesize effectively, stunting growth (Saliba, 2013). The disease has been present in the region for decades but it is only in recent years that it has got to such damaging levels, affecting previously unafflicted areas. While there are many initiatives being put in place to try and combat this, such as planting more resistant varieties, it takes many years for the new trees to grow – during which time the farmers cannot make the living they need. Even Starbucks has a Coffee Tree Initiative in Mexico (launched in 2014) to try and address the coffee leaf issue (Starbucks, 2016).

The future for coffee culture in Mexico

So thanks to Drift magazine I was inspired to learn a bit more about coffee culture in Mexico and how the coffee culture is changing, in part due a rise in specialty coffee. The discussions in the magazine, and in other pieces I’ve read highlight how there are increasing influences from Europe and American in terms of coffee preferences (drinking espresso, filter coffee, the design of coffee shops and so on), but that there’s still a long way to go before specialty coffee can become mainstream. Mexico has a rich coffee history, intertwined with politics, economic, social and environmental change in the country which the Drift issue touches upon. While there are challenges for the coffee industry in Mexico it is clearly an area of the world where the coffee culture, and the coffee growing industry, is experiencing change; one to watch closely in future years.


*After asking on Twitter I was introduced to a number of  UK based coffee roasters that have (or are about to have) some Mexican coffee: Carvetti Coffee  Roasters have a Sierra Azul Decaf; Rounton Coffee Roasters  have the Mexico Finca Muxbal; Volcano Coffee Works have their Finca Muxbal; and Sendero Coffee said they are likely to have some specialty Mexican coffee from May. If you know of any others, please do let me know.


Posted in Cafe Culture, coffee culture, Coffee Growing, Latin America, Mexico, Specialty Coffee | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 on Cafe Spaces: A Year in Review

As the end of 2017 draws near I’ve been reflecting on how my work has developed over the year.  As more regular readers of the blog may have noted, I was off on maternity leave until the summer, so in terms of research outputs this year, it’s been a little slower than if I had been at work all year. That said, I’ve covered lots of interesting topics here on the blog, and my research activities have continued to develop, with a new project emerging. This blog post is really a re-cap of issues covered on the blog, and significant events that have taken place this year for me in my coffee shop industry research journey.

Flat white coffee

In January I highlighted a set of teaching resources produced by Costa for Schools which may be useful for Key Stage 3 and GCSE Geography teachers for topics around coffee, transnational corporations and coffee shops, as well as broader concepts of space, interdependence, cultural, understanding and diversity.  The end of the month saw a post around the decline of pubs and high transformations after the Local Data Company released data showing a decline in bars and pubs in UK town centres, alongside a 31% increase in coffee shops.

At the beginning of February I took a look at the coffee shop culture  in Russia. While it is a country with a rich tea drinking culture, coffee consumption is growing, and consequently so are the number of coffee shops, with the market currently being dominated by domestic coffee house chains such as Shokolodnitsa and Coffee House. Then I moved on to discuss how some consider coffee shops to have become the new ‘local’ in the UK, after Allegra Strategies published its Project Café 2017 highlighting a number of trends for the UK market. Moving to a different area of the world, a blog post was produced on Cofix, the low cost coffee shop that has been growing in Israel.

February saw the emergence of a theme on this blog which recurs at a number of points in the year: coffee and the circular economy. In this post I began to explore some of the efforts of those in the coffee industry to engage in the circular economy, from programmes to use coffee grounds to grow mushrooms from GroCycle, to the production of energy from Bio-bean.  Moving back to the UK context I then explored the growth of the coffee shop chain: Coffee #1 which owned by the brewer SA Brain has continued to expand further into the country since. Thinking more broadly about coffee related activities I then considered how the growing number of coffee festivals have become important events for stakeholders in the coffee shop industry, but how they have the potential to be important for the places they are located too, in terms of bring in tourists and visitors. Continuing with the issue of takeaway coffee cups which I started to write about last year, the ‘Calling for cups’ blog post highlights some developments in schemes that started to emerge in the UK.

McDonalds might not be the first company you think of when you think of coffee, but through its McCafe range the company has sought to expand their presence on the coffee landscape. They even released an advert which I discussed in ‘The McCafe view of specialty coffee’, which tries to have a bit of a go at the specialty coffee market, suggesting it is too complicated, expensive and bewildering for the general consumer. The coffee shop industry would not be what it is today without its baristas, and through my research I’ve been collecting data on working in the coffee shop industry (and its associated benefits and challenges). I wrote a blog post which highlights some top tips for getting ahead in the coffee shop industry for baristas.

