For many, Dry January hasn’t just meant the denial of cold, crisp libations, but turning to the kettle for kicks, instead. Not that the switch from cocktails to cappuccinos, or lager to lattes, is likely to end, come February.
Figures released by Local Data Company this week showed that Britain’s high streets have undergone a transformation over the past five years, with a café-boom pushing pubs out of town at an alarming rate.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association reports that alcohol consumption dropped by a fifth in the last year, while the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) recently launched an initiative to protect some 3,000 pubs, as watering holes close their doors at a rate of nearly 30 a week.
It seems the coffee shop - whether an independent hipster haunt of the like popping up from Lands End to London, or one of Costa’s ubiquitous outlets - is fast becoming the new ‘local’, with millennials, professionals and later-lifers, alike, choosing to socialise over hot brewed beans rather than cold brewed beer.
It’s a trend that Tim Ridley, Founder of United Baristas, has seen evolve over the past seven years: “The coffee scene in the UK is now better than Australia and New Zealand who were traditionally the trailblazers on this scene,” he says.
“The explosion of good coffee brokers has made it easier for roasters. There are now in excess of 400 small coffee roasters in the UK today compared with a handful in the noughties. This means consumers have a greater choice of coffee and, more importantly, high quality coffee is cheaper.”
Could we soon reach peak-coffee, then? Not according to the British Coffee Association, who reckon we drink some 55 million cups of coffee in the UK per day - with 80 per cent of those who visit coffee shops doing so at least once a week, and one in six frequenting them on a daily basis. That’s a lot of caffeine pumping around the veins of the average Brit.
It isn’t just out-and-about that our choices are changing, however. With coffee shops in the UK rated as some of the best in the world, the bar has been raised at home, too: a jar of instant just won’t do.
Visit any self-respecting kitchen and you’ll find a host of coffee paraphernalia, ranging from cheaper, easy-to-use stove-top espresso makers and classic French presses, through to electric bean-grinders, expensive branded coffee makers and even, in extreme circumstances, thermometers and scales. Kitchens are starting to look more like a scene from Breaking Bad, than a simple haven for making hot drinks.
The rise of quality coffee at home has been driven, in part, by the capsule coffee maker. Ever since we saw George Clooney grinning on the small screen as he pushed a simple button to make himself a macchiato, these alien-looking contraptions have revolutionised our coffee consumption.
This week, market-leader, Nespresso launched a limited edition brew that has been 'aged' - à la wine, meat or cheese - while the hipsters are swiftly following suit, with speciality coffee artisans PACT and Colonna Coffee bringing out compatible pods filled with their own 'curated', quality blends.
With January nearly over, the only question remains: anyone for an Espresso Martini?