London’s Coffee CultureDigital Manager
The past two decades have seen the coffee culture in London transform from a simple commodity to a multi-billion pound market. How did this all happen?
After huge success in the States, Howard Shultz brought Starbucks to the UK in 1998. Starbucks led the way for coffee chains and now has over 750 locations in the UK. In recent years, through competitive taste-test centered marketing, Costa Coffee has surpassed Starbucks and become the most popular coffee chain in the UK with 1,522 shops. Rounding out the Big Three coffee chains is Caffé Nero with 530 stores. The institution of these coffee chains has increased the regularity and amount of money Londoners are willing to spend on coffee.
One would think that an economic recession would lead to a dip in coffee consumption but in fact the opposite was true. The fall in economic activity in 2008 led patrons to reduce overall expenditure, but spend more money on small luxury goods like coffee.
Whilst the UK economy saw a contraction of .2% in the fourth quarter of 2012 and an overall 0% GDP growth for 2012, the UK coffee shop market grew by 7.5% in 2012 to nearly £6 billion. By 2017 the UK coffee shop market is expected to be over £8 billion.
Meanwhile, enough of the big brands – in the past 5 years there has also been a substantial rise in independent ‘artisan’ coffee shops. While loyal customers of these local coffee shops are quick to scoff at what they deem as the ‘poor quality’ coffee and ‘impersonal service’ of the high street coffee chains, these large coffee chains have actually paved the way for independent coffee shops. As the Big Three continue to expand, so rises the number of habitual coffee drinkers and thus so intensifies the demand for an enhanced coffee experience.
London’s artisan coffee shops differ greatly from the old-fashioned style coffee houses of mainland Europe. With the recent influx of Australian and New Zealand immigrants, these coffee shops could be most likened to the Antipodean café culture. London baristas offer friendly service with specialty espresso drinks or filter coffee options. For many of these ‘artisanal’ coffee shops the focus is not limited just to a quality cup of coffee but also the vibe and trendiness of the coffee shop.
A city worldly known for tea drinking and hanging out at the local pub is now increasingly opting for a flat white or Americano and spending time at the local coffee shop. Londoners have made coffee culture their own and at this point the rapidly growing £6 billion market doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Bryan DeVries, Analyst