A return to Portugal and specialty coffee: Coffee shops, roasters and coffee

Portugal has always had a vibrant coffee culture, with cafes playing a central role in many people’s lives, but as in many places, coffee culture is changing. When I first started to visit Portugal, you would struggle to find places that served anything but the traditional coffees, as I discussed in a previous blog post. But now there is a growing presence of both coffee shop chains, such as Costa coffee and Starbucks, as well independent specialty coffee shops and roasters. When I last looked (in May 2017) there were only a couple of Starbucks in Lisbon, and a few branches of Costa Coffee in Porto and on the south coast. Shortly after arriving in Porto we noticed quite a few people walking around with Starbucks cups, and the Starbucks website suggests there are now branches in Porto, Braga, Lisbon, and Faro.

7G Roasters Vila Nova de Gaia Porto Portugal

On a previous visit to Porto we explored some of the specialty coffee offerings that were there at the time, most notably Mesa 325, the Combi Coffee van and Luso Coffee Roasters. This year we had a range of new places to try, with specialty coffee places located in different areas of the city.

The first stop was the Combi coffee shop, which was a short walk from the main shopping area. When we arrived the Combi Coffee van we had visited before was parked outside, and the shop was open at the front, making it seem even more spacious. We opted to try coffee via aeropress, a smooth coffee to get us started for the day. The Combi shop is definitely a nice addition to the van, and good to see that the business has grown since I last visited. I also noticed that what the coffee shop at the top of the fashion shop ‘The Feeting Room’ now had a window saying the Combi x The Coffee Room, so clearly Combi has a presence there too.

Combi Coffee Porto Portugal

On another day we stopped by Fabrica Coffee Roasters, again in central Porto just a short walk from the main shopping streets. I’ve been reading about Fabrica and their activities in Lisbon so I was pleased to see they had expanded and opened a store in Porto. This coffee shop was much bigger than I had expected, beyond the coffee bar it stretched quite far back with lots of different seating options. There were a few coffees on offer, and we opted for a couple of espressos, one Brazilian and one Rwandan, both were excellent. As with Combi Coffee, there was a range of coffee brewing equipment for sale as well as coffees to brew at home, we decided to get a bag of Burundi beans which was recommended for filter to try later. Having now started to drink it at home, I wish I had bought more! We arrived a few minutes after it had opened (quite a lot of specialty coffee places in Porto only open around 10am), and while we were there it had a steady stream of customers, from what we could tell a mix of both local people and tourists.

Before travelling to Portugal I had heard about another new coffee shop that had recently opened in the centre of Porto. C’Alma Specialty coffee room is housed inside a historic building, up a few steps which means if you sit by the window you get to look down on the street – great for people watching. This place had a range of coffees on offer, both from Portuguese roasters such as Luso Coffee Roasters and its own C’Alma espresso blend, as well as those from further afield including Tim Wendleboe (Oslo) and Five Elephant (Berlin). It’s clearly a place that likes to champion the different tastes that specialty coffee can provide. It offered a range of tasting flights so you could try different coffees prepared via different methods. We didn’t have the option of staying very long so opted for a couple of macchiatos, made with the C’Alma blend which was really smooth. The C’Alma blend we noticed when purchasing a bag was roasted in 7g roaster over in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the river.

We’d been hoping to visit 7g roaster after reading the article on European Coffee Trip, but weren’t sure if we would have the time. However, with a couple of spare hours we made a quick trip down to the Port wine area of Gaia to see if we could find it. Just a minute from the waterfront, 7g roaster is nestled among the historic buildings and port winery’s of the area. It’s an interesting set up which includes several rental apartments with a coffee shop and roaster at the bottom. The article by Domas Draginis on European Coffee Trip provides a more in-depth look at what this place does. The coffee shop/roastery was another large open space with plenty of tables.

