This weekend was mine and my girlfriend's third anniversary. To celebrate we decided to go to Corbridge, camping. While we were there I was able to taste a couple of coffees, and I found the same problems in both places; over extracted espresso, topped with badly frothed cappuccino milk. Tragically, these problems can be found almost anywhere you go, even some speciality coffee shops. Is this the future of the speciality coffee industry in the UK?
Not necessarily. Lately the market has been flooded by, dare I say it, second rate espresso. Starbucks now use automatic machines, delivering under extracted shots, coupled with milk done in 1.7 litre jugs. I visited one of the better Costa branches lately, the first customer in, and they gave me milk done from another vast jug. I've lost count of the dirty, mistreated espresso machines I've seen in pubs and tea shops, or in carts on train stations. But there is hope.
Third Wave baristas and coffee professionals need to make their voices heard. Even within Newcastle (my native city) the rise of quality coffee shops has begun. From small corner shops, to train station kiosks, to the much hyped Square Mile in London, all are important. If this continues and small independents, or large multinationals who still manage to understand coffee, keep opening then hopefully the British public will grow to learn what a good coffee really is.
International factors may also help. Starbucks, for example, have recently bought up Clover, which promises to improve the quality of drip/filter coffee hugely, being able to brew coffee by the cup, as well as controlling a huge number of variables in each up. Many shops in the US are also beginning to roast their beans on site (something which has yet to really take off in the UK, to my knowledge). With any luck these things will find their way over to the UK.
The rise of small roasteries is also helping the industry hugely. Companies such as Union Hand Roasted (from my own experience), or Origin (from what I've heard) are massively influential. These are run by passionate people, and each have their own fantastic barista trainers who go around the country training the baristi who use their beans. This gives the café owners and the baristi working there a drive (hopefully) to really try, and to make the most of the quality beans they buy.
So all of these factors, in my opinion, are helping to educate the public in what coffee really can be. But in the end it comes down to us; the baristi, the coffee enthusiasts, the coffee professionals. It is up to us to break down that wall between us and the customer, to educate them, enthuse them and make them care about the coffee they drink. We must teach people that coffee is not just coffee, that it is a complex culinary experience that has taken thousands of man hours to reach their cups.
Here's to the revolution.