Book Review: The Best of Jim Seven 

A while ago I wrote a blog post which listed some of the blogs about coffee that I read. One of these is jimseven, written by James Hoffman, co-founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and author of the book, ‘The World Atlas of Coffee’. James has been writing on the blog for many years and has recently published via a crowdfunding campaign a compilation of the best posts in the book ‘Jim Seven 2004-2015’. I contributed to the campaign and while I am still awaiting the hard copy of the book I have now worked my way through the digital edition I received not too long ago.

I have read a lot of the material on the jimseven blog already, but I was quite happy to have much of the material in a book form, partly so I could see how the issues that are discussed have changed over time. The book is organised into four main sections: on espresso, on coffee brewing, on coffee business, and on a coffee career. As is highlighted early on in the book, having a compilation of these posts collated together gives the reader a good overview of some of the changes during the global boom of specialty coffee. 

It’s an interesting collection with posts covering everything from discussions of coffee grinders, to barista competitions, to the use of loyalty cards. There are too many thought provoking chapters here for me to list, but there a few quotes I wanted to comment on.

I’ve heard quite frequently how some specialty coffee locations could do more to be welcoming to people who perhaps might not be the primary market. While I have usually always been welcomed into new specialty coffee shops, anecdotal evidence suggests some places could place more effort on being welcoming and inclusive: ‘if we can spend a little less time pouring self-absorbed swirls of water over coffee, a little more time being nice to people, then that would be great’ (Lets talk about EK43 then). 

The growth of coffee shops in the UK (and in many other countries) has been phenomenal. I have seen several articles recently that mention the coffee shop bubble, and make predictions about the point at which we have reached ‘peak coffee shop’. James identifies that potentially: ‘the ‘rate of new cafes opening has outstripped growth in consumers for high quality coffee.. The market is becoming more competitive’ (Make or Steal).

He believes ‘we are heading towards a situation where we have more cafes than we have customers for them’. As a consequence we are ‘likely to see a large number of cafes close in a relatively short time frame’ which has implications for other businesses in the coffee industry – roasters, coffee buyers, equipment providers etc. James (writing in 2015) posits that a ‘substantial correction’ might take place over the following 3-5 years (State of Specialty Coffee Part III: implications and predictions).  Many things have changed in the coffee shop industry and while in many cities there has been substantial churn in coffee shops, there does also seem to be many still opening (and many more coffee roasters opening too). What I have seen over the last couple of years since James wrote this post, is a continued growth in specialty coffee outside of London, as evidenced by the emergence not only of more coffee shops and roasters, but a growing number of coffee festivals across the country. There appears to still be a growing demand for specialty coffee across the country, suggesting that we have not yet reached ‘peak coffee shop’. It may be that the specialty coffee industry needs to move its targets from the traditional city centre coffee shops, to target markets in smaller locales, and to diversify their consumer base.

As is pointed out: ‘every business is having to fight a little harder for every customer’ (State of Specialty Coffee part 11: the bubble). However, the diversity of the specialty coffee industry has the potential to be attractive to a wide consumer base. As James highlights: ‘the real joy of specialty coffee is its diversity: this is what makes it the antithesis of commoditised coffee’ (What message do I want to send? Part 1).

‘Tradition must evolve…Deviation and experimentation away from tradition absolutely must happen in order to discover new and useful things that will become traditions we will pass down to future generations’ (Tradition). 

He also highlights how: ‘conversations in the industry are starting to change. The more experienced owners in the coffee business have moved their focus away from how they can serve offer that would delight their peers in the industry, into how they can run sustainable businesses’. (State of specialty coffee part 1: the lull). In order to experience continued growth it’s likely that the specialty coffee industry will need to diversify as we have already started to see, with coffee roasters seeking to supply restaurants with specialty coffee, and efforts to engage a wider consumer base. 

The crux of my research project ‘Spaces of Community’ was to illustrate how coffee shops are important spaces in town and cities – and not just for the coffee, but for the package of what the coffee provides. Of course, great coffee, is a bonus: ‘authenticity comes from honest, from transparency. Cafes are great canvases, for the expression of ideas about service, about taste, about design, about community, and about coffee itself. All too rarely, are there any let alone, all of these things’ (Hipsters Coffee and Authenticity).

Another area of my research is about employment practices (and labour market patterns more broadly) so naturally I’ve developed an interest in career pathways in the coffee industry. The churn of baristas in coffee shops has been a point I have discussed with coffee shop owners across the country. I’ve listened to the podcasts that James produced on the Coffee Jobs podcast which provide various perspectives on working in coffee, but I really like the analogy he used in the book: 

‘Training baristas is like pouring water into a bucket that has a hole at the bottom.…. In an ideal world the businesses itself would act like a giant bathtub underneath the bucket , collecting as much of the information as possible that is being poured into it’ (The Difficult Middle).

