Researching the Coffee and Coffee Shop Industries: A Guide for A Level Geography Students and Teachers

The coffee shop industry in has experienced significant growth over the last decade with recent estimates suggesting the industry in the UK alone is worth £9 billion, with over 24,000 outlets. Coffee shops are present in places across many countries from the high streets to the suburbs. The dynamics of the industry are fascinating, not only in terms of what is happening inside the industry itself, but in terms of how it is impacts different communities.

I began with an initial idea to explore the geography of the coffee shop industry in the UK, thinking about the economic impact of coffee shops on the high street. However, this has blossomed into a wide research agenda that explores different economic, social and environmental facets of the industry on a range of geographical scales. This has led me to utilise a range of different research methods to investigate the different elements of the industry, and the people and processes that are involved in it.

Spaces of Community Report Cafe IndustryI completed a research project entitled ‘Spaces of Community: Exploring the Dynamics the Café Industry’ which explored how the industry has developed and the role of coffee shops in different urban spaces. I am now undertaking a project ‘From the Grounds up: The Coffee Shop Industry and the Circular Economy‘ which explores issues related to sustainability in the coffee shop industry. These projects have led to a range of different research avenues related to the coffee and coffee shop industries from considering the economics of the coffee shop sector, to certification and standards schemes on coffee farms. The global nature of the coffee and coffee shop industries make them ideal for geographers to explore; there are multiple areas for investigation from the local scale to the global.

Having discussed these projects and research areas with many people, I have received much interest from geographers, and in particular secondary school geography teachers, who would often talk about students keen to investigate geographical issues related to coffee shops, high streets and urban change, particularly with the development of the Independent Investigation.

I have produced a document as a response to some of these conversations with teachers who have been keen to know how I go about my research, in particular the methods that are used.

This is not a comprehensive guide to the research methods used, but highlights some of the methods, and places to find out more information about them.

This is designed to act as an introduction to a sample of methods which could be used by students to investigate urban phenomena more generally, not just about the coffee shop industry. This is available to download here.


  • It highlights a number of key texts that students may wish to read when designing their investigation.
  • It outlines a range of research methods I have used in my research on the coffee and coffee shop industries including: obtaining secondary data, interviews and questionnaires, focus groups, observation, archival research, using diaries, visual methods, as well as netnography and the use of social media.
  • Given the Independent Investigation has to link directly to content of A Level specifications I have highlighted in this document areas which could relate to the coffee and coffee shop industries for three awarding organisations (AQA, OCR and Pearson).

Hopefully both students and teachers may find this useful as an overview of some potential methods they may wish to consider for their geographical research in the future.


This entry was posted in Cafe Culture, Coffee, coffee culture, Coffee industry, Commentaries, community, Economic Impact, General, research, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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