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Ten things you didn’t know about coffee shops

Posted at 12:15 pm, April 13, 2013 in Food & Drink
Lowry & Baker coffee shop

For most of us, picking up a morning cup of joe is part and parcel of your daily routine. But how much do we really know about the places that grant us the energy to start the day? Well, here are ten things you didn’t know about coffee shops…

1. It’s not a new thing

Think coffee shops are another faddy modern phenomenon? Nope. In 1700 there were around 3,000 coffee houses in London – they were used by the city’s merchants and businessman as informal meeting places and offices. Now there are about 2,000, and the figure’s growing.

2.  It’s getting more indie once again…

Of the 2,000 coffee shops in London, about 1,500 are part of the big chains. It was Starbucks, Costa and Nero which rode the wave of the twentieth-century resurgence of coffee, but non-branded outlets have been growing for the last few years – and those are the ones we love.

3…although some of the indies aren’t really indie

‘Harris + Hoole’– a provincial detective series? Cockney rhyming slang for something rude? No, a new readymade chain of 14 coffee shops around London and the south-east in which Tesco quietly has a ‘non-controlling investment’. Every latte helps.

4. It all started in 1652

The café scene in London kicked off in the seventeenth century ‘at the sign of Pasqua Rosée’s head’. Rosée was an Italian brought to the capital from Turkey, and his coffee stall on St Michael’s Alley off Cornhill – on the site now occupied by the Jamaica Wine House – was known as the Turk’s Head.

5. British rock ’n’ roll wouldn’t exist without it

In the ’50s, the hip 2i’s Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street was packed with quiffed-up prototeenagers looking moody, listening to new skiffle acts like Cliff Richard and drinking too much Italian ‘frothy coffee’. Expresso Bongo indeed.

6. It was nearly forced to go underground

In 1675, Charles II issued a proclamation banning coffee houses due to the ‘great resort of idle and disaffected persons to them’ and the subsequent ‘many false, malicious and scandalous reports’ that originated within. A public outcry ensued and the edict was withdrawn. Phew!

7. Our baristas are cooler than our mixologists

If you introduced yourself to someone as a barista five years ago, you’d expect to be laughed out of the room. These days, it’s an acceptable career choice, with a hip industry magazine and annual championship. Meanwhile, the low wages (as little as £7.15 an hour) mean keeping it real is never a problem.

8. We like our beans roasted here

There are around 15 independent roasteries in London, including Square Mile, Volcano and Nude – some of whom sell to the public. Reducing the distance between heating and drinking is desirable, as beans are best brewed no more than three weeks after roasting.

9.We use more than a quarter of a million takeaway cups every day

London’s insatiable appetite for coffee comes at a price – a landfill-worth of those cardboard cups are chucked out every week. Adopt the ecofriendly alternative: get a refillable KeepCup in a choice of brighten-your-morning colours (www.keepcup.com).

10. You can make a café-grade cup at home

Check out our pro barista’s video tips for fantastic foam designs from James Bailey.

Thirsty? Check out London’s best coffee shops for your next caffeine fix.

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