Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Edinburgh's specialty coffee boom is good for the city – even if you don’t like coffee

The number of high quality specialty coffee shops has boomed in the last few months, a trend which delivers great benefits to the city.

1. Local economy – Independent coffee is profitable and big business
Leading coffee research company Allegra estimates* that sales of coffee from the UK’s nearly 21,000 outlets grew 10% last year, turning over a total of £7.9 billion across around 2.2 billion cups of coffee. And they’re predicting this will be £15 billion by 2025 as more and more residents become coffee connoisseurs.

As 30% of UK coffee shops are independent, very blunt calculations based on Edinburgh’s population would mean that the city’s independent coffee shops are currently turning over nearly £18 million across nearly 5 million cups of coffee a year. These are substantial numbers for Edinburgh’s economy right now, let alone the £34 million turnover that Allegra’s figures suggest will be achieved locally by 2025.

These are also conservative estimations when you consider the large population swells during many of the festivals - and reasons 2 and 3 below.

2. Edinburgh’s specialist coffee shops are growing faster than the rest of the UK’s
Allegra’s research pulls out Edinburgh alongside Bath, Manchester and York as boasting particularly strong artisan coffee independents in comparison to other parts of the UK outside London.

‘Edinburgh Coffee Lovers’ currently profiles around 65 high quality specialty coffee shops on their app, a number that was closer to 55 six months ago, and which even then outstripped UK averages per capita.

This distinct acceleration in shop openings is supported by more and more locals who choose specialty coffee shops over other options.

In a city renowned for vibrant and creative festivals, it’s easy to see how Edinburghers may be drawn to trying a higher quality, more tailored coffee experience. Edinburgh’s first coffee festival last October saw over 1800 coffee lovers passing through in one day – more than organisers had hoped for and a clear indication of the passion locals now feel for the beverage.

And success breeds success.

As well as new shops opening, existing specialty coffee entrepreneurs are expanding.

Jonathan Sharp, one of the founders of Edinburgh’s specialty coffee scene, now has five shops with another on the way. ‘Artisan Roast’, equally formative in the city’s scene, has grown to three shops in Edinburgh (they’re also in Glasgow) alongside providing wholesale beans and training to a significant number of other local coffee shops. Police box collecting ‘The Counter’ have expanded to three outlets and ‘Brew Lab’ have just opened their second shop, alongside their professional and amateur barista training business. ‘Leo’s Beanery’ has positively blossomed, taking over the cafe at Dovecot Studios and opening a new shop Leo & Ted within months, in addition to their original shop in the New Town.

And we’re now seeing an expansion in local coffee roasters who supply both home coffee brewers and local shops. Local roaster Mr Eion has recently been joined by roaster Williams & Johnson opening in Leith and PostRoast, a coffee bean mail order service. Regional roasters Steampunk, Luckie Beans and Northern Edge all ply their wares to Edinburgh’s coffee consumers via popular food and farmer’s markets.

3. Independent coffee shops help build communities
Coffee shops are social places. They’re main purpose is to be a venue to facilitate social interaction as much as it is to ply coffee.

Each of Edinburgh’s specialty coffee shops is as unique as the customers who visit them. With this concept of diversity fully embraced, individuality is respected and customer service tends to be attentive in a ‘live and let live’ way.

Many specialty coffee shops feature the work of local artists on their walls, host community meetings and social clubs, act as a venue for performances and guest speakers and all, without exception, source their food from a range other small specialty businesses, supporting the local economy.

And then there’s the training provided and jobs created by an ever-expanding specialty coffee scene. Apart from employees of these coffee shops, every unique shop creates employment for architects, interior designers, shop-fitters, builders and coffee equipment technicians – all within the local community.

4. Great coffee is sustainable and ethical
Apart from the technical expertise of the barista, great specialty coffee requires great specialty beans.
Edinburgh’s specialty coffee shops and local roasters source beans that meet minimum levels of supply chain transparency from planting to processing.

Ethical certification of coffee comes in several forms that protect rainforests, bird-life, the environment and the coffee farmers themselves, providing them with fair payment, brokered and overseen by international agencies.

So while coffee is grown a long way from Edinburgh, the city’s specialist coffee shops are doing the right thing because they only use ethically sourced beans.

5. Enjoyment and understanding
While Edinburgh’s specialty coffee shops are creating lovely social environments in which to sip high quality and highly enjoyable coffee, baristas are also talking to customers about their beans and technique which very often leads to greater enjoyment of the coffee.

Edinburgh’s rising coffee standards are raising expectations of local consumers and vice versa - a trend that we can expect to continue to see spiral upwards. Apart from better and better coffee in shops, consumers are now also seeking brew equipment and beans so they can enjoy higher standards in their own homes - creating more demand for coffee gear and machines which more and more coffee shops are stocking.

Edinburgh (and the UK’s) specialty coffee shops know the coffee-drinking market is not yet mature. But, with 15% specialist coffee shop growth in the last six months, it definitely feels like it’s reaching a tipping point in Edinburgh as more and more people seek out better coffee, which can only be an excellent thing!

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Your location will show up on our city map alongside the the best coffee shops. You can choose the coffee shop that suits your style and mood based on the rating, review and photo.

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