It’s 8am, and already the weekday troops are lining up in High Street doorways for the first hit of caffeine. They’re hooked, and it matters not that their vanilla almond latte sets them back a comparatively steep £2.95. The town and city centre today is a bleak outlook for retailers, the food and drink sector included, but this industry somehow seems to be clutching a stash of magic beans. The question is; are gold-hoarding giants at the top of the coffee beanstalk too tall to tumble?
The number of cafe businesses has grown tenfold across the county in recent years. In central Lincoln alone, there are 14 coffee shops owned by national chains, as well as dozens of independent, speciality coffee businesses and at least 25 self-serve machines.
There’s been no slow-down in thirst for new concepts in the city either. The last few years have seen the introduction of the first Starbucks drive-thrus, as well as trendy new outlets.
Among established brands moving into the city’s £70 million Cornhill Quarter redevelopment is new-age chain 200 Degrees, where self-proclaimed connoisseurs will find ‘hand crafted’, roasted coffee as well as all the tools to expertly brew from home. But a key part of the pull is the drink-in offer.
Tom Vincent set up 200 Degrees with his business partner Rob Darby in 2012. He described Lincoln as having a “burgeoning coffee population” and plans to create a favourite destination, supporting independent retailers along the way with a series of popup events. “We want to become an integral part of the vibrant community by offering a comfortable and stylish venue that makes people feel at home with great coffee and food.”
The city stews in the stuff. The High Street is a trail of signature brands, cosy coffee kernels and fast take-out fixes; and all crowned by a hilltop local coffee empire, importing, roasting, grinding, brewing and distributing. Robert William Stokes, who founded his legacy company back in 1902, was right on the money.
Our beloved bubbling, boosting brew is so much a part of our culture that it’s even being taught as a craft of desirable expertise and art. 200 Degrees and Stokes have both added training school courses to their portfolio of business ventures.
With the only hint of cafe downfall coming from the troubled Patisserie Valerie this week, and with wider issues and banking at the route, coffee pushers have little to fear.
So long as cafes can be the fulfilling High Street experience that retail shops can no longer promise, the coffee culture with thrive.
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