He gives a piece of advice which chimes with some of discussions I’ve had with baristas who have developed successful careers in the industry. It is recommended that those seeking to develop their career in coffee should  find employers ‘who have a old track record with developing staff and supporting them in future endeavours’ (How to progress in coffee).One of the most interesting posts was one written in 2008 in which James outlines his wish list for English coffee culture: traceability (so people have an understanding of what they’re drinking); preference (people making conscious and informed choices); seasonality; and a strong base of brewed coffee (The Failings of English cafes). In many way I think this wish list has been fulfilled in some cities, with some consumers. There is now more of a diverse coffee culture in the UK. There is definitely a greater awareness of coffee shops, coffee brewing methods and coffee origins, although the extent of this is variegated by region and most likely demographic.

These quotes are just a few points which I found interesting in the book, and there are many more, which I encourage you to explore from the impact of water on coffee, to issues around gender in coffee. If you have an interest in the coffee industry, this volume and the writing on JimSeven is a great place to consider issues from across the industry (and how it has progressed). 

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From the Custard Factory: Birmingham Coffee Festival

The number of coffee shops in the UK has been on the rise for many years now, and with it there is growing consumer base who like to explore coffee – a good place to do this is one of the several coffee festivals that have emerged across the country. The most well-known, the London Coffee Festival has been running for several years, but there are others that have emerged in recent years and have proved very popular, and generating a further rise in coffee tourism.

As I have mentioned before:

“There are a growing number of coffee festivals which have become important events for stakeholders in the café industry, not just for those in the trade in terms of equipment and coffee, but for baristas looking to compete in competitions (which are often held at these festivals), or to find out about new equipment, roasters looking to display their coffee offerings, to consumers seeking to find out more about what’s happening in the coffee world. While these festivals are places where people enthusiastic and passionate about coffee get the immerse themselves in all things coffee, they are about much more than coffee with usually a range of exhibitors and activities related to other food and drinks too.” (Ferreira, 2017)

On 1-2nd July, Birmingham hosted its first ever coffee festival in the Custard Factory in the Digbeth area of the city centre.  The creation of the Birmingham Coffee Festival reflects a growing coffee scene in the city, with a rising number of both independent and chain coffee shops, and coffee roasters too. It was great to see a whole range of businesses from the region (and beyond).

While for some people coffee festivals is about trying different coffees, there is usually much more on offer –- from cuppings, roasting demonstrations and latte art demonstrations to live music performances. And there was more than coffee on offer too from Henny & Joes Chai, Doisy & Dam chocolates  chocolate to Cowardy Cow Bakes with a range of cakes on offer.

This festival was held in a great space, one floor, with easy access, and a number of street food vendors outside too. We were there quite early in the day, and to start with we had lots of room to move around (something that you don’t really get in the London Coffee Festival), but even when it got busier the space was well laid out that it didn’t feel cramped. We didn’t get a chance to talk to all the businesses that were there, but we managed to talk to plenty, and all were incredibly friendly and keen to talk about their business. This felt like the friendliest coffee festival I have been to. It was also the first time I’d taken a baby to a coffee festival – she was made to feel welcome, and generally seemed to enjoy smiling at lots of people and taking in all the action. It was pleasing to see quite a few families with young children there, showing how coffee festival can have a diverse audience.

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As usual with coffee festivals, there is lots of coffee on offer to try. I had learnt my lesson from a previous festival and did not have any beforehand. A few highlights were:

Danielle’s Coffee, a company based in Shropshire, had a range of coffees on offer. We tried a couple by filter (the premium blend and Chetton village blend), and ended up buying some of the premium blend after finding to be on the favourites of the festival. We tried a really smooth Guatemalan coffee from Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters (based in Birmingham), and then a Kenyan coffee from Cart Wheel Café and Roastery based in Nottingham. We also tried samples from Urban Roast Coffee Co, Method Coffee Roasters, Outpost Coffee Roasters and Java lounge.

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In the end, I didn’t get around to the stand from 200degrees in part because their coffee shop in Birmingham is already one of my favourites and I’ve tried quite a few of their coffees, although I’ve been told their Nitro cold brew that was on offer was good.

Readers of this blog will know that I have an interest in sustainability in the coffee shop industry and it was great to see both Ecoffeecup (reusable coffee cups) and Vegware (eco-friendly packaging) with stands there.