In March I moved on to write about co-working and cafes based on a presentation I had prepared for a workshop on co-working dynamics in the city, exploring how some cafes facilitate or inhibit co-working practices. A few weeks later I transformed this presentation into a PowToon animation which can be viewed here.

Later in the month I explored the presence of Starbucks in Italy after an article from the BBC questioned how Starbucks could succeed in a country like this with a rich traditional coffee culture. Returning to the coffee cup issue I then highlighted how the Environmental Audit Committee had launched an inquiry into plastic waste focusing on plastic bottles and coffee cups. I submitted evidence to this inquiry (if you’re interested you can read my submission here). Due to the general election that was held in June this inquiry was closed, but a new one was opened in September and the results were due to be published at the end of December. Then I wrote a blog post to summarise some of the websites and blogs where I read about the coffee and shop industries, not an exhaustive list but includes places I frequently visit.

This was followed a couple of weeks later by a post about magazines I read to learn about coffee and coffee shops.

Moving to the other side of the world a post on ‘Coffee shop culture in Australia’ explored how the country developed its well-established coffee culture where the independent coffee shop dominates the landscape.

April saw the return of the London Coffee Festival, the largest coffee festival in the UK. In this blog post I explored the issue of sustainability both at the festival and the broader Square Mile Challenge for recycling coffee cups.  After a few caffeine fuelled days at the Old Truman Brewery I decided to do a bit of analysis of how the festival was discussed on twitter, producing some visualisations using Netlytic.

April also saw the arrival of UK coffee week, a fundraising campaign that involves many coffee shops across the country to raise money for Project Waterfall. I discussed these topics briefly in this post. After realising that latte art has become a new entry in the Oxford English Dictionary I decided to explore the concept of latte art in a little more depth in ‘the language of coffee: latte art’.

Later this month I turned my attention to the activity of Starbucks, and its moves to open ‘reserve stores and roasteries’ in a number of cities, as well as a slightly different store format in Japan, ‘Neighbourhood and Coffee’. After highlighting where I read about coffee in books, websites and blogs, and magazines, the next blog post turned to highlight podcasts I listen to for learning about coffee from ‘The Coffee Podcast’ to ‘Orange Cactus Coffee’.

Spaces of Community Report Cafe IndustryThe end of April saw the launch of a research summary report for the project that the cafespaces blog was initially designed to support – Spaces of Community: Dynamics in the café industry. The project sought to explore the growth and development of the café industry in the UK, and examine the role of cafes in different urban spaces. While there are a number of other publications in the academic publishing machine, this summary provides a short and accessible version of some of the key research findings.

In May I wrote a series of blog posts about coffee and café culture in Portugal (which are now available both in English and Portuguese). The first explores general coffee and café culture in Portugal and how it is changing with the arrival of some international chains, and the emergence of a specialty coffee industry in the country. The second focuses more on specialty coffee in Portugal after I visited Luso Coffee Roasters and Mesa 325. The third returns to consider café culture in Portugal, highlighting some of the changes taking place.

May saw the closure of a pioneer of specialty coffee in Birmingham 6/8 Kafe on Temple Row, after the building it inhabited was to be transformed. In a short blog post I consider its closure and the link between urban development and coffee shops. Turning again to coffee culture in another area of the world ‘Growing coffee shop culture in Nigeria’ explores the expansion of the chain Café Neo and other coffee shops in Nigeria and beyond. Considering somewhere a little closer to home, the final post for May turned the spotlight to the city I work in, Coventry, highlighting how the city has a growing café culture.