There was an extensive coffee menu, as well as a range of food on offer too. We didn’t have time to stop for food, though what we saw coming out of the kitchen looked great. For this stop we had a naturally processed Ethiopian coffee via V60 an a panama coffee in a cortado. From my perspective one of the great things about this place was how the roaster was a central part of the coffee shop – the large Joper roaster was visible from pretty much anywhere in the shop and was set up behind a bar where people could sit if they wanted to. Clearly 7g roasters are an active part of the coffee community in Porto. On talking with the staff we found out that they worked with C’Alma to get the particular blend they wanted for their coffee, the one we had tried earlier in the week.

There are a growing number of coffee related events, cuppings, and talks taking place in Portugal, and 7g roasters have already been a part of this, hosting the 2018 Portugal Aeropress championship. There were several coffees to purchase for brewing at home on offer, and we decided to go with a Brazilian coffee roasted for espresso.

Something we’ve found in many of the Portuguese specialty coffee places is the both the friendliness of the people working there and the enthusiasm for specialty coffee, and how they encourage people to try, and learn about, specialty coffee. This is something we have found on previous visits but continues to be the case as new places open. There were quite a few other specialty coffee places around Porto that we didn’t get around to visiting, but hopefully will do on future trips including Birds of Passage, Alambique and Café Progresso. If you’re considering visiting Porto, European Coffee Trip have a helpful map with coffee shop guides. Outside of central Porto there were a couple of places around Matosinhos that we were hoping to visit but didn’t get around to it including, Booínga Café and Wanderlust Coffee Lab. Just not enough time on this trip, but clearly there is a growing demand for specialty coffee in the area.

Specialty coffee is clearly on the rise in Portugal, in some of the larger cities such as Lisbon and Porto, but also in other places such as Aveiro which is home to the coffee training organisation Fábrica do Barista. The pace of growth is interesting to watch, and it will be interesting to see if it continues to grow, and what impact that this may have on the coffee culture in the country. I look forward to future visits to explore even more. In the meantime I have a range of coffee roasted in Portugal to try at home. I was spoilt for choice!

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Highlights from the Bristol Coffee House Project

This year I’ve managed to attend a few different coffee festivals, and its interesting to see how different places create and market these events. September saw the arrival of Bristol’s first coffee festival – the Coffee House Project, held in the Passenger shed.

I think this was definitely my favourite venue for a coffee festival so far, a large hall of a former train station, and very easy to get around. There was a packed programme of different events and experiences throughout the festival from the UK Coffee in Good Spirits 2019 competition, to the opportunity to screen print your own tea towel. As you can see from the map there was a great selection of coffee and coffee shop related businesses present.

At the London Coffee Festival I got to try coffee from Girls Who Grind Coffee, an all-female coffee roastery who roast some fantastic coffee from female producers around the world. After seeing the tasting notes of the Honduras coffee as mango and passionfruit pavlova, we had to try that one  – definitely an interesting coffee to try.

I was also really pleased to see the Dog & Hat Coffee subscription business at the festival. We’ve been subscribers with Dog & Hat for a while and we’ve had a fantastic selection of coffee from a wide range of roasters from across the UK and beyond. It was also nice to meet Su, to put a face to the business I’ve been interacting with. If you’re interested in trying out different coffees but don’t know where to start, they are definitely a good option!

 The reusable cup company, KeepCup had a stand, and they even had a really pretty Coffee House Project cup for sale. At the London Coffee Festival earlier in the year I picked up a Huskup, a reusable cup I hadn’t heard of before, and it was good to see they had a stand here too. Lots of people were walking around with reusable coffee cups, and many stands had biodegradable or recyclable cups, so hopefully there wasn’t too much coffee cup waste from the event.

I discovered a few new roasters, including Dusty Ape coffee, and Manumit Coffee, an organisation working with people affected by modern slavery, providing training and employment opportunities.

Coffee festivals are  great way to celebrate and showcase whats happening locally in the coffee industry, and a really nice addition in the Coffee House Project bag was the Best Coffee specialty coffee map of Bristol. Trying different coffee shops is a great way to explore a city.  I’ll definitely be using this to try new places next time I’m in Bristol.