Something I’ve not seen done before at a coffee festival, was the ‘Best of Birmingham’ box which included several bags of coffee beans and vouchers for a number of the companies on display (Urban Roast Coffee Co, Outpost Coffee, Cole & Mac, 200degrees and Java lounge), a great way to try a range of the coffees on offer.

Overall, it seems to Birmingham Coffee Festival has been a great success with lots of visitors over the two days. As I said earlier, it was great to see the Midlands displaying some of the best it has in coffee and coffee shop related business, and I hope to see it return in future years.

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Merging historical culture with Starbucks in Japan

Back in April I wrote a blog post about how Starbucks was trying something new in Japan, ‘Neighborhood and Coffee’ stores which had less obvious Starbucks branding, and were more focused on becoming the local neighbourhood coffee shop. Now, again in Japan, the company is trying something new.

Its latest outlet in Kyoto, opened on 30th June, is inside a 100 year-old Japanese townhouse, complete with traditional garden. The building is located near Ninenzaka which is a popular tourist street in the city, famous for its traditional buildings and shops. But it’s not just the building itself which is the novel aspect of this Starbucks store.  It is the first coffee shop outlet with tatami rooms, and is traditionally decorated. A number of articles about the store suggest that customers will have to take their shoes off before entering these rooms, as is custom in Japan.

It is interesting that Starbucks are trying out different store formats in Japan, a country where the brand is very popular, particularly with young urban consumers. Starbucks is known for adjusting their menu and even some extent their store design to different countries – you’ll already find matcha lattes and cherry blossom Frappuccino’s in Japan. Is this an attempt by Starbucks to cater for the local population of Kyoto by providing a glocalised example of its store – by creating a building that will blend into the landscape and incorporate traditional features?

“Starbucks is attempting to create a mixture of new cafe culture and historical and traditional Japanese townhouse culture and architecture.” JapanInfo

Given this store’s proximity to a very popular tourist site it’s more likely they are thinking that there is money to be made from tourists seeking an ‘authentic Japanese experience’ while also wanting some comfort from their familiar brand. The Japan Times highlighted how Starbucks Japan have said it ‘will not allow people to form lines in front of the shop and will also restrict the number of customers during peak hours to avoid disrupting the quiet atmosphere of the area’. Clearly they are expecting the store to be popular with the tourist market – is this a new way for Starbucks to continue expansion into cities, by creating alternative stores to provide a more novel coffee experience?

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Coffee shops and work: considering the ‘coffice economy’

Last week I gave a presentation at the Coventry University Faculty of Business and Law conference about cafés as important spaces of co-working (summarised in this blog post), and right on schedule a new piece of research has been produced which highlights another important function of café spaces – as places not only of co-working for independent workers, but as places where business and work takes place more generally.

The discount voucher website MyVoucherCodes has recently released some data which suggests that:

  • 4/5 people in the UK have spent at least 3 ½ hours working from a coffee shop each week;
  • 1/3 have closed a business deal (with an average value of £1,732);
  • 67% said their place of work supported the idea of working from a coffee shop;
  • 1 in 3 have attended a job interview in a coffee shop (although 43% of people are worried about lack of privacy in the coffee shop);
  • the average working session in a coffee shop lasts for 93 minutes;
  • the average worker spends up to £10 on food/drink for each time;
  • the average consumer spends over £2,160 a year working from a coffee shop in the UK (which is 8% of their salary), and this climbs to nearly £2,600 for the self-employed worker.

Sources: (YourMoney, 2017 and LondonLovesBusiness, 2017).

As I have continued to argue in my work, cafés are spaces of multiple possibilities from a places to simply get a coffee, places to seek solitude in public, to places where you can meet acquaintances to do business. They are important social, and increasingly economic spaces, in the urban (and sometimes not so urban) landscape.

“The data shows that coffee shop workers have great success in closing business deals, valued at an average of £1,732 each, representing an estimated £14.53 billion contribution to the UK economy” (Sunday Post, 2017).

This is not a small amount of money, and the importance of these café spaces in the urban landscape requires recognition. There are clearly a lot of people seeking alternative places than the traditional office to work and do business, for a variety of reasons. Increasingly businesses that provide coffee and work space or ‘co-working spaces’ are seen as more economical workspaces than rented office space too – and there are a range of examples that have been appearing across the globe (as I explored in my recent talk about co-working spaces), as well as a number of cafes which have sought to combine the coffee and workspace as part of their business model (TimberYard in London area a good example).