In June I considered how cafes use social media. After obtaining a coffee of new book by 3FE founder Colin Harmon, ‘What I Know about running coffee shops’, I wrote a short review. Kickstarter is full of coffee related crowdfunding projects, one in particular that July brought to the fore was for HuskeeCup, a cup that was made using coffee husks, a great example of engaging in sustainable behaviour, as discussed in this blog post. As I was beginning my phased return to work I took part in the Coventry University 2017 conference with a presentation focusing on how to turn a research idea into research reality, as I’ve did with the ‘Spaces of Community’ cafe project. As the end of maternity leave drew near I took time in ‘The New Adventures of a Latte Parent’ to reflect on the role that cafes had played in this stage of my life, and how cafes as social spaces for many parents and carers are really important. I then moved on to consider the growing coffee culture and specialty coffee industry in the Middle East, focusing on the expansion of the chains such as Coffee Planet, as well as independent specialty coffee shops. I also received a surprise package in July, which turned out to be from Orange Cactus Coffee, a coffee roaster in the US, and iOrange Cactus Saguaro Coffeencluded a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans, as I explored in this post. The final post for July examined a documentary produced by Romedia Studios ‘Coffees – Italians do it better?’ which provides an overview of contemporary Italian coffee culture, its history, trends and transformation.

In July I returned to the issue of working in cafes, considering the ‘coffice economy’ after I gave a presentation at the Coventry University Faculty of Business and Law Conference. Moving to the other side of the world again, I explored the activity of Starbucks in Japan after it opened an outlet in Kyoto which was inside a 100 year old Japanese townhouse, complete with tatami rooms and traditional decoration. July saw the first ever Birmingham Coffee Festival which I visited with the family. Held in the Custard Factory in the Digbeth area of the city, the festival brought together a range of coffee businesses from the Midlands and beyond, as I explored this blog post.

There was plenty of new coffee books appearing in 2017, and the next one I managed to work through was the Best of Jim Seven, reviewed in this blog post. In July I also took part in the Circular Economy Conference: Transitioning to Sustainability presenting some research around the coffee shop industry and the circular economy, as documented in this blog post.

For a number of reasons August and September were quiet months on the blog, but I did manage one book review of ‘Paris Coffee Revolution’ which explores the growth of the specialty coffee industry in the French capital.

keepcup star warsOctober began with another book review, this time of New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History, an examination of how coffee is intertwined with the development of the city itself. After announcements from a number of companies about specialty coffee companies receiving investment from large international companies (such as Nestle buying a 68% stake in Blue Bottle Coffee in the US), I wrote a blog post to consider some of these consolidations and why they were taking place. After the BBC published an article on four solutions to the coffee cup problem (i.e. too many disposable cups), I wrote a short blog post to examine these and suggest that there are lots more solutions available. The final post for this month considered a piece on ITV news which highlighted how the national chain coffee shops in the UK continue to dominate the market, despite a growing presence of independents.

November was a quieter month on the blog, although I did publish a piece on the Conversation ‘Has Britain reached peak coffee shop?’ to explore the continued growth of the coffee shop industry in the UK, and current predictions for its future. This led to an invitation to take part in a panel on BBC Radio Scotland on the Kaye Adams Programme to talk about the growth of coffee shops, and if we’re close to saturation point. A blog post summarises these activities here.

conversation ferreira peak coffee shop

In December I examined some of the data published as infographics by the SCA on specialty coffee consumption trends in the USA, and the size of the coffee market in Western Europe. There was also a post this month about a press release from Coventry University in November based on some of my work around consumers and reusable coffee cups.

Jennifer Ferreira Coventry University coffee

With some more reading complete I wrote a blog post about ‘Everything but the coffee’ an examination of Starbucks and how it ingrained itself into the lives of the American population. After spending some time analysing data about global coffee production and consumption from the ICO I produced a few maps and charts to show global patterns and how some of these have been changing in recent years. After being asked a number of times about any ‘good coffee books’ that I’ve read this year I decided to put together a blog post detailing some of the books I’ve managed to read, many of which came out in 2017.

Towards the end of the month after the release of Allegra Strategy’s Project Café 2018 Europe, I considered some of the trends taking place in the European coffee shop market. And to end the year, a blog post introduced a new funded research project I will be undertaking around the coffee shop industry and the circular economy in the UK and Germany.

This ended up being a much longer post than I had expected. It’s been a really productive year in terms of posts on the blog and the development of my research more generally, even though I’ve technically not been at work for a substantial part of the year. The coffee and coffee shop industries are dynamic and ever changing, and there are such a wide range of issues that can be researched. This year I’ve submitted a series of papers around the role of cafes in different urban spaces, and the coffee shop industry and sustainability. Hopefully 2018 will see some of these become available as I embark on the new research project focusing on the circular economy, as well as all the other areas of the coffee industry that I’ve been collecting data on. Looking to the future, I’m sure 2018 will be eventful and interesting as ever.