There were many more highlights to the festival than what’s included here, but this is all I have time to write about at the minute. The Coffee House Project has definitely been one of my favourite coffee festival so far, not only because of the venue, the great coffee, but because of the friendliness of everyone we met. Hopefully the Coffee House Project will be back next year.



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Coventry’s First Coffee Festival: Fargo Coffee Festival

There’s a growing number of coffee festivals taking place across the UK (and in other countries too), with many starting to emerge in smaller towns and cities. The weekend of 15th and 16th September saw the first coffee festival taking place in Coventry’s Fargo Village. The Fargo Coffee Festival was an event which showcased some of the regions coffee highlights including local roasters and coffee shops, as well as other coffee and coffee shop related organisations, such as the Independent Coffee Club, Midlands.

It was held in the indoor space just as you enter Fargo Village, for a very reasonable £1 entry!

Fargo Coffee Festival Coventry

As you entered the event there was a seating area where there was some live music playing, and plenty of tables to sit around and enjoy the coffee and atmosphere.

Fargo Coffee Festival Coventry

Then into the main hall there were range of different stands includng the main sponsors of the event Java Lounge, and Backhaus & Co. They were doing some latte art demonstrations and there seemed to be plenty of filter coffee being prepared. It was good to see one of my favourite midlands roasters at the event, Monsoon Estates Coffee Company, as well as Ed’s Coffee House which I’ve often visited on Coventry market.

I also had the opportunity to try a Kenyan filter coffee from a roaster I hadn’t heard about before – New Era coffee. The tasting notes suggested there should be hints of rose florals, lime and milk chocolate  – a very nice V60 to finish my visit to the festival.

A great addition to the suite of events that take place at Fargo Village in Coventry, I hope it’s one that stays in the calendar for next year to showcase more of what’s happening in coffee in the midlands.

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Book Review: Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour

Are you interested in exploring different types of coffee shops across the globe? Have you ever wondered how to ask for coffee in different countries around the world? If the answer if yes to either of these questions then the Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour book might be a good place to start. When I was younger and had more time to travel for pleasure rather than work, I’d often reach for a Lonely Planet guide when beginning to plan my adventures. This isn’t your typical Lonely planet book focusing on any particular country, but instead is part of the Lonely Planet Food series which provides more of a visual guide of places to visit if your interested in coffee and coffee shops.

Lonely Planet Global Coffee Tour book

I imagine it was a really difficult process deciding which places to include in this book as it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive guide to coffee shops and coffee experiences on a global scale, particularly as the industry changes so much. Nevertheless, the book has managed to select some coffee highlights for a range of countries across the globe, organised in to different regions. There are of course many countries here with rich coffee cultures that aren’t included (Portugal is one example), but the book does well to cover a broad spread of countries with different coffee histories, trends and features.

There is a short helpful glossary at the beginning of the book which would be helpful for any one who is not familiar with some of the terminology. The book is then divided into different regions Africa & the Middle East, The Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Each country is then introduced with a little about the coffee history or traditions there and key developments in their coffee culture and interesting facts. Some countries also have listed the Top 5 coffees – I find this a little problematic firstly because in many countries just picking five coffees would be near impossible, secondly because these would be likely to change year on year and season to season. Each country also has a section which outlines how to ask for  acoffee in the local language, the signature coffee style, what to order with your coffee (e.g. local baked delicacies). These are very much in keeping with the Lonely Planet style of hints and tips for travellers but I did find some of the ‘How to ask for a coffee in the local language?’ a little amusing. The differences between the English speaking countries for example:

  • Australia: Can I have a (insert coffee preference here)?
  • New Zealand: I’ll have a flat white, thanks mate.
  • UK: I’d like a latte/cappuccino/black coffee, please
  • USA: I’d like a ____ coffee, please (fill in with ultra-specific ordering details, i.e ‘half-caff, no foam, almond milk’.

However, should I find myself in some far flung location, I’m sure I would find the phrases very helpful. So after the introduction to the country each chapter has a number of coffee experiences detailed – these are mostly coffee shops and roasteries,  however there are also a range of other coffee experiences such as visits to local coffee farm, for example the Satemwa Coffee Tour in Malawi, or the Fazenda Santa Margarida in Brazil.

