No matter where you are in the UK, it is becoming increasingly difficult to walk down the high street of any big town or city without passing any of the major coffee shop brands. Whether it be Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero or Coffee Republic, there are plenty of options available to choose from.
What surprises me is that whilst the country seems to be going through a grey period just now, the coffee shop industry is apparently booming! It would seem that there is an endless amount of us who will not bat an eyelid at paying £3 every day for a cup of freshly brewed coffee. This got me thinking about why this industry has grown so quickly.
In the UK there are currently over 14000 coffee shops, and recently both Starbucks and Costa have announced plans to grow their own numbers aggressively over the coming years. Believe it or not, in the 18th and 19th centuries there were over five times the number of coffee houses!
It would seem that the main reason for such huge levels of growth could be down to the fact for many years, the quality of coffee that has been served in the majority of cafes was very poor quality. Once we got tasted the fresh brews on offer, we were hooked!
I was thinking about how the UK compares with some of our European counterparts, have they become overrun with the familiar logos of the international big guys? The short answer is......No.
The population of Spain is approximately 20% less than the UK. Despite this, Starbucks has just over 50 stores. The main reason for this must be down to the fact that Europe has been drinking great coffee for years. Anyone who has ever been to Spain, or Italy or France, will be blissfully aware that you can get a cup of delicious, fresh, strong java from almost any cafe or bar. Cafe con leche, cappuccino, or latte is the order of the day before lunch. Yet after lunch, most Europeans would not dream of ordering anything more than espresso, in fact you will give yourself away as a tourist the moment you order a hot milky coffee after midday.
Our coffee drink practices are so far removed from European trends. In Italy, 95% of all coffee sold is an espresso or similar style drinks like macchiato or ristretto. However in the UK, only 5% of coffee sold is espresso.
There is a drink that I have been enjoying for many years in both Spain and France, the Cortado condensada or Cafe BonBon depending on which side of the Pyrenees you're on. Yet despite the huge number of outlets on the high street, I am unable to get the coffee that I desire!
The cortado condensada makes a perfect start to the day. A double shot of espresso with a measure of sweetened condensed milk, normally served in a little straight sided glass. Caffeine and sugar in perfect harmony.
Next time abroad, give it a go! It's a favourite with the local elderly gents, it could soon become your favourite too!