Posted in Cafe Culture, circular economy, Coffee, coffee culture, General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New research project – From the Grounds Up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy

There have been a number of posts over the last year on the ‘cafespaces’ blog which have discussed topics related to sustainability and the coffee shop industry. I’m delighted to have received funding from Coventry University to be able to research this area in more depth in the form of a new project: From the Grounds Up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy.

The project aims to explore how businesses in the coffee shop industry, and consumers can engage in the circular economy, the facilitator and inhibitors for doing so, and the importance of these actions for sustainable economies and societies. The UK and Germany will be used as two case studies for exploring how and why the coffee shop industry takes part in the circular economy. The investigation is driven by the following research questions:

  • To what extent is the circular economy evident in the coffee shop industry?
  • In what ways do businesses and consumers in the coffee shop industry engage in the circular economy?
  • What are the enablers and inhibitors for coffee shops and their consumers to adopt circular economy practices?
  • What impacts can engagement with the circular economy have for coffee shops and its consumers?

There will be more updates on the blog as this project develops, but as background there are already a number of related blog posts:

If you know of a coffee shop or coffee business that engages with the circular economy, in whatever capacity or scale (or country), from recycling to energy generation, I’d be really interested to hear about it.

Posted in circular economy, Coffee, General, Germany, Sustainability, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The coffee shop market in Europe: growth and the future

Allegra Strategies one of the leading coffee industry market research companies recently published the newest version of its Project Café Europe. The 2018 version according to this article from the Independent indicated that 21 out of 25 European countries experienced growth in the branded coffee shop market, with 18 of these more than 3%.

It suggested that the UK continued to be one of the most developed markets in the region, and continues to be a strong driver of growth. The number of branded outlets in the UK grew by 643 in 2017 an increase of 6.4%. Other countries in Europe with significant growth included Turkey, Russia, Romania and Poland. Although some countries were experiencing a decline, including Spain, Bulgaria and Austria.

Starbucks in Prague
Flickr user Greger Gronroos

The growth in coffee shops in Eastern Europe was also the focus of a recent article from Bloomberg which highlighted how the market for coffee in Eastern Europe grew by 5.3% (worth around $7.45 billion), compared to only 1.8% in Western Europe. Starbucks is emerging as a strong competitor in Czech Republic and Hungary while it is also entering into new markets including Slovakia. Given there are already so many Starbucks stores across Western Europe, turning its attention to Eastern Europe where the concentration of coffee shops per consumer seems is lower, seems like an inevitable move. The specialty coffee industry too is seeing growth with the number of specialty coffee shops rising in many Eastern European cities – the article suggests in Poland the number has risen from in 2010 to 40 by 2017.

While the growth in the region is seen to be driven by rising incomes the Bloomberg article highlights that income is a potential barrier to a faster pace of growth as the cost of drinks will be higher than in other regions in Europe making drinks in coffee shops ‘a special purchase’.

An article from Global Coffee Report provided even further detail of some of the wider European growth patterns:

  • In terms of market leaders Costa Coffee remained the largest chain in Europe, adding 243 stores to reach 2755 outlets.
  • Starbucks remains slightly behind, adding 251 stores in 2017 to reach 2,406 outlets. 2017 has been a year Starbucks has started to try different activities to engage the consumer, opening its Reserve Roastery in Milan for example.
  • The article refers to the influence of the ‘third wave’ scene, i.e. specialty coffee, growing across Europe (largely led by independent coffee shops), with many brands trying to adapt to this introducing new stores designs (often to look less like chains), offering single origin coffees and different brewing methods, as well as more freshly prepared food. It is suggested that where these trends are not being embraced market growth tends to be slower.

The report also argues that the 5th wave of coffee, ‘the business of coffee’, with ‘high quality artisan chains adopting a more advanced set of business practices and higher standards of professionalism in order to deliver boutique concepts at scale’, will be key to growth in future years (Global Coffee Report, 2017).

Overall the outlook from Allegra remains positive (as you would expect from a coffee market research company), suggesting that market growth will continue across the continent, and that in particular consumer demand for higher quality coffee will be an important driver of growth and change.