The findings of this piece of research are interesting, but require further investigation, not only in terms of considering the implications for people who want to work in cafés, but for the café industry itself – Do cafés encourage/discourage the use of their space for work? How do you manage the patterns discussed above when running a café? What are the implications of the ‘coffice economy’ – all things I have begun to explore and hope to continue to do so in the future.


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Considering Italian Coffee Culture: Coffees-Italian’s do it better?

I found via a Twitter a video produced by Romedia Studio and Umami Area entitled Coffees: Italians do it better? At the time I assumed this was a short commentary on specialty coffee in Italy, but when I sat down to watch it I realised it was more like a full length documentary (43 minutes).

Back in March I wrote a little about how Starbucks was embarking on stores in Italy. I considered why this country might be a challenge for the company due to the ingrained espresso culture, but also how there might also be opportunities due to changes taking place in Italian coffee culture.

This documentary provides a fantastic overview of contemporary Italian coffee culture, of its history, trends and transformation – acknowledging that the arrival of Starbucks might even be an opportunity.

“We didn’t discover coffee, nor did we invent it , but we did create a machine to prepare, it, in fact the espresso machine.” – A quote from the documentary which acknowledges how Italy has often historically been at the forefront of innovation in coffee, and yet as the documentary explores, Italy is a little behind some other areas of Europe in terms of embracing specialty coffee.

Speaking to experts from across the coffee industry in Italy, the documentary explores different aspects of coffee culture in Italy, from history, to espresso culture, the complexity and varieties of coffee, the importance of roasting, to the importance of barista knowledge and communication with consumers.

There are many highlights to this documentary, and I highly recommend you watch it, but a few of the points I found particular interesting were:

  • The acknowledgement that barista training, knowledge and professionalism is really important for providing a gateway for consumers to the world of specialty coffee.
    • “The third wave of coffee is a phenomena that has changed and is still changing the world of coffee. Not only in the preparation of espresso, but in reality the world of coffee in general. With the third wave of coffee, one speaks in a café about coffee not only of single origin, but of a single variety of coffee produced in single plantation of coffee prepared with different methods of preparation. Think of a wine shop. One goes in, there’s a sommelier, there are different types of wine, different cellars, that produce different bottles. Presently in a café, here in Italy, generally the choice is one. One single coffee, one single blend, generally just one brand. Why not thinking of offering the customer different choices? Why not collaborate and ask the barista to place next to the traditional blend they work with, maybe a single origin coffee, which is a product produced by a single counter, or even a blend with a cup profile that’s different from the other coffee blend. This, accompanied with the explanation from the barista who at the espresso machine will prepare the espresso helps and can be a determining factor for a better informed consumer, concerning the quality of coffee, and that which can be found in coffee.”
    • “The commitment towards communication from those who make coffee, the trainer of coffee should be that of searching to intercept this culture and try to transform it. On the one hand into a more simple form for the consumer, and on the other, working with specialists to make them understand first of all, as then they have to transmit these concepts, what this particular significance is. And do this constantly searching to commit oneself to relate to the customer and be in tune with what is their vision is to then try to transform it.”
  • The growth of Starbucks and similar coffee companies had a positive impact on Italian industry, as the introduction of the espresso into so many other countries meant the Italian coffee industry could benefit from wider appreciation of Italian espresso culture.
    • “Starbucks is a force when promoting coffee regardless of good of bad quality, but in promoting coffee, in getting the customer to have an experience through coffee, something that quite often Italian cafes do not do. In an Italian café, you walk in, order a coffee, take it, pay for it, and drink it like it was medicine. In Starbucks, you can read the history of that coffee. You can see the faces of the people who made that coffee.”
  • There is a growing specialty coffee industry in Italy:
    • “Specialty coffee in Italy still doesn’t have a good image, but there’s a good vibe. Its growing, there’s something positive that’s being born.”
    • “With Ditta Artigianale we decided to open two cafes in the very centre of Florence. This allows us to elaborate coffee and manage every small detail of service. The service of making the client live a unique experience, an unforgettable experience. Because when one speaks of an increase in price, which is 1.5 euros, when one drinks our espresso in our cafes, we should excuse this increase in price with a truly meaningful experience.”