If you were going to use this book as a guide to inform your travels, there are also helpful suggestions of things to do nearby, sometimes major tourist attractions, but also interesting places to eat and drink. It was good to see that the inclusions weren’t always in the capital cities either. In the UK for example there were highlights from Ammanford, Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Falmouth and London.

As someone who is interested in different coffee and cafe cultures around the world I found this book interesting in terms of finding out about some key coffee and cafe highlights in countries I am not as familiar with, and as with many travel books there are lots of nice pictures to make you think about being somewhere else!



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What does a global giant need to grow? Coffee: Coca-Cola buys the coffee shop chain Costa Coffee

The global coffee shop market is estimated to be worth around $165bn (£127bn), with forecasts that this is likely to continue to grow in the future. Such large sums of money and growth forecasts have made the coffee shop industry an attractive one for many businesses.

Vanilla latte costa

The UK’s largest coffee shop chain Costa Coffee has recently announced it is being sold to the global soft drinks giant Coca-Cola for £3.9 billion. Given Costa’s current owner Whitbread bought the company from its founders Sergio and Bruno Costa for £19 million in 1995, this somewhat demonstrates the scale of growth the coffee shop industry has experienced in recent decades. The sale isn’t really a surprise, there have been discussions in the media about how Whitbread has been under pressure from investors to spin off Costa as a separate business. And as the Chief Executive of Whitbread, Alison Brittain, explained, they had been approached by a number of investors but the one from Coca-Cola offered a ‘dream deal’ for investors.

The move by Coca-Cola into the coffee market isn’t a huge surprise either. While Coca cola has a global soft drinks empire, it doesn’t have a strong coffee presence its range and so the move is seen as their way of entering the game. In a time where there is increasing pressure to reduce consumption of sugar-laden soft drinks, a move to expand their coffee range seems sensible.

Coca cola is buying a ready-made network in coffee with 4,000 Costa stores in 32 countries; 2,400 of these are in the UK, as well as 8,000 self-service machines. By buying an established coffee brand, they can use their existing distribution network to scale this up in terms of expansion of its stores, but also its products. The popularity of ready-to-drink coffee products, and in particular cold brew coffee, has been booming and since Coca-Cola specialises in producing bottled drinks, I would expect to see a proliferation of Costa branded products in Coca-Cola vending machines near you soon after the deal takes place.

Costa Coffee in the UK has experienced very rapid growth in recent years reaching just over 2,400 stores by 2018, which is twice as many as its closest competitor Starbucks. Although there have been reports that the company have experienced falling sales, blamed on falling footfall in the high streets. The UK market in terms of high street Costa stores is clearly close to saturation, but for it’s store expansion I would expect Coca-Cola to focus on Costa’s international expansion, with a strong focus on Asia where it already has started to develop a presence. As I explored in a recent journal article on the growth of coffee shop culture in China, the Chinese market presents an attractive opportunity for expansion with a growing middle class and a rising taste for coffee along side this. Costa Coffee has already outlined ambitious expansion plans for the region, and with Coca-Cola well established distribution network in the region, it seems likely that this area of the world may be where it turns its attention to expand its store network.

The recent purchase by Coca-Cola is just one of several high value moves by large companies to expand their presence in the coffee business. The investment firm JAB has made several acquisitions which expand its coffee portfolio. It already owned chains such as Peet’s Coffee, Caribou Coffee and Krispy Kreme (which while its main focus is donuts, they also sell a lot of coffee), but also acquired the US specialty coffee companies Stumptown and Intelligentsia and the UK based Pret-a-manger (for around $2 billion). There were also moves from Nestle to buy a 68% stake in the US specialty coffee company Blue Bottle for $425 million and  $7.1 billion in a deal to be able to sell Starbucks products. These are the larger moves taking place in the coffee and coffee shop industries, and there are many other smaller mergers and acquisitions taking place that are changing the way the coffee shop industry looks and operates.