Posted in Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, Costa Coffee, data, Europe, Starbucks, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coffee reading in 2017

La Caféothèque, ParisI’m often asked about where to read about coffee and coffee shops, and I’ve written a few book reviews on here, plus a blog post about some of the books out there. There’s a huge range of literature out there related to coffee, coffee cultures, coffee shops, and there’s more becoming available all the time. This post highlights ten of the books I’ve read this year that I’ve found interesting and useful (not all released in 2017).

New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History by Erin Meister (2017)

new york city coffee

This book which has been nominated for a 2017 Sprudgie award for ‘Best Coffee Writing’ explores the story of coffee in New York, showing how the history of coffee and the city itself are intertwined. I wrote a short review of this book back in October.




Coffee Dictionary by Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood (2017)

Coffee Dictionary

An A-Z of coffee from growing and roasting to brewing and tasting from the UK Barista champion and also co-author of Water for Coffee. There are a lot of terms used in coffee related to the varieties, preparation methods, equipment to how it is sourced. This helps demystify some of the language you might come cross.



Where to Drink Coffee by Avidan Ross and Liz Clayton (2017)

A global insight into some of the worlds best coffee shops according to 150 baristas and coffee experts. It’s not a book to read cover to cover, and the coffee shop landscape changes so much this really is just a snapshot of interesting cafes around the world.



London Coffee by Lani Kingston and David Post (2017)

This book explores the history of coffee and coffee shops in London showing how the London coffee  scene has developed into what it is today, covering a range of the key places and people that have created it.



Everything but the coffee by Bryant Simon (2011)

everything but the coffee

A book which explores the Starbucks company, and how it ingrained itself into the lives of the American population.  For more on my thoughts on this book, see this blog post.




How to make coffee: the science behind the bean by Lani Kingston (2017)

how to make coffeeThis book explores the chemistry of coffee and the scientific principles (written for non-scientists) behind it. It covers the bean, the chemistry, roast and grind, brewing, extraction and balance, coffee and technology providing insights into the science behind how to make your favourite coffee beverage.


Coffeography by Stephen Leighton (2017)

CoffeeographyWhile many other coffee related books focus on the coffee itself, this one takes a different approach to illuminate the people behind the coffee. Drawing on the authors experience in HasBean Coffee the book includes a series of profiles of different producers he has worked with, exploring their stories. If you have an interest in coffee, its important to remember the people who make it all possible, and this book does a great way of doing this – particularly if you’re a fan of HasBean Coffee.


What I know about running coffee shops by Colin Harmon (2017)

What I know about running coffee shops

This book also nominated for a Sprudgie award for ‘Best Coffee Writing’, written by the founder of 3FE in Dublin is a compendium of advice about running coffee shops. Even if you never intend on opening a coffee shop it gives a lot of insights into how coffee shops work, and the complexities involved too – from choosing the location to how to hire people. I wrote a brief review of this book back in June.



The Best of Jim Seven by James Hoffman (2017)

best of jim seven

A collection of blog posts from 2004-2015 written by James Hoffman, co-founder of Square Mile Coffee and author of the ‘World Atlas of Coffee’. Even if you’ve read some of the jimseven blog before it’s interesting to read in book form to see how the issues in the coffee industry have changed over time. Covering issues from the espresso, coffee brewing, coffee business to coffee careers, this compilation provides a narrative of issues in the coffee industry during this time period. I wrote a brief review of the book highlighting how it has been useful in my research back in July.

Paris Coffee Revolution by Anna Brones and Jeff Hargroves (2016)

Paris Coffee Revolution

Paris is a city considered to be rich in café culture, and coffee history, but with a more recent development of a specialty coffee culture. The book explores the history of café culture in Paris before considering how it is beginning to be transformed by the development of specialty coffee businesses, and how the Parisian approach to coffee is being transformed. I wrote a more detailed review of the book back in August.

2017 has been a year with lots of coffee books appearing, and with such a growing interest in coffee and coffee shops, this trend is likely to continue in 2018; two I’m look forward to in particular are The Philosophy of Coffee by Brian Williams, and the second edition of Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, Beverage, and the Industry edited by Robert Thurston, Jonathan Morris, and Shawn Steiman. The books covered here are just 10 that I managed to find time to read, with lots of others joining my bookshelves. Did you have a favourite coffee book that you read this year?