These are just a couple of insights from the documentary which I found interesting in terms of how the coffee culture in Italy is being transformed, and might continue to be transformed in the future, but there really is a lot more to it – if you can spare a bit of time, watch it.

florence cafe spaces



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Thank you Orange Cactus Coffee

In April I wrote a blog post about some of the podcasts that I listen to, in order to learn about coffee. One of these was the Orange Cactus Coffee Podcast, which I started to listen to after some interaction via Twitter and the blog with the guys who produce it. Over the last few months now I’ve been listening to Jake and Mike as they continue with their journey through specialty coffee over the Atlantic in Prescott Valley, Arizona. It’s been interesting hearing about their experiences visiting different cafes, and their thoughts as they try to develop their business Orange Cactus Coffee – with the ultimate goal to open a their own coffee shop.

On a couple of occasions they have even mentioned some of my work on the podcast, and I was delighted to see one day there was even a Daily Ristretto episode about my recent ‘Spaces of Community’ research summary.

Orange Cactus Coffee Cafe Spaces

Over the last few months I’ve had various conversations via Twitter and email with Orange Cactus Coffee, and it’s been great to see how their journey through specialty coffee has developed. I’ve learnt about coffee companies that I didn’t know of in the USA, and its made me think about different elements of a coffee business as they discuss various different issues the podcast.

A few weeks ago I sent my husband to pick up a parcel from the depot that I had missed while out that day. I was sure that it was a parcel containing some work that I was waiting for. Instead I was delighted to find out in the evening that instead of being work, it was in fact a parcel from Orange Cactus Coffee.

They had very kindly not only sent me a bag of their Saguaro coffee which they had recently made available, but a number of other things too. What was the most touching about this parcel was its personalisation, with a message inside the lid of the box and some decoration to the base of the box. Clearly a lot of effort had gone into packaging this coffee. If they go to anywhere near this level of effort for sending their coffee to customers they are sure to make a very good impression.

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I have now worked my way through the coffee beans, with some help of friends and family members, and have tried it as espresso (on its own and in a latte), via aeropress, and  V60. The Saguaro Coffee is a single origin coffee from Costa Rica and tasting notes that suggest it should have a light sugar sweetness, roasted nut tones, and notes of chocolate milk, roasted almond and cinnamon. It’s a darker roast than a lot of the specialty coffee I’ve tried here in the UK, but I like it. My preference would be via V60; this really is a great coffee, where I have actually been able to taste  some of the features identified in the tasting notes.

Orange Cactus Saguaro Coffee

Essentially this is a blog post to say thank you to Jake and Mike at Orange Cactus Coffee, for their feedback on my work, and for this parcel which really did make my week. Keep up the great work with Orange Cactus Coffee, I shall continue to follow your work with interest, from the other side of the Atlantic.

To find out more about Orange Cactus Coffee or try to their coffee, check out their website or YouTube channel – or listen to the podcast on the website (also available on iTunes).

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Coffee culture and specialty coffee in the Middle East: Coffee Planet and beyond

Recently, according to Trade Arabia it was announced that Coffee Planet, a coffee roaster and coffee shop chain in the Middle East signed a franchise agreement with HB Brands for 70 shops in Saudi Arabia. Coffee Planet, based in Dubai, embarked on the franchise concept in order to  expand its global presence, adding to its existing franchise agreements in UAE, Qatar, Pakistan and Malaysia.

According to Euromonitor, there are changes taking place in Middle Eastern coffee culture:

“Deeply-ingrained coffee-drinking traditions have collided with investment from international brands and a growing desire among young consumers to partake in Western dining traditions, creating a thriving segment of modern coffee shops that are now battling with traditional cafés” (Euromonitor, 2013)

The Managing Director of Coffee planet was quoted in Arabian business last year to say:

“The Middle East is cultivating more and more coffee drinkers, making it one of the fastest growing markets in the world for coffee consumption… We have observed first-hand how consumers’ knowledge and appreciation for good-quality coffee is constantly improving”.

According to the Coffee Planet website the coffee shops aim to incorporate “a touch of Coffee Planet’s Arabian heritage, the cafe design features a tribute to the UAE’s most iconic buildings while other inspiration has been taken from the crop-to-cup ethos of the brand with warm, earthy tones, exposed brick, brass, black tiling and wood finishes”  (Coffee Planet, 2016).

Coffee planet logoCoffee Planet has been active in the region for many years, first focusing on different aspects of the coffee industry. According the coffee planet website the company has developed as follows:

  • 2005: coffee planet was launched and coffee was sold on-the-go highway convenience stores.
  • 2007: expanded to provide coffee solutions to hotels, catering companies, airlines and offices.
  • 2008: opened a new roaster in Dubai and then expanded into retail across UAE and and GCC region, via selling coffee in supermarkets and specialist food stores.
  • 2009: first franchised café concept opened in UAE.
  • 2011: expansion of franchised cafés into other international markets.