These big money deals demonstrate the scale of the coffee shop industry, and the desire for companies to claim their position in the market. There is more to be written about the impact of such changes on the coffee market, and of the various mergers and acquisitions taking place across the industry. Will these moves create a homogenization of coffee culture? What impact will these moves have on coffee growers and others in the coffee supply chain? Are the forecasts for growing coffee consumption and coffee shop industry sustainable?

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Birmingham Coffee Festival highlights

A slightly delayed post that I have been meaning to write for a while about the Birmingham Coffee Festival that was held back in June. Last year saw the first coffee festival held in the Custard Factory in Birmingham, and this year it returned to the same venue. It felt like there was more on offer this year with a good range of roasters, food and other products on offer.

There were some of the local coffee shops and roasters at the festival with great offerings from 200degrees and Java lounge.

But there were also roasters from further afield such as Campbell & Syme. We tried a sample of their Ethiopian washed filter coffee which was lovely, but we particularly enjoyed the ‘Guess the Origin’ espresso challenge. It turns out that the espresso which I would probably class as one of the ‘most interesting’ espressos I’ve ever tasted was from Brazil. I guessed South American but I never would have guessed Brazil. This is a great coffee as an example of some of the excellent specialty coffee that’s coming from Brazil.

If you have read this blog before you will know I have an interest in sustainability in the coffee shop industry and I’ve been following how much this issue is present at coffee festivals, particularly the London Coffee Festival. I was pleased to see the presence of both Keep Cup and Green Man packaging, among others, which highlighted the importance of considering waste produced from the industry.

This year the fabulous Cakesmiths joined the line-up with an impressive selection on offer as usual.

Last year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival was the first coffee festival we had attempted to take a child to. This year with a new addition we attempted the festival with two under two year olds. By going at the beginning of the day things weren’t too busy and there was space to move around with out it feeling too crowded. Something I haven’t seen at a festival yet which was openly children friendly was a free babyccino bar. My smallest research assistant was very happy to have a babyccino and join us at the table with her own drink (alongside a bit of Cakesmiths cake of course).

As with most visits to coffee festivals there’s so much nice coffee on offer that I have to be restrained in what I buy to bring home. We ended up with a bag from Cole & Mac from the stall that had the Babyccino bar, and one from Campell & Syme after we had a sample.

For a much more in-depth review of the venue and what was on offer see the blog post from Brian Williams on Brian’s Coffee spot here. The festival was a perfect opportunity for a wander around Birmingham too, following a trail of dinosaurs which had been created in celebration of the recent ‘Dippy on Tour‘ exhibition at the museum.

There are now lots of great coffee festivals across the country (and world) which showcase what the coffee industry (and related businesses) have to offer. The next ones that we’ll be visiting are first coffee festival in Bristol, The Coffee House Project, and the Fargo Coffee Festival in Coventry – both in September.

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Innovations in recycling coffee cups: Coffee Notes

As part of my research project into the coffee shop industry and the circular economy I have been looking for examples of products that have been made from coffee shop waste. I recently came across Coffee Notes which are notebooks made from recycled coffee cups.

These are lovely note books, with nice thick pages, and no ink bleaching on the other side of the pages after writing. I particularly like the cover design as a reminder of what they’re made from, along with the brief explanation of the recycling process. I was kindly sent this sample pack but they will be available to buy soon.

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Exploring Chinese Specialty Coffee: Yunnan highlights

China has a developing coffee culture both in terms of its coffee shop industry, but also its coffee farming. Back in 2016 Perfect Daily Grind reported how China was increasing its coffee production (particularly in the Yunnan, Fujian, and Hainan Island), with much of the specialty coffee being producted in Yunnan province. It highlighted how: “The extremely mountainous Pu’er Province – known globally for its fermented teas – is quickly blooming into the coffee-producing capital of China.” An additional article from Perfect Daily Grind in 2016 focused on the efforts of the 2014 China Barista champion Jeremy Zhang to champion specialty coffee in China.

