Beans or beer?

What’s behind the change in north east drinking habits? Adam Suleiman finds out

From Africa, via the Middle East, coffee made its way to Europe where the Italians refined it to an art form. In Vienna, coffee is ingrained in the national psyche and the kaffehaus is part of of Austria’s cultural heritage. Across the Channel, we may still be a nation culturally wed to tea but nonetheless we’ve embraced the black gold too.

North east coffee culture is thriving. In a bid to create a café culture in the NE1 postcode around Grainger Street, Newcastle City Council last year granted permission for no fewer than 11 café areas linked to a business. The council says it believes cafés can provide a means of cultural exchange, enhancing urban environments and adding to the ambience of the city centre. Indeed, research by Allegra Strategies has shown that the rise of independent and branded coffee shops has the ability to boost local high streets by increasing footfall and “dwell time”.

Beans or beer

But away from the high rents and high footfall of the big brands, the city has been busy already, curating an eclectic mix of independent coffee houses. Ironically, the very presence of Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero has helped to create a healthy independent scene, argues Anth Atkinson, owner of Newcastle’s Pink Lane Coffee House and Colour Coffee roastery. Coffee consumption in the UK has not grown in line with the rise of coffee houses. Rather the way in which we consume coffee has simply changed, shifting the ritual of coffee away from the home and onto the high street. That’s thanks in part to creating the right atmosphere. Atkinson opened Pink Lane, for example, with a simple ethic in mind – serve good coffee and be nice to people.


Read the full version in The Northern Correspondent #7