The company emphasise their crop-to-cup approach so they know where their Arabica coffee comes from with relationships with a range of coffee farmers and producers across the world. To some extent, the expansion of such a coffee shop chain in the Middle East is not a surprise; despite a long history of coffee in the region, it is only in recent decades that the second and third wave coffee drinking habits have begun to take off.

There are a number of the western style coffee shop chains which have a presence in the region.  Starbucks has had a presence in the Middle East region since 1999, and now has hundreds of stores through a franchise agreement with Alshaya Group for stores in the region including,  Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (Starbucks, 2014). According to the Alshaya website there are 69 Starbucks in Saudi Arabia, so given the recent announcement from Coffee Planet, they appear to be aiming to become equal competition in terms of the number of outlets.Starbucks Dubai

Other chains include: Costa Coffee entered UAE 1999, and even now have the Middle East’s first drive through coffee shop in Dubai; Gloria Jeans  entered UAE in 1998 and through a franchise agreement with Al Khaja Group operates over 60 stores in the country; and Caribou coffee has ambitious plans for the Middle East with outlets in Kuwait and UAE, but longer term plans for over 250 stores across the region during the next decade.

“While coffee has been a part of daily life for a long time, the tradition has historically been tied to independent cafés that serve low-priced coffee to customers—mostly men—who come in to relax and socialize. Now a transition is underway, and consumers not typically served by such cafés are helping to drive a movement toward more modern, Western-style coffee culture in the tradition of Starbucks or Costa Coffee. Such outlets serve a much wider variety of premium beverages and have become gathering places for women, students and other groups of young people seeking comfortable, premium social destinations” (Euromonitor, 2013).

Beyond the western style coffee shop chains, there has been a growth in the number of specialty coffee shops too. In the Middle East, UAE has been at the more popular location for specialty coffee shop growth, but there appears to be growing interest from across the region. Recent growth has been most impressive in the UAE, where the region’s high disposable incomes, expat population, nightlife, and interest in premium, Western-style dining have encourage coffee shop growth (Euromonitor, 2013)

According to Arabian Business the Middle East is a growing market for coffee shops and specialty coffee with 2,200 new coffee shop licences issued between 2014-2016 alone, and various consultancy reports indicating the Middle East as a region with  growing coffee consumption. For many people it is the expats, and those who have travelled, and have been exposed to greater coffee variety and quality, as well as a range of brewing methods, that are driving increased demand:

“consumers in the region are increasingly drinking coffee for the appreciation of the beverage, as they become more aware of the origin, roasting techniques and even the altitude at which the beans were grown” (Arabian Business, 2016).

Some of the more well known specialty coffee companies in the Middle East include:

Raw Coffee CompanySpecialty Batch  Coffee, a coffee roaster, equipment supplier and coffee educator  all  in one, based in Dubai.  Raw Coffee Company, based in Dubai established in 2007, a specialty coffee chain that focuses on ethically sources coffee. Tom and Serg in Dubai bring a bit of Melbourne style coffee culture to the city, and has been so successful that the owners have also opened the café, roaster, bakery, the Sum of Us.

Stomping Grounds Specialty Coffee Hub in Dubai, where coffee meets science, art and customer service – according to their website. The Espresso Lab, again in Dubai, is a coffee lab and roastery.

Espresso Lab

While there is a concentration of specialty coffee providers in the UAE, and in particular in Dubai, there are places appearing across the region. For example in Saudi Arabia, there are a range of specialty coffee shops both in Riyadh (e.g . coffee Tale, Manual Brew Café, 12 Cups, J Café, Golden Kangaroo, The Roasting house, Mekyal Café, Brew Crew, Alchemy Coffee Roasters, Drip Coffee) and  in Jeddah (e.g. Warm and Frosty Café, Medd Cafe and Roastery, Brew 92, and Cup and Couch). Then there is Camel Step Coffee Roasters based in Riyadh, established in 2014 and have the vision to grow the Arabica coffee supply chain in a sustainable way through collaborative agricultural research and development. In Qatar , Flat White in Doha appears popular with those seeking specialty coffee.

These are just some examples of developments in the specialty coffee scene in the Middle East, which does go beyond the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It will be interesting to see how the coffee shop and specialty coffee industries continue to develop in the region in the coming years.

While there are many positive trends in terms of coffee and coffee shop growth in the middle East,  co-owner of Mokha 1450, Garfield Kerr highlights that there are issues for future potential growth of the specialty coffee industry in the region, talking about the UAE specifically he said:

“There are also a limited number of individuals with the disposable income to pay for a cup of specialty coffee in the UAE so the market is quite limited, though the growth trend is positive.  Someone who wants to get in should know it is not as easy as it looks and they should do their homework and acquire the necessary SCAE certifications before moving forward.”