Posted in Book Review, Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Data Insight: World Coffee Production and Consumption

Through investigating the coffee shop industry, it is impossible not to get pulled into what takes place in the global coffee industry more generally. Recently I’ve been doing some writing about coffee production and consumption globally and how this relates to the patterns in the coffee shop industry. In doing so I’ve been exploring the production and consumption of coffee using some of the recent ICO trade statistics (which cover exports, imports, re-exports, production and consumption of coffee). I ended up producing a few maps and charts in Tableau to explore change in world coffee production, and a few other data sets, and the highlights of some of these are  included in this blog post.

Coffee Production

Globally it is estimated that 157 million (60kg) bags of coffee were produced in 2016 up from around 152 million in 2013. The global distribution of this production is shown in the map below (with the darker shades of green indicating higher production). It’s easy to see that the production of coffee tends to cluster in countries around the equator, where the growing conditions are conducive for coffee plants to grow. It should be noted that there are more countries that grow coffee than are shown here – but for those that produce small amounts of coffee they have been aggregated in the ICO data in an ‘Other’ category.

ICO Coffee Data

  • In 2016 significantly more Arabica coffee was produced (around 102 million bags), than Robusta coffee (around 56 million bags).
  • The largest producing country by far, was Brazil as can be seen in the chart below with 55 million bags in 2016, up from around 50 million in 2015.
  • Other leading producer countries include Colombia (14.5 million bags), Indonesia (11.2 million bags) and Honduras (7. million bags).

ICO Coffee Data

  • The large production volumes that emerge from Brazil naturally make South America the largest producing region (even without including Mexico and Central America), as is shown in the chart below (data indicates thousands of bags).

ICO Coffee Data

Change in Global Coffee Production 2015

The coffee harvests each year naturally fluctuate due to climatic conditions, trading conditions and a number of other factors, but it is still interesting to look at how the pattern of production has changed between 2015 and 2016. The map below charts percentage change with the green countries experiencing growth in production, and the red countries, decline.

ICO Coffee Data

  • The greatest increase in production was experienced by Papua New Guinea (64.5%), followed by Uganda (34.3%), Honduras (33%), Peru (27.8%) and Mexico (24.1%).
  • Papua New Guinea has witnessed significant growth in the last few years from 835,000 bags of coffee in 2013, to nearly 1.2 million bags in 2016. Production in Honduras has been steadily increasing over recent years too. The situation in Peru and Mexico however has been of fluctuation, with Peru’s production dipping in 2012, and yet to return to levels from 2013, with Mexico experiencing a fall in production of around 700,000 bags in 2015.
  • The greatest decline in production was experienced by Yemen (-33.4%), Thailand (-29.8%), Cameroon (-27.5%), Togo (-25.9%) and Rwanda (-24.4%).
  • Decline in Yemen, Cameroon and Togo has been steady since 2013, while Thailand and Rwanda had a bumper year in 2015, and a subsequent fall the following year.ICO Coffee Data

Global Coffee Consumption

While global coffee production was generally concentrated around the equator, the appetite for coffee is truly global.

  • The amount of coffee consumed in 2016 in importing countries (107 million bags) dwarfs that consumed by exporting countries (48 million bags).
  • The ICO data published here, does not break the EU countries down individually, and so as a group, they dominate the consumption charts included here. The countries with smaller consumption amounts have been aggregated into an ‘other’ category. The chart below shows how distribution of coffee consumption across global regions (data is in thousands of bags of coffee).

ICO Coffee Data



  • ICO Coffee DataOther countries with high coffee consumption amounts include the USA (25.3 million bags), Brazil (20.5 million bags), Japan (7.8 million bags) and Indonesia (4.5 million bags).

ICO Coffee Data

  • Looking at changes to consumption 2012/13 to 2015/16 there have been a few changes. Increases in consumption have been experienced in many countries, with the greatest being in Turkey (10.5%), Philippines (8.9%), Taiwan (8.5%), Vietnam (8.0%) and Saudi Arabia (7.6%). While falls in consumption have been experienced in Argentina (-11.5%), Ukraine (-5.1%), Egypt (-5.0%), and Madagascar (-4.9%).

The coffee production system fluctuates for a variety of reasons as has been mentioned before, and so its usual for fluctuations to take place, however it has been a useful exercise for me to examine global distribution of coffee production and changes to it, as well as global coffee consumption patterns. This data will be explored in more detail in future work.




Posted in Coffee, coffee culture, Coffee Growing, Consumers, data, General, ICO | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments