To mark the launch of the first book to reveal how to create a slice of speciality coffee shop cuisine at home, Kathryn Lewis, editor of the new Indy Cafe Cookbook, takes a look at the scene right now
Insider’s guide to the scene
We Brits are spending more time than ever in coffee shops. We’re ditching pub meet-ups in favour of the cafe catch-up and paying attention to the beans fuelling our caffeine fix. We’re even squeezing a fourth meal into our weekend schedule in the form of brunch.
Within the UK cafe scene, however, the dominance of the global chains such as Costa, Starbucks and Caffé Nero has grown relentlessly in the last five years. And with Coca Cola having recently invested £3.9bn in the purchase of Costa, the big boys’ control of the coffee we drink shows no sign of abating.
Happily, however, the number of independent coffee shops (the kind run by local couples and families committed to serving high quality speciality coffee from indie roasters, along with homemade food) has also steadily risen.
Whether that’s due to speciality going more mainstream, a heightened appetite for the kind of avo on toast brunches that indie coffee shops have driven the trend for or the much-Instagrammed cafe aesthetic – who knows? What’s certain is that we’re knocking back more piccolos, scoffing more pancake stacks and papping more industrial-chic interiors than previously.
What the cup is speciality coffee?
Simply put, speciality is coffee which has been graded as a high quality product (as opposed to commodity grade coffee, which is what you’ll drink in the chains and almost everywhere else).
The coffee is tracked from plant to cup, and is sourced sustainably from farms which are paid fairly for their crop. The beans are only lightly roasted (in small batches) to release the optimum flavours which, as in wine, provide a taste of their terroir.
Finally, the coffee is expertly prepared – either as espresso-based drinks such as flat whites and cappuccino or via a range of filterbased brewing methods – by skilled baristas.
If you’re the kind of person who cares where their food comes from, favours local provenance and ethical farming and is prepared to pay a small amount more for interesting flavours and a high quality product, you probably drink speciality coffee.
Infiltrating the cafe vocabulary of Australia and New Zealand (both nations fiercely defend their claim to the term) in the early noughties, the flat white has been the poster cup for the speciality movement. Hardcore baristas sweat the small stuff (crafting a corking cup is all in the detail) but a flat white is usually a 6oz drink made with a double shot of quality espresso, gently steamed whole milk and a thin layer of velvety smooth micro-foam fashioned into a latte art design.
Create a slice of cafe culture at home
Always wanted to know how your fave cafe gets their grilled cheese THAT gooey? Or how to recreate the kind of showstopping carrot cake you usually only find with a perfect cortado and carafe of water on the side?
The crew behind the Independent Coffee Guides and food have been table hopping across the UK and Ireland to round up the best brunch dishes, photogenic suppers and drool-worthy bakes to create the very first speciality coffee house-inspired recipe collection. The Indy Cafe Cookbook launches on November 23 and is your insider’s guide to creating a slice of speciality cafe culture at home (the dishes even come with perfectpour pairings and track listings). Pre-order your copy of the gorgeous cookbook here.