There is clear interest in coffee shops and specialty coffee in the region, as shown by the ambition of Coffee Planet, although greater research is needed to explore how the coffee industry is developing in different countries across the region, and to consider the potential future pathways for growth.


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New adventures of a latte parent

I first came across the terms ‘latte mums’ and ‘latte dads’ when reading about how for many parents on extended parental leave in Scandinavia, spending time in cafés is part of the norm (Wiklund, 2008; Eriksson, 2005).  I later read about ‘lattes mammas’ and ‘latte pappas’ in Sweden in an article entitled ‘Lattes on Leave’ in Drift Magazine, which explores how extended parental leave in Sweden has led to the popularity of coffee shops among parents in the country.

‘fika is central when you are on parental leave, because you’re extremely tired, and you need tons of strong coffee… Whether you’re in the historic district of Gmala Stan,or the more residential upscale neighbourhood of Östermalm, it’s hard not to notice strollers, or prams, lining the sidewalks outside nearly every café….I think there are two or three cafes in all of Stockholm that don’t have high chairs for babies’ (Almedia and Surico in Drift Magazine, 2016).

At the outset of my project on cafés I had already identified parents as a key consumer group, but it wasn’t at the time something I had first-hand experience of. This was however, about to change.

Before having a baby I’d noticed how some cafés tend to be more ‘baby friendly’ than others, but when you have a baby, you really notice it. Little things like a step to get in the shop can act as a real barrier, or not enough space to get the pushchair anywhere close to the coffee bar is really frustrating, and sometimes the silence of the café is just too intimidating to take the baby inside. On the flip side when you see a stack of baby books in the corner, or a small box of toys near one of the tables, it’s usually a good sign. Then of course, there are the attitudes of other consumers, and sometimes even staff which can provide unwelcoming environments to parents with young children. Although, in many places staff can be very welcoming and helpful, which for some mothers who feel isolated as they enter a new stage of their lives, this is so important. Fortunately, the experiences I’ve had have been more of the latter, particularly in Coventry and Birmingham, with very few issues, but unfortunately I have friends who have not had the same experience.

I’ve been extremely lucky by having such a wonderful baby that in general when you take her into a café, in fact anywhere in public, she tends to just put on a beaming smile and look like the epitome of contentment, but this isn’t always the case. When you have a screaming baby, the last thing you want is people looking at you, and so a quiet coffee shop becomes the last place you want to enter, even if you are desperate for a sit down and something to eat or drink, or somewhere to feed the baby, or some kind of interaction with another human being that isn’t the baby.

Shortly before going on maternity leave a colleague mentioned a couple of times how ‘cafés were a lifeline’ when she was on maternity leave, and in many ways they have been for me too. There are very few places that you can go to in a city centre where you can pretty much guarantee a friendly welcome, a sit down, a safe space to be with your baby, and get much needed replenishment! Although as I’ve already noted, not all of these places feel welcoming!

It’s not just in the city I live where cafés have been important. Whenever we have travelled to visit friends, or for work, we have to think of places where we can feed the baby, and inevitably we head for a café. One in particular that has been a favourite was a different kind of café: Ziferblat in Manchester, where you pay for the amount of time you spend there rather than the goods you consume. I’ve written about Ziferblat before; it’s an interesting model, and is clearly very popular for people who don’t have a fixed office to work in, but it’s also a very welcoming space for someone with a young child. The branch in Manchester feels very much like a large living room and kitchen. When travelling with a very small baby it was a relief to arrive in Manchester and have somewhere we felt we could relax and would provide a calm environment where we could feed/change/entertain the baby, and refresh ourselves too.

A particular issue that has reached the media a number of times in relation to coffee shops and parents is about the treatment of breastfeeding mothers, with stories of mothers being made to feel uncomfortable either by other customers, or staff, or thankfully in some cases, stories of supportive staff too!  Just before I had the baby I was given a leaflet which had a list of ‘breastfeeding friendly’ places around the city. It hadn’t really occurred to me at the time, that there would be breastfeeding unfriendly places, and at the end of the day if the baby needs feeding it should be fed! It’s sad that breastfeeding remains an issue that has to be discussed in terms of friendly and unfriendly places, but that discussion is for another time and another place.