More recently Time Magazine examined how growing coffee is becoming more popular in regions of China historically associated with growing tea. The article highlighted that: “the temperate climate of Pu’er is also perfect for growing arabica coffee. Yunnan accounts for 95% of China’s coffee harvest, with half coming from the mist-shrouded landscape around Pu’er. As China’s fast-living millennials move away from traditional tea in favor of the invigorating jolt of coffee, Pu’er’s farmers are catering to the demand. Today, China is the 13th biggest coffee producer in the world — rising from zero output three decades ago to 110,000 tons annually today.”

The growth of coffee culture in China has been an interest of mine for some time and recently I have had an article published along with my co-author Dr Carlos Ferreira, in the journal Business Horizons, which charts the different stages of coffee culture in China. It also  considers key developments in the coffee and coffee shop industry in the Chinese market (and its future).

To celebrate this being published I really wanted to try some Chinese specialty coffee, so I turned to my Twitter network to see if anyone knew of any UK based coffee roasters who had some. Brian Williams (author of the book ‘The Philosophy of Coffee‘) put me in touch with Dave Jameson, who very kindly arranged for me to be sent some of the Grumpy Mule Yunnan Fuyan Co-operative coffee. With a bit of searching I also managed to find some through Cricklewood Coffee roasters. We’ve been enjoying tasting these and sharing with colleagues and friends.

We will continue to follow developments in the coffee and coffee shops industries in China with great interest, and look forward to hopefully trying some more Chinese specialty coffee in the future.

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Spaces of community: Chatty Cafes and Costa Coffee

It was announced this week that Costa Coffee would be rolling out the concept of ‘Chatter and Natter’ tables to 300 stores across the UK. As part of the ‘Chatty Café scheme’ it involves cafes having a designated table with a sign that signals to other people that you would be happy to have company, sit and chat. This is a scheme developed by Alexandra Hoskyn from Manchester that designed to combat loneliness that is experienced by many people across the country.

One of my main research projects about the coffee shop industry was called ‘Spaces of Community: exploring dynamics in the café industry’ it sought to explore the roles of cafes in urban spaces. One of the key points was around how cafes can act as community hubs and act as focus points for different people in the community. It was identified how for people who experience isolation in their lives, in various forms, cafes can play a really important role, providing a link to local people, and a place to go and spend time, as a well as place to get coffee!

According to a Huffpost UK article, the Head of Sustainability at Costa Coffee commented that:

“Our coffee shops have always played an important role within communities; acting as a hub for people to meet, spend time together and most importantly, talk.

“With loneliness and social isolation on the rise, feeling part of a community is more important than ever. And that’s exactly what the Chatty Café scheme is all about – we understand the importance of conversation and we want to help make it as simple as possible for our customers to open up, have a friendly chat and bring local people together within our stores”.

Evidence from my research suggests that there are many cafes that play an important role in the community, in many different ways, one of which is helping those who experience isolation. This could be isolation experienced by an elderly person, a new parent, or even someone that has just moved to the area. Whatever the reason for the loneliness, for many people, the café can be an important place to be in contact with other people, be out of the home, and have the potential to be with other people. I have seen places which have had similar designated tables with a signs (such as the one below from Ziferblat in Manchester), which proved to be popular.


There are of course many people who also go to a café to be alone, or to have some space, and don’t necessarily want to sit and talk with new people, but the fact that Costa Coffee has acknowledged that many of their stores are important for combating isolation, and are providing designated for this, is an important step.

If you’re interested in finding your nearest ‘Chatter and Natter’ table there’s an interactive map on the Chatty Café scheme website. Interestingly the one located in Coventry that has a ‘Chatter and Natter’ table happens to be one where I ended up talking with another new mum shortly after the birth of my first child. I’m sure the designated table there will be a welcome development.

To find out more about the research on the role of cafes in communities, you can read the research summary from the ‘Spaces of Community’ project here.

