As 2016 draws to a close, like many other people, I’ve been reflecting on how things have developed this year. While there have been many developments in my cafe industry research project, events in my personal life have meant that not as much has been achieved as I had originally planned, and some aspects of the project have been delayed, but this was for a very good reason. In October I gained a research assistant, not your typical research assistant, but one in the form of a baby that is allowing me to explore the use of cafes with a young baby while I’m on maternity leave. I’ll come back to this later in the post but first I want to re-cap on some of the issues covered in the blog, and other aspects of the cafe project from the year.
Back in January I started the year by highlighting some of the cafes of Coventry. Like in most cities there have been changes, with the closure of Urban Coffee Company at Fargo village, and the opening of another independent coffee house, Finney’s Coffee Co. Later in the month I went on a historical coffee house tour in London led by Dr Matthew Green, which explored the origins of the coffee house in Central London. In February I wrote about the growth of the Greek cafe chain the Mikel Coffee Company and why it was being so successful. In May the BBC reported on how Costa Coffee was opening another roasters to keep up with demand, which I wrote a little about here. Then in June a crowd-funded book Coffee Shop North was published. The book organised by Dan Saul Pilgrim was a visual guide the some of the independent coffee shops in the Northern England and an article I had written about cafes in urban spaces was also included. As part of the Faculty in Business and Law conference in Coventry University I also presented some aspects of a research paper which explores the different avenues that this cafe research might take. There will be more on the paper that accompanies this presentation soon.
In July there was a focus on coffee shops and sustainability with a post about the issue around disposable cups, the potential of reusable cups, and some of the efforts cafes are taking to be more sustainable. This was in part related to a programme featuring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who as part of his ‘War on Waste’ highlighted the scale of the issue around disposable coffee cups. An article I had published on the Conversation ‘A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the tip’ explores the problem of the coffee cup mountain. I wonder how many people got a reusable coffee cup for Christmas?
Later in July I revisited the issue of social enterprise cafes, with an update on some new arrivals. In August I wrote about another BBC report which considered the issue of big brand coffee shops and why consumers are happy to spend month on coffee out of the home. August also saw the arrival of Pokémon Go, the mobile phone game which saw people take to the streets to capture Pokémon that were dotted all over the world, a phenomenon which some cafes took advantage of to try and attract customers, as discussed here. In September I wrote about the issue of free wi-if in cafes and different perspectives on it, about a BBC Food Programme ‘Coffee and the God Shot’, as well as a different type of cafe model demonstrated by Ziferblat where customers pay for the time spent there, rather than the goods consumed.
In October my first research article from the ‘Spaces of Community’ project was published in the journal Area. ‘Cafe Nation’, explored why the cafe industry in the UK has grown and some of the implications for urban spaces. In November I wrote a short blog post on the phenomena of animal cafes and their growing popularity in the UK.
I also returned to the issue of coffee cups and sustainability after Costa Coffee announced it was going to trial a scheme which recycled its coffee cups (as well as those from its competitors). To finish off this year, a blog post in December discussed aspects from another research article available soon which explores the growth of coffee culture in China.
As you can see, there has been plenty going on this year, but due to a range of pressures from other projects, and challenging pregnancy issues, I didn’t get as much published as I had originally planned to. Themain challenges this year were pregnancy related, but one which caused a particular issue with my cafe research was that not only did I go off the taste of coffee, but I also couldn’t stand the smell of it. Even the slightest smell of coffee added to my already challenging sickness issue! As you can imagine for someone who researches cafes this is a bit of an issue, and from February until around September I didn’t go in one cafe. At one point I was walking along a street in London feeling quite distressed at the number of cafes and how much this made the street smell like coffee. Any other time and I would have been delighted at the choice of so many cafes.When I did return later in the year to some of my regular coffee shops, most of the staff had assumed I’d moved away! From a research perspective this was disappointing as I was planning a series of trips to investigate some cafe spaces, and from a personal perspective it was a little depressing. As most of my friends will tell you, even before my research began on this area, I spent a lot of time in cafes, they were places I would go to unwind and relax, or sometimes do some work, or simply to get my caffeine fix. Fortunately, you will be pleased to know, as soon as the baby was born the aversion to coffee smell disappeared entirely and I am back to drinking coffee and visiting cafes, only this time I always have company.
So these were the highlights of 2016, while I am on maternity for most of the next year there should still be some activity on the cafe spaces blog, and there should be a few publications from the project too. A blog post will follow in the New Year with some research highlights that will hopefully be developed in 2017, and beyond.