I recently read about a café in Nottingham which is the UK’s first purpose built breastfeeding café. The Milk Lounge, is designed to be a friendly and welcoming space for those breastfeeding, and for those with young children more generally, with facilities such as a baby sensory room, as well as a range of activities scheduled such as baby massage. Charlotte Purdie who established the café explains her motivations here. The café has been so successful that a second branch has opened. There are a number of examples  of coffee shops that were designed with family in mind, including: in Coventry, Coffee Tots, a coffee shop which is designed to be welcoming to parents, and has various activities associated with it; in Bristol, the Hungry Caterpillar, a play café; and the Bear and Wolf in London which has a play area at the back. If you know of any other interesting examples, please do let me know.

“The Hungry Caterpillar is one of a number of play cafés opening up across the country, as parents increasingly look to bridge the gap between soft play centres and the trendy coffee shops they went to before they had children. While the kindercafé movement took off in Berlin five years ago, making the city a great destination for families, the trend has only just started to gain momentum here.” (Telegraph 20/04/2015)

As this article from the Telegraph from a couple of years ago suggests there is a growing number of these family focused cafés, whether it is those with a focus on soft play, or those still with a focus on the food and coffee as well as providing a toddler friendly space; it would be interesting to explore how many of these there really are. I’m pretty sure I would have a willing research assistant!

Undoubtedly, as my colleague suggested, cafés have been (and are likely to continue to be) a ‘lifeline’ over the last year, and fortunately the staff in our ‘local’ café have been fantastic, and very welcoming from the beginning. As a consequence baby Ferreira is very happy when visiting cafés, particularly where there is the opportunity to people watch.

This has been a much more personal blog post than you will usually find on ‘café spaces’, but given the amount of time I have spent in cafés on maternity leave, and the importance they have had in my well-being during this time, I felt it important to highlight that as a social space, for many parents and carers, cafés are really important.


  • Almeida, A. and Surico, J. (2016) ‘Lattes on Leave’ Drift. p.50-53.
  • Eriksson, T. (2005) Nu kommer lattepapporna. Aftonbladet.
  • Wiklund, L. (2008) Lattemamman vågar ta plats. Dagens Nyheter.
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Exploring the journey from a research idea to research reality: inspiration to impact

This week I took part in the Coventry University 2017 Conference to talk about the how the research featured on the café spaces blog got started, and how it has developed. ‘Exploring the journey from a research idea to research reality: inspiration to impact’ was a short talk which explored how I have developed the café industry research over the last few years. It covered how I turned a research idea into a research project, and since then have sought to consider opportunities for research impact, and engaged research with continued dialogue and interaction with stakeholders.

As well as talking about the development of the initial research proposal I explored how I have used a variety of strategies and tools to transform a few research ideas into a broad research agenda with many research avenues to follow, including: academic, publications and conferences; building networks (with academics, industry the public and policy), industry interaction, publications, a research blog and social media.

If you’re interested, the slides are available here.

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Sustainable coffee cups: HuskeeCup

Readers of this blog will know that I’m interested in how the coffee shop industry is trying to make itself more sustainable. A key issue, particularly in the UK recently, has been about the sustainability of coffee cups, in particular the disposable ones, and the amount of landfill  they create. With an ongoing interest on this issue I’ve been collecting various examples of companies that produce ‘more sustainable’ coffee cups either those for use in the coffee shop or as a reusable or takeaway option.

There have been various attempts to use some of the byproducts of coffee from cascara to the coffee grounds.  I’ve even heard of examples of cups made from coffee grounds. But recently I learnt about another coffee cup made from coffee husks, or chaff. HuskeeCup use coffee husks (the layer around the coffee bean) in order to produce a reusable, recyclable cup. I have seen examples where coffee husks have been used for composting, and even as fuel, but this is the first time I had heard about it being used as part of cup production.

At the end of the harvest, coffee farmers are left with tonnes of this organic material. While it has previously been used as a fertilizer supplement and even a carbonized fuel source, there is currently no economically viable and sustainable way of dealing with it. HuskeeCup is the first solution of its kind to address this issue. (HuskeeCup, 2017)

According to the infographic from HuskeeCup the average coffee drinker is responsible for over 3 kg of coffee husk waste each year, and that 1.35 million tonnes of husk waste is produced each year globally, indicating the scale of the waste issue. In addition to being a more sustainable coffee cup option, it also claims to keep your coffee hotter for longer.


It’s clearly made an impression with a very positive response to their Kickstarter campaign already, and they have also won an award for their Design in the ‘Best Coffee Vessel’ category at this year’s Global Specialty Coffee Expo. Another great example of how companies are attempting to utilise byproducts of coffee production.

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