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Coffee Shop Chains and ‘New Retail’ in China: Starbucks, Luckin Coffee, apps and delivery

China continues to be one of the largest growing markets for the coffee shop industry, with estimates of market growth ranging between 5-9% year according to different consultancy reports. Such growth is an attractive prospect for large international coffee shop chains, as well as other competitors, keen to capitalise on the interest in coffee and coffee shops. The global coffee shop chain Starbucks, recently announced that it was entering a partnership with Alibaba to introduce a delivery service in China.  It explained that it was going to be using the Alibaba platform Ele.me to begin piloting delivery services in Beijing and Shanghai in September 2018, with plans to expand this to 30 cities and over 2,000 stores by the end of the year. It will also leverage the Alibaba ‘Hema’ supermarkets to create further Starbucks delivery kitchens.

Source: Starbucks

China is currently the second largest market in the world for Starbucks behind the US, with around 3400 stores across the country, and plans to have around 6000 as part of its organic growth strategy. This announcement from Starbucks comes at a time when the company has recently reported falling sales growth, and is facing increased competition from other international brands such as Costa Coffee or Tim Hortons, as well as the recent player in the market Chinese based Luckin Coffee.

Luckin Coffee, a Chinese start-up only emerged on to the coffee shop market in China at the end of 2017 demonstrating rapid growth to become the country’s second largest coffee shop chain with ambitious future growth plans. By August in 2018 it had already opened 660 outlets in 13 cities across China. Luckin Coffee uses an app for ordering coffee which can either be delivered or consumed in/collected from one its outlets. The business has mainly targeted offices and malls for its stores and ‘delivery kitchens’.  It is ahead of Starbucks in the delivery game, and also prices its coffee slightly cheaper, which in a country where coffee is a premium product, may have an impact on consumer choice. According to Reuters in Luckin Coffee ‘a regular latte, roughly the size of a Starbucks grande, costs 24 yuan plus 6 yuan for delivery (free delivery for orders of more than 35 yuan), but can be half price after promotions. A grande latte at Starbucks costs 31 yuan.’

While China is traditionally a country associated with tea drinking, this is changing with increased coffee consumption and demand for coffee shops, driven by a range of factors. The growth and development of the coffee shop industry in China is the focus of a new article I’ve published along with Dr Carlos Ferreira in the journal Business Horizons. The article ‘Challenges and opportunities of new retail horizons in emerging markets: the case of rising coffee culture in China’ explores how the rising middle class in China has fuelled the growth of coffee consumption and the coffee shop industry. In particular, it presents a timeline of Chinese coffee and coffee shop culture, and examines some key players that have been a part of this development, including international and domestic coffee shop chains, as well as independents. The article concludes by discussing series of opportunities and challenges for coffee shops in China. One opportunity highlighted was around how chains could utilise local partnerships – something which Starbucks has already recognised and acted upon.

This partnership and the activities it will involve are all part of the ‘new retail’ strategy. The term ‘New Retail’ appears to have been created by Alibaba to describe this merge between online and offline consumer activity. It is seen as the complete digitisation of all commerce, which according to the company is the key to saving traditional retail by adapting to the new digital world. Alibaba has produced a short video which explains the concept and demonstrates how this has been taking place in China in areas such as food shopping and car shopping.

The concept of ‘new retail’ seems to be pitched as the solution to some of the challenges of the high street and shopping malls which have over recent years struggled to get the footfall they need to remain viable. This concept, and how it plays out in different cities and sectors, will need further study as it develops. Do consumers prefer this blended model of offline and online purchasing? What impact does this ‘new retail’ have on physical shopping locations, on consumer behaviour, and on business activity? To what extent will this ‘new retail’ strategy affect the coffee shop as a ‘third place’?

Both Starbucks through their new partnership, and Luckin, have adopted this ‘new retail’ strategy utilising technology to ‘transform the customer experience’ of the brand. It will be interesting to see if we see such strategies being adopted in other markets too. We have already seen the rise of restaurant delivery through apps such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats in the UK. Will this extend to coffee shops en masse outside of China soon? Costa Coffee appear to already offer delivery in the UAE, only time will tell how popular these services are and how much this ‘new retail’ strategy will become part of the everyday consumer experience. As with many blog posts that discuss current events I have ended up raising lots of questions, but interesting ones that hopefully in the future I will get to explore a little more.


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